Carcassonne Community Center
Until the founding of Carcassonne Community School in 1923, the children of Gander, Kentucky, had no access to a high school education unless they traveled several miles each day or moved to another community, such as Berea. Carcassonne held its first classes in July of 1924. It was a first through twelfth grade school, replacing the Pine Grove School at the junction of Bull Creek and the Meadow Fork of Bull Creek, where James Memorial Church now stands. Carcassonne served as a community and boarding school from 1924 through 1948, when the high school was moved by Letcher County to the Stuart Robinson School near Blackey. It was a first through eighth grade elementary school sporadically from 1948 until June 1974. By the mid-1960s, the school had been vacant for a while.
Time and youthful vandals had taken a toll on the building. With the advent of the War on Poverty, volunteers from Vista, the Appalachian Volunteers, and the Carcassonne community came together to preserve the heritage and culture of the area. The Community Center was repaired and used for sewing circles, square dances, woodworking classes, and an elementary school when enough community students enrolled. The school functioned as a first through sixth grade “one room” school until the Letcher board of education consolidated it with Letcher Elementary during the 1974-75 school year.
Of these activities, the sewing club and square dances survive. The center is also used as a community-gathering place, available for weddings, family reunions, birthdays and other activities. The profits from the square dances provide funds for local bands and square dance callers, as well as enabling the community to provide recreation activities for local citizens. The Community Council partially funds several potluck dinners throughout the year. The center also plays host to classic car cruise-ins and shows, as well as a variety of children’s activities.
The Carcassonne Square Dance has been featured in several books regarding the preservation of this cultural art form, and most recently appeared in the Fall issue of Modern Mountain Magazine and a 2008 issue of le Magazine du Carcassonne et du lOuest Audois, a French magazine from the area around Carcassonne, France.
Carcassonne Square Dance is the longest-running square dance in Kentucky, featuring food and live music. It is held the second Saturday of every month, March-November (Except third Saturday in October).