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Kentucky Historical Towns and Places

Historical Towns & Places

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill

A half-hour from Lexington in the town of Harrodsburg, is the largest restored Shaker community in the United States and the first site in the country to be designated in its entirety as a National Historic Landmark.

In 1805, a group of shakers came to rural Kentucky and established a Village named Pleasant Hill. The population peaked to almost 500 in the 1820s and the community acquired more than 4,000 acres of farmland. However, after the 1860s, changing social attitudes and the Industrial Revolution signalled the community’s decline. By 1923, sadly the last Pleasant Hill Shaker died and the buildings, property and belongings passed into private hands.

Over the years, Pleasant Hill became just a small town called Shakertown, and the Shakers were all but forgotten. But thankfully in 1961 an educational corporation was formed to restore the Village and today visitors come to enjoy a peaceful way of life in over 3,000 acres of pristine Kentucky countryside.

Paducah’s historic downtown

Paducah was first admired by William Clark as he made his way downriver in the early 1800s. Many others through the centuries, including famed humourist Irvin Cobb, would come to admire the river city as a beautiful place to linger. Creativity is the common thread that connects people from around the globe to Paducah, the world's 7th City of Crafts and Folk Art in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. Anchored by the National Quilt Museum and a thriving fibre arts community, Paducah is a haven for creative thinkers and doers.

At the heart of America's inland waterways, the river contributes to the constant flow of Paducah's engaging energy and fascinating history. From the colourful revitalization of the Lower Town Arts District to the vibrant streets of 19th Century architecture in Historic Downtown, Paducah invites visitors to immerse themselves in rich American heritage and a globally-celebrated creative culture.

Historic Sites - Washington - Mason County, Kentucky

Eavesdrop on history as you walk down original bumpy flagstone sidewalks on a costumed tour of this 200-year-old village also known as Olde Washington. On the National Register of Historic Places, it features a quiet main street with original 18th century log cabins, frame and brick buildings. Founded in 1785 on land purchased from Simon Kenton, Washington was a popular outpost for pioneers travelling the Buffalo Trace.

Maysville and Augusta

Maysville and Augusta are river towns that have maintained their beauty and dignity. Here you can follow the footsteps of the first settlers and learn the connection to the Underground Railroad which was the route to freedom for countless fleeing African-American slaves.

Barbourville, Kentucky - Daniel Boone Country

Barbourville is home to Union College, The Daniel Boone Festival and the site where the first log cabin was built by a settler to Kentucky. This ever expanding south eastern Kentucky town is the site of the state's first Civil War Skirmish. This famous 1861 battle is re-enacted during the Living History Days Festival which takes place every September.

A quaint and quiet town rich in history and modern flair to appeal to college students and families, Barbourville is a place where visitors are made to feel at home with local shopping and dining surrounded by a breath-taking landscape.

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

There's Only One...Cumberland Gap.

Cumberland Gap National Park has a lot to offer: rich history, spectacular scenery, impressive vistas, unique geologic sandstone formations, magnificent underground caverns, and abundant and diverse plant and animal life. Tour Hensley Settlement and experience what life was like in a 20th century mountain community. Explore Gap Cave with a ranger and learn about the formation of the cave system. Walk in the footsteps of Native Americans, early settlers and Civil War Soldiers along the Wilderness Road Trail. At the park's visitor centre, enjoy browsing through the museum, find a good read at Eastern National Bookstore and admire the Appalachian arts found at Cumberland Crafts. Almost 70 miles of hiking trails provide numerous opportunities to explore and discover the wilds of Kentucky. Few parks offer such a diverse selection of sights and activities, so make plans to visit the park and stay for a few days.

Midway Town Kentucky

As most of Central Kentucky knows, Historic Midway was the first town in Kentucky founded by a railroad, but the town’s history began long before that when the area was inhabited by Indian Mound Builders. Two large Indian mounds have been identified on farms nearby Midway, as well as several smaller such structures in the outlying areas where they still exist today.

When the Lexington and Ohio Railroad was incorporated in 1830, the town became a hub of activity with the accompanying construction. Lodging was needed for the railroad workmen as well as food, supplies, and other dry goods. By 1832, the railroad carried its first passengers from Lexington with horse drawn cars. The line was completed to Frankfort in 1834 and by January 1835 the first steam locomotive passed through Midway (also known as Middleway) from Lexington, bound for Frankfort. It was around this time that the town of Midway was surveyed and laid out by the railroad company. In honour of their work, many of the streets in Midway were named after the railroad company directors. These streets continue to exist today.

Midway continued to prosper along with the railroad. Until the passenger trains dwindled and the old depot (located where the caboose now stands) was closed in 1963. The last passenger train travelled through in May 1971.

Midway’s downtown followed the railroad’s fortunes and by the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the few remaining businesses primarily served the local agricultural community. Revitalization and rebirth began in the mid 1970’s when several antique shops and galleries were established and the Midway I Village Guild was formed. In 1978, 176 buildings in Midway were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now, Historic Midway once again thrives and enjoys its present reputation as one of Kentucky’s favourite spots for antiques, crafts, gifts, restaurants, and clothing. Several freight trains still make use of the active tracks running through Railroad Street, preserving Midway’s unique history and atmosphere.

Fort Knox

Fort Knox is perhaps best-known for the United States Bullion Depository, or "Gold Vault", as it is affectionately called by millions around the world. The facility, with its security systems shrouded in secrecy, houses the largest portion of the United States' gold reserve.

Ironically, although it is synonymous with "Fort Knox", the depository is located adjacent to the military installation, with US Treasury Department guards and employees. The facility was designed and constructed in 1936 for the purpose of housing America’s gold supply; however, over the years it has served as temporary home to the original Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, original copies of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, 3 volumes of the Gutenburg Bible, and crown jewels from European nations, proving the strength and security of the fortress.

The exterior dimensions of the 2-story basement and attic facility are 105 by 121 feet. Inside the building is a two-level, concrete-and-steel vault. The vault door itself weighs in excess of 30 tons, and no one person knows the complete combinations required to unlock the vault. Sophisticated security and defence systems ensure the safety of the contents, and the fortress includes a separate emergency power plant, water system, and other necessary facilities.

Access to the depository is restricted. Only two presidents have ever visited - Franklin Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. A Presidential order is required to gain access. However, the city of Fort Knox does offer several attractions for visitors and residents. Many of the things to do here centre around the area’s strong military background and honour its heritage.


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