Company’s Coming!

EmpoweringParks.com

EmpoweringParks.com

I’ve really been looking forward to my sister and her husband’s visit to Kentucky in mid-October.  One of my first blog posts was about their visit two years ago:  Kentucky Palisades: OMG, Siri!   But–surprise–they’ll be here tomorrow instead!  It’s not a problem, but it means I need to get organized faster than I had planned. 🙂

Most of my plans for this week weren’t set in stone, so I can free up time.  I still plan to go to my OLLI  (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Kentucky) class on the history of Camp Nelson, an important Civil War site.  It was established in 1863 as a depot for the Union army and became a recruiting ground for new soldiers from eastern Tennessee and escaped slaves, many of whom trained to be soldiers.  If G & D are interested, they might want to go along with me to this.

Camp Nelson Heritage Park.

Camp Nelson Heritage Park.

I also have a reservation to go to the premiere of “Forgotten Fame: The Marion Miley Story” at The Kentucky Theater this week.  As I was regretfully crossing through it in my planner, it occurred to me that G & D would definitely enjoy it.  They’re golfers and the film tells the story of Lexington’s Marion Miley, a major figure in the early days of women’s golf.  Tragically, she and her mother were murdered in a robbery at the Lexington Country Club in 1941.  Tom Eblen wrote about Marion Miley and the upcoming film in the Lexington Herald-Leader last week:  A golf pioneer, a country club murder and a forgotten tragedy retold 75 years later.

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Lexington Herald-Leader.

Since they’re staying at the Kentucky Horse Park Campground, it makes sense to visit the Kentucky Horse Park itself.  I don’t know how you can go home after a visit to the Bluegrass and explain to your friends that, no, you didn’t see any thoroughbreds!

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Thoroughbreds exercising at Keeneland in the Bluegrass.

I definitely want to take them to walk the trails at McConnell Springs, the site where a group of frontiersmen heard the news of the American colonists’ victory in the Revolutionary War Battle of Lexington–and decided Lexington would be the name of the town they were planning.

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McConnell Springs

Finally, in this admittedly fluid itinerary, I think we ought to visit Bryan’s Station in Lexington and Greenville in Muhlenberg County.  My sister and I recently discovered a strong family connection to both of those places dating to frontier days in Kentucky.

Once G & D get here, we’ll decide what our priorities are, but at least we have a starting point for things to do while they’re here!

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Historic Preservation: Not Everyone “Gets It”

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Midway Presbyterian Church

I recently spent the afternoon in Historic Midway, Kentucky, with an older friend who lives there.  I was admiring a rather modest, privately-owned, 19th century house that caught my eye. My friend scoffed at that, saying “who would want to live in something like that?” She offered her opinions of the wonderful Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill  near Harrodsburg, Kentucky (“nothing there” “boring”) and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia (“why would anyone want to go there?”)  She humored me by walking with me to a historic cemetery (Sons and Daughters of Relief Cemetery), stopping at the entrance while I went on in to check it out. Finally: “Why are we here?”

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Unfortunately, my friend’s response is not an uncommon one, so I went in search of historic preservation talking points to work into future conversations.  ;-)  I found this excellent piece from the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

’That’s Not Historic!’

“A lot of good and honest folks roll their eyes when they hear that adjective applied to a building they’ve never heard of. Angry anonymous bloggers leave posts, and old men grumble. A building can’t be ‘historic’ unless Davy Crockett was born there, George Washington slept there, or a Civil War battle involving at least moderate bloodshed was fought on the premises…..

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National Trust for Historic Preservation (March 3, 2014–Adapted from Jack Neely’s article, ‘Nine Practical Reasons to Save Old Buildings’ at Metro Pulse.)

So with those points in mind, here are a few more photos from an afternoon spent enjoying local history in Midway:

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I plan to spend another day in Midway sometime soon.  Maybe I’ll invite my friend to join me for lunch before I head off on my own to explore more of Midway’s history.*   A win-win for both of us!

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Lexington:  Some background on Town Branch Distillery

aceweekly_oct2012_townbranch_bourbonstills1Source: Press This!

Alltech’s Town Branch distillery in Lexington added to Kentucky Bourbon Trail

 

The Town Branch bourbon distillery will be added to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, becoming the first distillery in Lexington and the seventh in the state along the current route, Kentucky Distillers’ Association, state tourism officials and Alltech president Pearce Lyons announced this morning.

“Having a distillery here is something of a homecoming,” Lyons, originally of County Louth in Ireland, said, telling the tale of the Irish/Scots of Pennsylvania’s Whiskey Rebellion being granted 60 acres in Virginia (now Kentucky) on which to make their whiskey by Thomas Jefferson.

“And on my mom’s side for four generations there were barrelmakers — coopers– and they were proud to actually make barrels not for beer, but for whiskey,” Lyons said.

“When we are talking about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, we are talking about Kentucky’s history,” Lyons said.

Situated in the cluster of Alltech buildings at the junction of West Maxwell Street, Versailles Road and Oliver Lewis Way, the new distillery produces Town Branch bourbon, named after the underground aquifer that runs through downtown Lexington and feeds some of the Lexington water supply.

After comments by Eric Gregory, president of the KDA, Jeff Conder, KDA chairman and vice president of Americas Operations for Beam, Inc., Vice Mayor Linda Gorton spoke, also citing Lexington’s history. “Lexington was a hub for bourbon distilleries,” she said. Now, with the Town Branch Distillery on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in Lexington just adjacent to the Rupp Arena area for redevelopment and the home of the early Lexington distilleries, “We will pull tourists right into downtown,” she said.

Mike Mangeot, Kentucky’s new commissioner of travel and tourism praised Lyons for his “big thinking”  and said “As we’re out selling Kentucky, we need something unique, and there’s nothing more Kentucky than bourbon,” Mangeot said.

Jim Browder, the new president of the Leixngton Convention and Visitors Bureau praised Lyons for all he and Alltech have done in Lexington. Browder commented on Lyons’ efforts that brought the National Horse Show to Kentucky after more than 100 years in New York City, and his contributions to the World Equestrian Games 2010. Browder also noted Alltech’s annual symposium, which brings 3,000 people from 23 countries to Lexington.

And then, at 10:25 a.m., with the advisory that it was after 5 p.m. somewhere, the Irishman raised a glass of the Town Branch and cleared his throat. “Here’s to Lexington and Here’s to Lexington coming back again” with a distillery, Lyons said, leading those in the room who could dare to toast the newest addition to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail with the craft bourbon from his distillery.

The other distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail are: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg; Heaven Hill, Bardstown; Jim Beam, Clermont; Maker’s Mark, Loretto; Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg and Woodford Reserve, Versailles.

Tourists are encouraged to set aside at least two days to “do” the entire Kentucky Bourbon Trail. With the Kentucky Bourbon Trail “Passport” program, visitors collect stamps on a passport at each visit and receive a not-available-in-stores t-shirt that celebrates the achievement.

At the Town Branch announcement, KDA President Gregory presented Lyons with the revised Kentucky Bourbon Trail passport, turned to the Town Branch page, and had him issue the first Town Branch distillery stamp.

First articulated in 1999 by the KDA, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail has hosted more than two million visitors in one five-year period, according to its website.

With the rise of premium small batch and single barrel bourbons, production of the spirit increased more than 11.5% from 1999 to 2010, according to the KDA.

KDA figures show that 95 percent of the world’s supply of bourbon is made in Kentucky and that there are now more bourbon barrels in the state that there are people. (More than four million).

Bourbon was declared America’s only native spirit by Congress in 1964. It gets its name from Bourbon County, one of the original three counties that made up Kentucky when it was still part of Virginia. To be considered a bourbon, a spirit must be more than 51 percent corn and be stored in new oak barrels which are charred.

Town Branch, which some whiskey experts note is a spirit that, like Maker’s Mark, has wheat as its second grain, is 80 proof, is one of the products of Lyons Spirits, a company created by Alltech CEO Pearse Lyons. Lyons Spirits also produces Pearse Lyons Reserve whiskey and Bluegrass Sundown (an Irish coffee liqueur).

Town Branch Distillery was the first new distillery added to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association since 1880, according to the group. Historical documents show that scores of bourbon brands were once produced at Lexington distilleries.

The distillery, which is still under construction and will open next month, sits in something of an Alltech compound at the corner of West Maxwell Street and Versailles Road, at the gateway to the state TIF development area known as Lexington’s Distillery District, which mostly runs along Manchester Street nearby.  The Icehouse, formerly an art and performance space in a historic distillery engine room, has been transformed into a visitors’ center for the concern and there is a pub facility and a banqueting hall in a separate building.

Lyons led the gathered officials and members of the press on a tour of the Visitors Center, with a central hall designed as a Dublin street with brightly colored pub fronts bearing names of Pearse and Deirdre Lyons’ ancestors. The Visitors Center was designed by Mrs. Lyons. The tour then continued into the distillery itself, with Lyons getting up on the platform supporting the two copper stills from Scotland, animated as he showed reporters how the system works.

Bourbon distilling royalty was on hand for the event as well. Jimmy Russell, 78, of Lawrenceburg, Master Distiller at Kentucky Bourbon Trail site Wild Turkey for approaching 58 years, was on hand for the toast and the tour. Russell, of course, has left his legacy. He has got his young son Eddie, 52, already trained should he need to step aside.

Lyons, a Ph.D. in biochemistry who was once part of the Guinness brewery team in his native Ireland, built Alltech, now a diversified $700 million revenue international concern based in Lexington, from a small shed operation in Nicholasville. The company founded in 1980 now employs 2,800 people and operates in 128 countries.  In addition to its agricultural products, Alltech produces the Kentucky Ale line of beer. The company was the major sponsor of the Alltech World Equestrian Games held in Lexington in 2010 and is a major cultural donor in the city.

In early 2010, the New Orleans-based company that owns the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort and the Tom Moore Distillery in Bardstown resigned from the KDA. Its distilleries were removed from the Kentucky Bourbon Trail promotion.

 

Ace Weekly (August 16, 2012)

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Lexington: #ThisPlaceMatters

Since I was downtown this afternoon, I decided to drive by the house.  Fortunately, they hadn’t started the demolition, so I was able see this historic home one last time.

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#ThisPlaceMatters

 

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Those Haunting Antebellum Basements

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The slave kitchen in the basement of Ward Hall, Georgetown, Kentucky.

I am fascinated by the basements in the antebellum homes I visit in Kentucky.  It’s always a disappointment if a basement is closed to visitors, since it’s just as much a part of a historic site’s story as the elegant rooms above it.  The story of the African-American slaves who worked or were held in those basements is every bit as important as that of their owners upstairs.

20150808_145130This first set of photos was taken at the 1812 Coleman-Desha Plantation, Cynthiana, Kentucky.  This home, an adaptation of the Georgian house plan, is privately owned, but was opened to the public as a one-day fundraiser to save the nearby Handy House (see below).

 

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20150802_172448In Georgetown, Ward Hall, the grandest Greek Revival home in Kentucky, dates to 1857.  The home is still being restored and that makes a visit to the basement kitchen and storage/work areas even more poignant.  The head tour guide didn’t realize our tour was still in the basement at closing time and turned the lights off while we were downstairs.  Viewing the basement in the gloom of late afternoon gave me a sense of what it must have been like to work down there in the 1850s.

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Handy HouseThen there’s the 1818 Handy House in Cynthiana, Kentucky.  This federal-style house is boarded up and under threat of demolition by its current owners, the city and county governments, following years of deliberate neglect by those bodies.  A grassroots effort is underway to save the house and that effort has now moved to a legal battle in court.

Entrance to basement where slaves were kept on first arrival

Entrance to basement where slaves were kept on first arrival. Handy House, Cynthiana, Kentucky.

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Jerry Gore: Gone Too Soon

Jerry Gore (November, 2015)

Jerry Gore (November, 2015)

“I don’t bring shame or blame. I’m here to teach the history of my people.”

Historian Jerry Gore’s passing this week was unexpected.  I met him last fall on one of his tours of Underground Railroad sites in Kentucky and Ohio.  I came away from the day-long tour with a new understanding and awareness.  His tours were amazing–he was amazing.

Gore, of Maysville, worked to uncover the history of the Underground Railroad in the area around Maysville and helped found the town’s National Underground Railroad Museum.

He co-founded Freedom Time, a company that organizes Underground Railroad site tours and events.

And he consulted on a number of projects regarding the history of the Underground Railroad.

Gore, a descendant of escaped slaves, credited his mother, Hattie Dunlap, with giving him a passion for preserving his heritage.

When he was 7 years old, he said she took him across the Ohio River to a house that had once belonged to the Rev. John Rankin, an abolitionist who has been credited with helping hundreds of slaves escape. She told him stories of the Underground Railroad and the slaves who followed it to freedom.

“One of the things my mother realized was we live in an unfair world, and she knew the effect racism and segregation could have on children,” Gore said in a 1995 Herald-Leader article. “But she also knew she could keep us motivated with positive images of the beauty of our history.”

Kentucky Underground Railroad historian Jerry Gore dies   Lexington Herald-Leader (August 6, 2016)

 

As word spread this week of Mr. Gore’s passing, other tributes poured in:

Words For Jerry Gore Don’t Seem To Be Enough  Maysville Ledger-Independent (August 5, 2016)

A legacy to remember  Maysville Ledger-Independent (August 5, 2016)

Jerry Gore funeral Monday in Maysville  The Morehead News (August 5, 2016)

Retired administrator Jerry Gore passes away  Morehead State University (August 5, 2016)

Local historian Jerry Gore dies unexpectedly  Maysville Ledger-Independent (August 4, 2016)

Obituary – Mr. Gore   Maysville Ledger-Independent (August 4, 2016)

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Lexington: Belle Brezing’s Gravesite

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Calvary Cemetery, Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington’s notorious madam, Belle Brezing or Breezing (1859-1940), is buried at Calvary Cemetery, a Catholic cemetery in Lexington, Kentucky.  She is believed to have been the inspiration for Belle Watling in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

Belle Brezing opened her first brothel in a row house at what is now 314-318 North Upper Street, a block away from where my daughter lived during her time in Lexington.

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Belle is buried next to her stillborn infant born in 1882.

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University of Kentucky Libraries

Brezing’s  descent into prostitution is a sad one and not uncommon for a woman who had fallen on hard times in that period.  Seduced by an older man when she was only 12 and pregnant by 15, Mary Belle Cox’s mother died in 1876.  Belle was evicted and her developmentally disabled daughter Daisy May was placed with a neighbor. Belle became a prostitute, but provided money for Daisy May’s care for the rest of her life.

On December 24, 1879, Brezing began to work for Jennie Hill, a madam who ran a brothel out of the Mary Todd Lincoln house at 578 West Main St. Brezing worked there for two years until she had saved enough money to start her own house and assume the position of madam.

University of Kentucky Libraries: Special Collections Research Center

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Lexington: Kentucky Native Cafe 

Globe Full of Goodies blog

“The Kentucky Native Cafe is a true urban oasis in the middle of downtown Lexington. 

Get ready. This is the coolest concept for a restaurant that I have ever been to. It’s my new favorite place to go while visiting family, and I would go all the time if I lived closer. The Kentucky Native Cafe…”

View original post at Globe Full of Goodies


I have to agree with everything she says (and what great photos)!

10446348_451338071693918_2504967146091433228_nThis open-air restaurant is where we went for my daughter’s “Farewell to Kentucky” dinner on her last day in Lexington.    Kentucky Native Cafe is part of Michler’s (Florist, Greenhouses & Garden Design) and is located at the rear of their complex.  Michler’s is a Lexington institution, dating to 1900.

Dine and relax in our urban oasis.  Kentucky Native Café features local craft beer, fine cheese, and bright herbs to entice your senses.

Michler’s website

YatG on TripAdvisor

YatG on TripAdvisor

Walking into Kentucky Native Cafe for the first time had a magical feel, with fairy lights illuminating a soft spring evening.  It reminded me of visits to the marvelous Vishalla in Ahmedabad, India.  Vishalla is also an open-air restaurant and recreates the feel of a typical Indian village.

Our one big regret?  That we didn’t know about the Kentucky Native Cafe until my daughter’s last day in town!  We would have added it to our list of favorite places to eat.

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