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Losing a Landmark: Fire Guts Kentucky’s Iconic Rabbit Hash General Store

rabbit hash general store in kentucky destroyed by fire

It is a historic landmark, an iconic Kentucky roadside attraction, and for anyone who has ever made the journey to Rabbit Hash General Store nestled on the Ohio River just outside of Burlington, Kentucky a fantastically memorable road trip stop.

Built in 1831, this 185-year-old store is more of a local museum than just a quick-stop. It has survived mudslides and floods, the Great Depression, 38 U.S. Presidents, and generations of families moving in and out of the area. But last night, the store caught fire and after dedicated crews spent hours fighting the flames, the general store was left gutted—only the front facade of the building remains, salvaged by firefighters.

The owners have started a Go Fund Me page to help raise donations to rebuild.

The fire was reported around 9:15 p.m. on Saturday, February 13, 2016, and around 11:30 p.m. firefighters were able to remove the distinguishable front facade of the store. The front sign was later salvaged from the wreckage. The old wooden structure burned through a nearly five-hour fire fight.

Rabbit Hash General Store had been in continual operation since it opened in 1831. My Old Kentucky Road Trip visit the store in 2014 and loved exploring the antiques and collectables that the store had to offer. We had some pretty amazing barbeque there as well and were dying to go back for one of the town’s famed barn dances.

My Old Kentucky Road Trip to the Rabbit Hash General Store

Rabbit Hash General Store Kentucky

From My Old Kentucky Road Trip: Historic Destinations and Natural Wonders, The History Press available here. 

Located in the northern part of the Pennyrile, the only thing we know for sure about Rabbit Hash’s name is that it actually wasn’t called that at all when the town was founded. The original post office was established in 1879 as Carleton, Kentucky. Within about two months, the population and the postal service realized the name needed to be changed. There was too much confusion with Carrollton, Kentucky, just down the river.

According to one popular theory, the town was named for a popular meal after an abundance of rabbits fled to the hills during an Ohio River flood. Variations of the story say that it was named in response to two hungry travelers passing through during the flood, or that everyone ate rabbit for dinner one Christmas when the river was flooded. Another theory says that a boatman played a prank on the unsuspecting town doctor, inviting him over to dinner but serving the same rabbits the doctor had trapped himself. But these are all just theories.

Did You Know: Rabbit Hash is famous for having a dog as its mayor! Lucy Lou was elected in 2008 and serves as the current mayor. Anyone can vote in the elections, it’ll just cost you a dollar. Proceeds go to repairs and preservations of the historic district.

Rising Sun, Indiana sits across the Ohio River from the general store. The twin towns of Rabbit Hash and Rising Sun used to be a lot closer back in the day, socially speaking. During bitter cold winter days, the citizens would walk back and forth across the frozen river to visit friends, do business, or just to say they had.

Back in the early nineteenth century, Kentucky’s border extended all the way to the low water mark on the other side of the Ohio River. That meant Kentuckians had control of the waterway, and businesses like Meek’s Ferry sprung up at popular ports. The two towns grew up together, and the ferries played a big part in transporting goods between the growing populations. That’s the real story about how the Rabbit Hash General Store became so integral to the community. A group of farmers originally built the structure to house their goods while waiting for the steamboats to arrive for commerce. Since the first manager and proprietor, James A. Wilson, opened for business in 1831, the Rabbit Hash General Store has been in continuous operation.

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