Unfortunately, the first Chevrolet Corvette wasn’t produced in Kentucky. That honor goes to Flint, Michigan. BUT! We do lay claim to all of the Corvettes produced since 1981.
But we’re big fans of history here, just as much as we love our culture today. So, here’s to you Flint, Michigan, and the 1953 Corvette! Without your “Polo White” exterior and lack of outside door handles (really!) Bowling Green, Kentucky, would be without one of the coolest and most unique museums in the world.
It has been said that every great city is built on a great body of water. London has the Thames River; Paris has the Seine. New York sits on the Hudson, Chicago on Lake Michigan, Moscow on the Moscow River. And our very own Kentucky Proud Louisville stands proudly on the Ohio River.
These are mighty rivers and grand lakes cutting through the middle of these great metropolises. But what if the great water source isn’t so easy to see?
Lexington is one of Kentucky’s greatest cities, and it boasts quite the impressive history as the Athens of the West for its arts and culture. But anyone who as road tripped to Lexington may have found themselves wondering how the city that hosted the first American performance of a Beethoven symphony, that is the very heart of horse country, and that boasts a colorful political history seems to be missing a river.
The answer: It’s not.
Okay, well technically speaking it is. But it does have a very notable water source (a couple actually) that served as the basis for the city’s founding in 1775. And if you haven’t seen the water, it’s because you haven’t been looking hard enough. You have to look underground to find it.
In the summer of 1775, a small group of men, led by William McConnell, set up camp along the Elkhorn Creek. This group from Pennsylvania named their camp “Lexington,” in honor of one of the first battles of the American Revolutionary War in Lexington, Massachusetts. This group would eventually return home only to return to their Lexington camp more permanently.
Now, these weren’t the first frontiersmen in Kentucky. Other settlers including Robert Patterson had already established camps on the Kentucky frontier. However, McConnell’s group discovered a complex system of sinking springs at their camp site that would allow a settlement near no river to develop and thrive with a water source.
Today, McConnell Springs is the only known site in Fayette county that has a series of artesian springs that come to the surface, go underground, reappear, flow on the surface and go back underground only to surface again a couple of miles away. Visitors can visit McConnell Springs natural areas park including the actual historic springs where the city of Lexington was named. Today the park features 26 acres of natural land, two miles of trails, and an education center.
But McConnell’s spring system isn’t where the story of a thriving Lexington ends. In fact, it’s only part of where it begins. In 1779, Patterson would join McConnell’s band of settlers and the group would travel to the Middle Fork of the Elkhorn Creek, which became known as Town Branch. There, the group erected a blockhouse near this water source.
As Lexington expanded and more settlers joined the community, a canal was constructed to carry the water of the Branch straight through town. But no one anticipated the potential heavy water flows of the Elkhorn, particularly after heavy rains, and this canal regularly overflowed. A decade after the canal was built, it was covered, and buildings were constructed on top of the water source. When the cholera epidemic hit Lexington in 1833, the community was devastated. As a disease that is spread through water, citizens blamed the Branch for their sickness.
Due to decades of flooding issues and Lexington’s inability to forgive the water source that brought in cholera, the bed of Town Branch was lowered in the 1930s and enclosed in a subterranean tunnel under the streets of Lexington.
Today, Town Branch is experiencing a bit of a rebirth. Work to clean up the water source that has been contaminated by pollution, run off, and waste management is underway and new restaurants are popping up along its west banks. Town Branch surfaces just west of the Rupp Arena parking lots and continues past Manchester Street and out of town.
Happy Birthday, Kentucky! On this date in 1792, Kentucky’s state constitution was accepted by Congress, granting us Bluegrass Statehood.
You probably already know, though maybe you don’t. . . there was no mistake when Danville named their Constitution Square. The three-acre park was the site of Kentucky’s ten constitutional conventions from 1784 to 1792.
Let’s get the most basic history out of the way: Kentucky began its journey to statehood in 1776 as Kentucky County, Virginia, with Brigadier General George Rogers Clark as head of the militia. And the area grew rapidly. By 1784, dissatisfied with the Virginian government, Kentucky called its first constitutional convention in Danville. Six years, and 9 more constitutional conventions later, Virginia accepted Kentucky’s separation and Congress admitted the 15th state to the Union. (Learn more in Thomas D. Clark’s A History of Kentucky)
While the original courthouse (where Kentucky’s ten constitutional conventions met), jail, and meetinghouse situated around Constitution Square are replica structures, the post office at the north side of the square still stands. The first post office west of the Allegheny Mountains, postmaster Thomas Barbee received the first mail delivery on November 3, 1792. On-site, you’ll also find Grayson’s Tavern, the Schoolhouse, Fisher’s Row Houses, Watts-Bell House, and Alban Goldsmith House.
When you visit, be sure to take some time to visit Grayson’s Tavern, where the Danville Political Club met in the late 1780’s. In 1878, Thomas Speed II (of the Louisville Speed Museum Speeds) discovered a bundle of papers in his grandfather’s desk, labeled “Political Club Papers,” detailing minutes and descriptions of the club’s activities. During one such monthly meeting, the club members debated the US Constitution and drafted their very own document, “The Constitution of the United States as Amended and Approved by the Political Club.” The Political Club papers now reside at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville.
We’re headed West this weekend–to Paducah–to celebrate the Grand Opening of the Bricolage Art Collective. We’ll be signing books on-site at Market House Square and exploring Quilt City USA! We’d love to hear from you: What can we NOT MISS while we’re walking down Main Street, looking for cracks in the flood walls, and keeping warm under a hand-sewn quilt?
But don’t think we’re entirely clueless about the largest city in the Purchase. We visited the National Quilt Museum while traveling for My Old Kentucky Road Trip (the book). We’ll fill you in on our trip below, and you can share your favorite Paducah-area trips in the comments. See you Saturday!
Road tripping to the National Quilt Museum
The art of quilting is far older than the state of Kentucky—it dates back to years that end in BC— but it is woven into the history and culture of the state and remains an important tradition today. This is particularly true in historic downtown Paducah, where you can visit the National Quilt Museum, one of the most respected and well-known organizations among quilting enthusiasts.
Since it opened more than two decades ago, the National Quilt Museum has aimed to support quilters and advance the art of quilting by displaying exceptional quilt and fiber art exhibits, providing workshops and educational opportunities, and promoting the unique art of quilting. Over the years, the museum has grown, and today it is a destination for quilting and fiber art enthusiasts from around the world. Visitors from all fifty states and more than forty foreign countries arrive each year to view the museum’s diverse onsite and traveling exhibits.
The museum was founded by quilting enthusiasts and Paducah residents Bill and Meredith Schroeder. They wanted to open a place to celebrate the work of today’s quilters and establish an environment to bring the art form to new audiences. This one-of-a-kind attraction rotates its exhibits eight to ten times per year, so each visit is fresh and unique. The museum also continually strives to expand its collection, which began with just 85 quilts on loan. Today, the museum is home to more than 320 works of art and hosts regular traveling exhibits of quilt and fiber art throughout the year. For a schedule of upcoming exhibits, visit the National Quilt Museum website at www.quiltmuseum.org.
The southwest can keep its 4-corners crossroads and the Gulf of Mexico can have the Mississippi River delta, I’ll take Carrollton, KY, and stand over the swirling eddies where the Ohio River meets the Kentucky.
Named for William Orlando Butler, and situated on the Butler family’s former land, General Butler State Resort Park is the only place in Kentucky where you can see the convergence of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers. The Kentucky River, which starts its course in the Cumberland Mountains, winds its way through the Bluegrass region before joining up with the Ohio River along the banks of Carrollton in Carroll County.
From atop a hill near the lodge, an overlook point offers sweeping, magnificent views that a camera can’t do nearly enough justice. When its not high summer, you can see through the trees and mark the full, East-West boundary along the Ohio River.
Honestly, at times it seemed like we couldn’t go anywhere in Carrollton without a gorgeous view of the river. Though, of course we made sure to walk along both rivers’ banks. You really get a sense of the power of natural elements standing at the water’s edge and watching the eddies swirl and small waves lapping at the shoreline. Boats cruise the river, and citizens from Carrollton tend to gather at the waterfront park for a meal, a stroll, or maybe to fish. There’s also a halfpipe situated bankside of the Kentucky river if you’re inclined to bring your skateboard or BMX bike.
We’ve always been advocates of the Kentucky State and National Park Systems, and General Butler is one you won’t want to miss. As with most Kentucky State Resort Parks, you can stay overnight in the lodge, or pitch a tent on their campgrounds, have a meal in the Two Rivers Restaurant, squeeze in a round of golf or a tennis match, lay by the pool, or participate in one of the myriad daily activities put on by park staff.
Along with the distinction of sitting at the junction of the Kentucky and Ohio Rivers, General Butler is unique in its additional historic site: the Butler-Turpin State Historic House. To the best of our knowledge, General Butler is the only State Resort Park to have an Historic Site on its property as well.
The Butler-Turpin House, also known as the William O. Butler House, as well as the State Park itself are named in honor of General William O. Butler.
Originally built in 1865, the Greek-Revival home displays furniture, documents, and artifacts the tell the story of the family’s connection to and impact on Kentucky history along with the contributions of their slaves. If you’re planning to stop by the House for a tour, you’ll want to call and make a reservation first. Tours are led by appointment only or at limited days and times late May through early November.
If you go:
You’ll want to combine an excursion to General Butler State Park and the Butler-Turpin House with an afternoon in Carrollton proper. The quaint town boasts cute cafes and shops as well as the impressive waterfront park.
Admission to the Butler-Turpin House is $5 for anyone 18 or older, $3 for children and teens, and free for children under 6 years old.
How to get there:
Taking I-71 is the easiest route for those coming across the Northern part of the state. Carrollton is almost exactly halfway between Cincinnati and Louisville along the Ohio River. If you’re traveling from Central or Southern Kentucky, you’ll want to hook up with US 421 in Frankfort and head North to Carrollton.
In case you missed it! We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Bill Goodman on One to One on KET.
We chatted with him about some of our favorite destinations, how we got started road tripping (and blogging), and some of our recommendations for new road trips. Blair also tells the full story about how she once won the Sack-the-Pig contest at the Trigg County Country Ham Festival…
Do you have a list of things you have — either in your mind or on paper — that you want to do before you die. Wow, that sounds morbid. Let us rephrase. Do you have a list of things you want to make sure you do in your life? Things you want to see? Places you want to visit? Food you want to try? If you don’t have one, maybe it’s something to think about.
Before he died, Kentucky historian Dr. Thomas Clark was asked by his friend, former Lexington Herald-Leader photographer David Stephenson, to make a list of his Kentucky Treasures — 10 places every Kentuckian should visit. Clark died before he’d completed his list but his widow Loretta found a type-written list of 11 places in her husbands things. It may or may not have been his final draft. You can find that list here, along with an audio program about Clark and his Kentucky Treasures done by KET.
Since then the Lexington Herald-Leader has pulled together a handful of “Kentucky Bucket Lists” of the many things in the state you should see, taste or do before you die … or maybe even before this summer ends. There are a lot of great things on the list, a few of which we’ve already checked off of our Old Kentucky Road Trip list (Mammoth Cave, Wigwam Village … and we may or may not have had a run in once upon a time with some moonshine, which we are not at liberty to discuss), so we thought we’d pass it along to all of you travelers.
Here at #MOKRT, we’re always traveling, discovering, and crossing Kentucky destinations off of our bucket list. Here is the original bucket list we built a few years ago:
The My Old Kentucky Road Trip Bucket List
1. See a moon bow at Cumberland Falls. Only at night during a full moon can you see this phenomenon, not found anywhere else in the Western Hemisphere. (CHECK!)
2. See the Mississippi River at the very tip of Western Kentucky.(CHECK!)
3. Visit a coal mine.
4. Spend a day in silence at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Nelson County. (CHECK!)
7. Travel the length of Kentucky Highway 68 from Maysville to Paducah as it weaves its way through dozens and dozens of Kentucky’s most interesting towns. (It’ll take you past the Jefferson Davis monument too). (CHECK!)
8. Attend some of Kentucky’s great food festivals. Tater Days? The Country Ham Festival? Yes, please. (CHECK!)
If you haven’t crossed those off of your bucket list, we recommend you start there. But for you seasoned explorers who are ready for the next adventure, here’s #MOKRT’s updated Kentucky Road Trip Bucket List:
Thanks to each and every one of you who as dropped by our site, left us a note, or joined us for a journey along the way. Today, we’re so excited to tell you that our BRAND NEW BOOK from the The History Press is available for purchase online and in bookstores near you! We couldn’t be more excited about this adventure and the many more road trips on the horizon.
Order your copy today from wherever books are sold! We’ll help you out by providing some links:
Stay tuned: We’re hitting the road soon, and we may be roadtrippin’ near you! And don’t miss our media stops in the coming weeks. Check the calendar on the homepage to find out where we’ll be chatting about our Old Kentucky Road Trips!
Stick with us for a moment; this story about a joyful, seminal song starts out sad but ends up somewhere happy.
If you walk diagonally across the street from the Frazier History Museum in Louisville toward the I-64 overpass and look down into the bushes next to a seventeen-space parking lot, you’ll find the only current commemoration of Mildred and Patty Hill, teachers and songwriters who penned the song “Good Morning to All.” You might know it better as “Happy Birthday to You.”
“Good Morning to All” was originally written in 1893 for a songbook called Song Stories for the Kindergarten. Both women worked for progressive early education with the Louisville Experimental Kindergarten School. Mildred, the songwriter, wrote the music, and Patty penned the lyrics as a greeting song for her young students. But during a Louisville birthday party, it was suggested that the song be changed to “Happy Birthday to You.” And the rest as they say…was not the end of the story.
Copyright claims have persisted for years among various groups seeking royalties for the ubiquitous tune. Most folks agree though: the Hill sisters wrote “Good Morning to All,” and that song is the basis for our modern iteration of “Happy Birthday to You.”
So why is this small memorial to two influential Louisville educators and the writers of one of the world’s most recognizable songs sitting under an interstate overpass next to the “Happy Birthday to You” parking lot? The answer is: hopefully it won’t be for much longer.
The Patty Smith and Mildred Jane Hill Happy Birthday Park nonprofit organization has begun raising funds to build a memorial park on a tract of land at the corner of Fourth and Chestnut Streets that pays tribute to the sisters’ contributions to both music and education. A far more fitting homage than a small, downtown parking lot.
Spring has sprung, y’all! Which means it is time to hit the road! Spring is one of our favorite times to take an Old Kentucky Road Trip — we’ve been cooped up inside all winter, so when the clouds break, the sun shines through, little green things start popping up from under the soggy ground, we gas up the car and can’t fasten our seat belts fast enough.
This spring is especially exciting for us Road Trip Gals (and our trusty Photographer) because we’re hitting the road to promote our new book from The History Press!My Old Kentucky Road Trip: Historic Destinations and Natural Wonders is available at the end of March and we are counting down the milliseconds until we get to share it with all of you!
Part of our mission here at My Old Kentucky Road Trip is to make sure all of you have the tools you need to have a great experience exploring the Bluegrass State. To help you do that, we provide some road trip tips to lend a hand to all you road warriors. Let’s take a moment to share a road trip hiccup that happened to us just last week:
While out exploring, we had a small rock pop up from the highway, nick our windshield and put a small starburst chip right in the middle. Nothing ruins a road trip like car trouble or the worry that you’re going to have to spend a fortune getting something on your chariot repaired. Lucky for us (and now for you!), there was a solution to this windshield dilemma that didn’t involve the auto body shop.
We purchased a do-it-yourself windshield chip repair kit at our local hardware store (also available online and at an auto parts store as well). We were super skeptical about this kit, which included an alcohol swab, a razor blade, a push pin, a syringe, a tube of resin, and a piece of thin plastic. But with super simple follow-along instructions, we had a flawless windshield (or windscreen for you Brits out there) in just about an hour’s time. All for less than $13.
Here’s a quick and easy summary of how it works (but please follow the instructions provided in your kit for best results):