Kentucky Trifecta: Louisville, Lexington and Richmond
By Renée S. Gordon
The first tourists, nomadic Paleo-Indians, appeared in what is now Kentucky more than 13,000 years ago. Approximately 12,000 years later the first natives began to settle the area. Non-natives entered “Kaintuckee” around 2,700 years after these settlements began and the indigenous tribes came into contact with French and British settlers. The French claimed the Ohio Valley but it was the colony of Virginia that sent the first group out to thoroughly explore it.
The territory was given to England as a provision of the Treaty of Paris and settlement began with the 1774 settlement of James Harrod, from Pennsylvania and 31 colonists. In 1775 Daniel Boone, another Pennsylvanian, led a group from Virginia for James Harrod. Harrod’s settlement was named Harrodsburg with the acreage he gave to Boone called Boonesborough. Kentucky, a Cherokee word for “meadowland,” remained part of the Virginia Colony until it was admitted as a commonwealth state in June of 1792.
Kentucky, straddling the North and the South, was the only state to have a star on both the Confederate and the Union flags during the Civil War and it continues to have a unique blend of southern charm and northern sophistication that makes it an idyllic place for a getaway. Each city exudes an individual character and ambiance, there are many ways to experience them and a series of thematic routes, the Bourbon Trail, Civil War Trail, etc., have been designed to guide visitors to locations of specific interest. I selected three cities within close proximity of each other, chose sites that had a particular appeal for me, and off I went to experience a true Kentucky trifecta. www.kentucky.gov
Corn Island’s Fort Nelson was the first permanent settlement, at the Falls of the Ohio River, in the vicinity of modern Louisville. Colonel George R. Clark and 230 other settlers from PA founded it in the late 1770s. The first documented black resident, Cato Watts enslaved by John Donne was Louisville’s first famous musician and first murderer. He claimed to have accidentally murdered Donne, but he was hung in 1787 anyway. It is noted that his fiddling was sorely missed.
The city was formally chartered in 1780 and named in honor of the French king, Louis XVI, who aided the Americans during the Revolutionary War. Today it is the largest city in the state with the distinction of being the home of the Kentucky Derby, having a National Historic District comprised of the greatest number of Victorian residences in the United States and more than 100 singul ar attractions within the city’s limits.
If you have limited time, as I always seem to, the best way to begin is by visiting the conveniently located “Museums on Main” and your first stop should be to view “The KentuckyShow!,” 501 W. Main Street. www.kentuckyshow.com.
This 30-minute, multimedia film, is an outstanding overview of the state’s multicultural history narrated by Ashley Judd. It is presented in the 1983 Kentucky Center, a world-class performing arts space consisting of four theaters and a lobby Gallery that showcases regional art as well as a permanent art collection. The galleries are free and guided tours are available by reservation for $1.00. www.kentuckycenter.org
The Frazier International History Museum, 829 West Main Street, is an incomparable venue. Three floors are filled with life-sized dioramas, exhibit cases, videos, interpretive plaques and a tournament area in which live duel reenactments and educational programs take place.
The Frazier is the only museum in the world to display artifacts outside of England, from the British Royal Armories, that date from the 11th century. Other highlights include George E. Weatherly’s collection “Swords of the Americas” and firearms owned by Buffalo Bill, Geronimo, Theodore Roosevelt and George Washington. Costumed interpreters perform d aily in the persona of such notables as Annie Oakley and Vlad the Impaler. www.fraziermuseum.org
You can’t possibly overlook the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, situated diagonally across Main Street from the Frazier, because of the iconic baseball bat on its facade. The 120-ft, steel replica of Babe Ruth’s 34-inch Louisville Slugger weighs 68,000-lbs. Inside visitors tour the museum, tracing the history of the sport, and take a guided factory tour to see how the “Official Bat of Major League Baseball” is crafted.
The first Louisville Slugger was made of white ash in 1883 for Pete Browning of the Louisville Eclipse by John Hillerich. Today, the family owned business makes over a million wooden bats per year.
Special features of the tour are interactive exhibits and a view of rare memorabilia including the 1941 bat used by “Jolting” Joe DiMaggio during his 56-game streak and Babe Ruth’s 1927, 60 home-run season slugger. The super highlight of any visit is the area in which you can handle game-used bats of baseballs greats.
Each person receives a miniature, souvenir, bat at the end of the tour and guests can order a personalized bat upon arrival and collect it at the end of the tour. 800 West Main St. www.sluggermuseum.com
The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft is situated at 715 W. Main Street. Its four galleries display traditional, functional objects handcrafted by Kentucky artisans. This is a wonderful place to both view the art and purchase a one-of-a-kind item to take home in the Gallery Shop. www.kentuckyarts.org
If you thought you knew all about Muhammad Ali, think again and then visit the outstanding Muhammad Ali Center at One Muhammad Ali Plaza. This center accomplishes what many other museums devoted to individuals attempt to do. It skillfully draws you into his life and times and, through use of interactive exhibits, videos, audios, artifacts, memorabilia and first person testimonials, facilitates a greater understanding of the man, his journey and his personal philosophy.
Visits begin with an escalator ride through a corridor filled with welcoming wishes in an array of languages. There is a 10-minute orientation video and then you proceed into themed galleries. Throughout the 6-story, $80 million center, 40 displays are creatively activated, by putting your hand in a plaster cast of Ali’s or touching a “Jet Magazine” or boxing glove and information is given in 19 languages.
The entire center is one big thrill, but my favorites were a replica of his Deer Lake, PA training camp where you can shadow box with him in the 20’ by 20’ ring used in the movie “AliE2:” the individual seating areas with monitors that allow you to select and view 15 fights by outcome, opponent, location; or date and the replica of the stolen red Schwinn bicycle that started him on his path to greatness. The self-guided tour ends with an Olympic Torch and a mirrored wall that allows you to walk with Ali. The Muhammad Ali Center is a must visit for everyone www.alicenter.org
A destination like Kentucky requires extraordinary accommodations and there are none more special than the historic B&B’s located in our three “trifecta” cities. The Inn at Woodhaven, 401 S. Hubbards Lane, is a perfect choice. The Gothic Revival inn has eight rooms within an 1853 mansion, the Rose Cottage and the Carriage House in the gardens. All rooms are furnished with antiques and offer modern amenities including designer linens, fireplaces, spa tubs, televisions, and wireless internet access. Gourmet breakfast is served daily and guests may be served in the dining area or have a breakfast basket delivered to their room for more private dining. The house is listed on the National Register. www.innatwoodhaven.com
The final touch to a perfect Louisville visit is dinner at Corbett’s. Situated in a 150-year old farmhouse it’s the perfect mixture of a historic setting, gourmet cuisine and exemplary service. The American menu changes seasonally and is based on both fresh and locally grown ingredients. The specialties of the establishment are marvelous five and nine-course tastings.
Corbett’s also has the distinction of being able to offer a state-of-the-art, interactive, dining experience. Dining guests can view and communicate with the chef as he prepares the meal via tableside microphones and television screens. 5050 Norton Healthcare Boulevard. www.corbettsrestaurant.com
Louisville is the first of our three Kentucky cities. Join me next week as we explore Lexington and Richmond, two very different destinations. www.gotolouisville.com
I wish you smooth and winning travels!