KENTUCKY - A GUIDE TO THE BLUEGRASS STATE - 1939
Railroad Station: Union Station, Ann St. and Broadway, for Louisville & Nashville
R.R., Chesapeake & Ohio Ry., Frankfort & Cincinnati Ry.
Bus Station: Ann and Main Sts. for Greyhound and Nunelly Lines.
Local Buses: Fare 10cents . Service from downtown to all residential districts, inclusive
of New Capitol.
Taxis: 25 cents to any point in city; $1 an hour with a 10-mile maximum distance.
Traffic Regulations: No right turn on red lights. Restricted parking areas so
marked. Two hours parking on unmarked streets.
Accommodations: Three hotels. Convenient, reasonably priced rooming houses
open to tourists.
Information Service: Chamber of Commerce, Capital Hotel.
Motion Picture Houses: Four.
Fishing: Forks of Elkhorn (see Tour 9), 4 m., for bass.
Baseball: Hoge-Montgomery Park, State 37, 1 m. N.
FRANKFORT (504 alt., 11,626 pop.), capital of Kentucky, lies
within the S-loops of the Kentucky River as it thrusts first against the
eastern and then against the western bluffs that border its deep and
narrow valley. Upon the alluvial plain, through which meanders the
navigable stream, stands the city, separated by the river into north
and south sides which are connected by three bridges.
The north side embraces the older residential section of the city, the
Old Capitol, and the downtown business section. The south side,
chiefly residential, is expanding southward to and beyond the New
Capitol, that lifts its dome high above the roofs and spires of the town.
To the eastward, beyond the city limits, where US 60 traverses the
rolling Bluegrass highland, an addition is steadily extending the urban
area, which, inclusive of the overflow of population beyond the borders
of the city proper, covers approximately four square miles.
Along Main Street and the intersecting business streets, old buildings
of brick and stone, having the impression of earlier generations, are interspersed
with substantial and imposing modern structures. Loungers
and passers-by represent a cross-section of every phase of Kentucky life.
For a portion of each year politics dominates the scene, and Frankfort
is then the gathering place of legislators and of others materially
interested in legislation. Year in and year out the city is the home of
a fluctuating group of officeholders and State employees.
Workers, white and Negro, from the factories within the city and
from the distilleries in its environs, throng the streets on holidays or
when the work of the day is over, and farmers from the rich agricultural
lands in the vicinity come in, especially on Saturdays, to do their
trading. At such times the city assumes the air of an old-fashioned
country town, its streets filled with a leisurely moving crowd, colorful,
chattering, parcel-laden. Daily, among all these, move men and women
whose traditions root deeply in the past, who live on quiet streets, in
old houses rich in history.
It is probable that Christopher Gist was the first white man to view
the lovely valley in which Frankfort lies; his journal tells of being in
this region in 1751. More than twenty years later, in 1773, Governor
Dunmore of Virginia sent a survey party into the West to look into
the land; Robert McAfee and his group surveyed and claimed some
600 acres, including the site of the present Capitol. In the following
year land-hungry adventurers accepted the opportunity, and "squatted"
in miserable shelters on the land, seeking thus to get by the law which
required "settlement and improvement." The Indians were not slow
to sense the menace. Shawnee, Miami, Delaware and Wyandotte
went on the warpath, murdering and burning at large. So grave was
the situation that Virginia was compelled to send militia and "Regulars"
to restore peace and protect the settlers, Lord Dunmore himself heading
In 1773 Hancock Taylor had surveyed, in behalf of Robert McAfee,
lands that are now within the downtown section of the north side.
The following year it was discovered that the McAfee claim, always
shadowy, had lapsed, and Humphrey Marshall, while working as attorney
for the estate of Francis McConnell, secured a grant from the
Province of Virginia. The McConnell heirs considered this a breach
of trust and a lawsuit resulted, which the court settled by giving the
heirs half the profits Marshall had realized from his title to the land.
Prior to the settlement of this suit, known as Patrick vs. Marshall, Gen.
James Wilkinson, friend of Washington and one time commander of
American armies in the West, later involved in the Burr conspiracy,
purchased the lands from Marshall for the present-day equivalent of
$433. This purchase, made in 1786, gave Wilkinson a not-too-clear
title to the major portion of that part of Frankfort lying north of the
river the downtown district.
Wilkinson immediately set about organizing the new town. He secured
passage of an act of the Virginia Legislature (1786) which set
aside 100 acres as a town site, provided a ferry and fixed its rates.
When he found the Kentucky River flooding parts of the city as
planned, he put in a drainage system. The town as platted extended
from the present site of the New Capital Hotel westward to the river,
and from Fort Hill, the height that overlooks the north end of the city,
to the old bridge connecting the downtown district with the south side.
The name Frankfort was chosen by Wilkinson in memory of a pioneer
who, some years earlier, had been shot by Indians, and whose surname,
Frank, had already been given to a ford within the area chosen as the
town site. By a slight change the name "Frank's Ford" became
"Frankfort." Within this tract streets were laid out and named in
honor of the general and his friends. Ann Street, running north and
south on the west side of the New Capital Hotel was named for his
wife, and Mero Street for the Spanish Governor General of the Province of Louisiana who was involved with Wilkinson and others in the
historic Burr conspiracy. The name of Wapping Street, on which the
post office is now, was suggested by a visiting Englishman, for a street
in London famous in that day but now only a memory recorded in
song. Other streets bear names familiar in early American history.
Wilkinson visioned Frankfort as a port of the Bluegrass country,
connected directly with the rising towns on the Ohio also with New
Orleans, with the West Indies and with the Atlantic Coast. The advent
of steamboating encouraged these early ambitions, but the Lexington
and Ohio railroad entered Frankfort in 1835, concentrating
transfer and wholesale business at Ohio River points. Nevertheless
the town prospered; tobacco, salt pork, skins, and hemp gave place in
business importance to livestock and lumbering. About the middle of
the nineteenth century Frankfort again became an important primary
tobacco market but today the last tobacco-floor has disappeared. The
vast timberlands of the upper Kentucky River and its tributaries made
Frankfort a leading sawmill town during the period 1865-1900. The
industry also has vanished, but furniture and shoe manufacturing, once
incidental to lumbering and local Bluegrass livestock slaughtering, still
survive. The accessibility and quality of the crystalline limestone of
the adjacent bluffs, known as "Kentucky marble," not only provided
the material out of which the statehouse was built in 1827-1830 (see
Point of Interest No. 2), but for many of the earliest business buildings
and homes. The bluffs still furnish building stone for the more
enduring structures, and materials for extensive road-building about
June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth State of the Union, and
the first west of the Alleghenies. The first session of the legislature
convened in Lexington on November 5, "to fix on a place for the permanent
seat of government." Five commissioners were appointed to
consider applications from various points that included Ledgerwood's
Bend, Delaney's Ferry, Petersburg, Louisville, Lexington, Danville and
Leestown. The commissioners demanded a free site and the expense
of erecting necessary buildings. December 5, Frankfort was adjudged
to be "the most proper place" and on December 22 the legislature
adjourned "to hold its next session in the house of Andrew Holmes, at
Frankfort, on the Kentucky River." Holmes, in behalf of Frankfort,
agreed to convey to the government:
(a) For seven years, the house and tenement lately occupied by Gen. James
Wilkinson; (b) Absolutely, the lots marked Public Ground, Nos. 58, 59, 68, 74,
75, 79, 83, and 84; (c) Choice of 30 lots yet unsold, or alternate-choice of half
of all the unsold lots, and if more space is requisite will lay off into half-acre lots
50 acres more and convey one-half of them; (d) The rents of the warehouse for
7 years; (e) 10 boxes 10 x 12 window glass, 1,500 Ibs. nails, 50 worth of locks and
hinges, stone and scantling for building to an equivalent value, all delivered upon
the Public Ground Or, in place of the latter, stone that will build 1,590 perches
of wall in any part of Frankfort, and the use of Holmes's sawmill, carriage, wagon,
and two good horses until a sufficiency of scantling for a statehouse is procured, and the privilege of timber from any part of his tract; 2d, The bond, dated
Aug. 9, 1792, of 8 citizens of Frankfort Harry Innes, Nat Sanders, Bennett Pemberton,
Benj. Craig, Jere Craig, Wm. Haydon, Daniel James, and Giles Samuel
to pay to the commissioners $3,000 in specie (gold or silver).
The choice of the little village on the Kentucky River midway between
the two, settled amicably, if not to their individual satisfaction,
the claims of Lexington and Louisville, chief contenders for the Capitol
site. The fact of its central location satisfied the remainder of the
State for the time only, however. Twice the Capitol burned, 1815
and 1824, and each time Frankfort's availability was challenged before
the structure was rebuilt.
Perhaps, when "Jim" Mulligan told in his ballad how politics were
"the damnedest in Kentucky" he was thinking of Frankfort and the
General Assembly. There, just the same, leaders have been developed
and history made. As far back as 1811, a European traveler passing
through Frankfort heard that the legislature was in session and thought
he would drop in and look it over. "Backswoodsmen," he supposed,
were less competent at such a game than their Eastern rivals. Thus
he reports: "There was a silver-tongued orator speaking. . . . 'Gentlemen,
we must have war with Great Britain War will ruin her commerce
Commerce is the apple of Britain's eye There we must gouge
her!' " He was convinced of his error.
Since 1825, when Lafayette was entertained here, the presence of
the State Capitol has flavored the social life of Frankfort throughout
the years. From all parts of Kentucky have come men and women to
live beside its quiet streets and bring distinction to the city by their
part in the shaping of State policies and development. The effect has
been to develop a distinguished political and social atmosphere. Henry
Clay, John J. Crittenden, Ninian Edwards, John G. Carlisle, John M.
Harlan and many others have trained in Frankfort for the national
scene. The social tone is quiet and somewhat reserved; a typically
southern city where what one is takes precedence over what one has.
The early settlers of Kentucky, notably those who left western Pennsylvania
about the time of the "Whisky Rebellion" (1791-1794), were
acquainted with the methods employed in the British Isles in the distilling
of whisky. The low price of corn and wheat on western markets
favored their conversion into whisky, a product that improved with
age, and that was readily transportable. Out of this economic situation
developed "corn liquor" for which Kentucky is famous. From the
Civil War era, Frankfort began the commercial development of its distilleries
at points near the city where flowing springs furnish limestone
water, a prerequisite to a first-class product. During the prohibition
era the distilleries about Frankfort, with one exception, were closed;
they resumed operation on repeal (1933) of the Prohibition Amendment.
Only once, in 1862, has war invaded the peace of Frankfort. Bragg's
Confederate forces swept northward out of Tennessee, seized the city,
and set up a Confederate State Government. Before the ceremonies
of installation had ended, the guns of the North were hammering from
the crest of the bluffs west of town. The Confederates withdrew, and
the new Governor, Richard J. Hawes, hastily retired to Lexington.
The years of reconstruction and those that have followed have witnessed
the modernization of the city, the development of its schools, the
upbuilding of the newer section of the city adjacent to the New Capitol
; but the city as a whole retains the quiet charm of its earlier years.
The Capital Bridge is the most recent of many civic improvements that
include a modern system of public schools, an excellent hospital, playgrounds,
The Ohio Valley Flood of 1937 brought great property loss to Frankfort.
The swollen Ohio formed a dam at the mouth of the Kentucky,
causing that river to rise out of its banks; then torrential rains within
the valley inundated the city, cut it in two parts, flooded cellars, interrupted
light, gas, and water service, and swirled through the lower
streets, carrying smaller homes and business houses off their foundations.
The damage to properties, personal and civic, was estimated at
$5,000,000. Within the State Reformatory, one of the oldest penal institutions
in the Nation, the water rose to a depth of six feet, and the
inmates were evacuated to the heights on the east side of town. Later,
steps were taken for the abandonment of the old stone-walled enclosure
for a less restricted and more healthful site near LaGrange.
POINTS OF INTEREST
1. The NEW CAPITOL (open 9-5 weekdays), S. end of Capitol
Ave., encircled by a broad drive, stands within an extensive grassy
plot on a gentle slope overlooking the Kentucky River. The main, or
north, entrance is approached from Capitol Avenue by a walk and
flights of steps that accentuate the elevation of the building above the
surrounding area. The superstructure, gleaming white in the sun, is of
Bedford stone on a high granite base. Surrounding the lower story is
a broad paved terrace with balustrade. Designed with majestic symmetry,
the exterior is adorned with Ionic colonnades, entablature and
crowning balustrade; its simple rectangular lines are broken only by
the massive pedimented central section and smaller end pavilions.
The dominant feature of the exterior is the high central dome, raised
on a graceful Ionic peristyle, or drum, and crowned with a slender lantern
The designer of the richly sculptured pediment, above the north
entrance, was Charles Henry Niehaus, of New York. It was executed
by Peter Rossack, of Austria. Frank M. Andrews was the architect of
the building completed in 1909 at a cost of $1,820,000.
Beyond the vestibule, where visitors register and guides are provided,
is the central corridor. The floors are of Tennessee marble, the wainscoting and pilasters of Georgia marble; monolithic Vermont granite
columns, 36 in number, ornament the interior. Among the paintings
that adorn the interior are the LUNETTES in the east and west ends of
the corridor. These murals, executed by T. Gilbert White, of Michigan,
portray events in the early history of Kentucky.
On the first floor, directly beyond the vestibule and beneath the massive
dome, is the HALL OF FAME, where stand four memorials to noted
Kentuckians. In the center is a bronze figure of Abraham Lincoln by
A. A. Weinmann. Nearby is the statue of Jefferson Davis, President
of the Confederacy, the work of Frank Hibbard, and a plaster facsimile
of C. H. Niehaus' marble statue of Henry Clay, the conciliator. A
marble statue of Dr. Ephraim McDowell, by Niehaus, honors the great
pioneer in the field of abdominal surgery.
The chambers of the senate and the house of representatives are on
the third floor. Visitors are admitted to the galleries when the legislature
is in session.
On the grounds of the Capitol, and overlooking the Kentucky River,
is the EXECUTIVE MANSION, residence of Kentucky's Governors. It
harmonizes in architectural detail with the Capitol.
2. OLD CAPITOL (open 9-12, 1-4:30 weekdays), St. Clair St. and
Broadway. Twice, in the early days of statehood, the Capitol burned.
The edifice, now known as the "Old Capitol," is an excellent example of
the Greek Revival style of architecture, and first of the many notable
buildings designed by Kentucky's early-day architect, Gideon Shryock.
It was built (1827-1830) out of the native rock of the bluffs of the
Kentucky River. This rock, a durable white limestone, was sawn at
nearby quarries, and the timbers were hewn out of the native forest.
The entire cost of this statehouse that served the State for eight decades
Set into the concrete walk to the portico is a bronze tablet that marks
the spot where, in 1900, William Goebel, contender for the governorship,
fell, shot by an assassin whose identity never has been divulged.
Three days later Goebel died, after having been proclaimed Governor
by the legislature then in session. He was succeeded in office by
Lieutenant-Governor J. C. W. Beckham. At once a number of suspects
were apprehended and put on trial. One turned State's evidence
whereat three were convicted; Secretary of State Caleb Powers was
given the death penalty. In course of time all were pardoned and
Powers was later sent to Congress.
The front fagade of the building is dominated by a hexastyle portico
of the Ionic order. The columns, each four feet in diameter and 33
feet high, carry the weight of the massive, severely plain pediment.
The walls and stone window casings are also unadorned. Above the
copper roof rises the cupola, a pedestal 25 feet square, on which stands
a circular lantern 22 feet in diameter, surmounted by a dome. Inside
the great double doors are floors of "Kentucky marble," polished and
mellowed in color by more than a century of use. A broad corridor
extends back to the rotunda beneath the dome, where a transverse corridor leads to exits on either side of the building. On the right of the
entrance are the offices of the STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY (open 9-12,
1-4:30 weekdays), custodian of a rich collection of Kentuckiana. Left
is the LIBRARY (open 9-12, 14:30 weekdays), a treasure-house of Kentucky
From the main floor to the balcony rises the beautifully executed
double stairway of self-supporting stones designed by Shryock. In its
construction the architect made free use of the principles that govern
the construction and support of the Roman arch.
On the second floor are the large, simply-designed rooms where the
houses of the legislature met. These two rooms have collections of
historic value. On the walls of the building hang paintings that recall
the history of the State from earliest days. Among these is Oliver
Frazer's copy of Stuart's Washington, the Historical Society's most
3. LIBERTY HALL (open 9-5 weekdays, adm. 25 cents ), 218 Wilkinson
St., was originally the home of John Brown, first United States Senator
from Kentucky, who, with his family, occupied it in 1796. Since that
time until 1937, when it was taken over by the State, it remained in
possession of his heirs. It stands in the corner of a large lawn and
garden that extends back to the river. Late Georgian Colonial in
architecture, it is simple and dignified in its lines. A short walk leads
from the street to an entrance above which rises a fine Palladian window.
Within the entrance a broad hall opens on either side into spacious,
high-ceilinged rooms, heated by huge fireplaces. Mantels and
other interior woodwork are hand-carved.
At the rear of the main hall a stairway rises to the second floor where
in early days a large ballroom was the scene of many entertainments.
The remainder of this story was originally divided into guest rooms and
sleeping rooms for the family; it is now somewhat altered. In the attic
and in the great basement, other rooms provided space for the liberal
entertainment that was part of the family scheme of living. Monroe,
Lafayette, William Henry Harrison, Jackson, Taylor, "Teddy" Roosevelt,
among others, were entertained in this home. The furnishings are
the former personal possessions of the Brown family. A portrait, by
Gilbert Stuart, of one of the members of the family hangs on a downstairs
wall. The piano and some music that belonged to Margaretta,
wife of the builder, remain.
The area bounded by Wapping, Wilkinson, Washington and Main
Streets is known as the CORNER OF CELEBRITIES. Brown owned the
entire block on which Liberty Hall stands. For his son Orlando he
built the house that stands on the opposite corner. Around this nucleus
developed a remarkable neighborhood. During the five generations
since the Browns first made their home in Frankfort, the little neighborhood
has been the birthplace, or the later home, of two Justices of
the Supreme Court, nine United States Senators, six Representatives,
seven Ambassadors, and three Admirals of the United States Navy.
Two other residents Marshall M. Bibb and John J. Crittenden
served in the Federal Cabinet.
4. FRANKFORT CEMETERY, E. Main St., lies along the edge
of the bluff that overlooks Frankfort from the east. Within its rolling
acres are the graves of distinguished Kentuckians. Near the entrance
(R) is the GOEBEL MONUMENT, where is buried the man who in 1900
was assassinated on the steps of the Old Capitol.
At a point where the drive closely skirts the edge of the bluff (R),
is the BOONE MEMORIAL. A footpath winds downward from the drive
to the single grave beneath the trees where lie Daniel Boone and Rebecca
Boone, first of the pioneers. The monolithic limestone memorial
that stands above their grave was quarried from the Kentucky River
cliffs at Boonesboro, where in 1775 Daniel helped establish the first
seat of government in the West. On the four sides of the monolith are
inset panels of Italian marble, representing scenes from the life of the
After the settlement of Kentucky began in earnest Boone, unfortunate
in his business enterprises, moved his family into the wilderness
west of the Mississippi which was then a Spanish possession. In 1820
he died at the home of his son Nathan Boone, in the southern section
of St. Charles County, Mo. In 1845 the Legislature of Kentucky
brought his remains to Frankfort and erected the memorial.
From the center of an oval plot, known as STATE CEMETERY, rises
the tall Carrara marble shaft of the monument, dedicated by the State
in 1850 to the memory of Kentuckians who fell in foreign wars. Surmounting
the shaft is the figure of Victory designed by Robert E.
Launitz of New York. He also executed the monument. The Victory
and the four eagles seen at its feet were made in Italy from detail designs
by Launitz. Inscriptions on the four sides of the shaft tell the
part that Kentucky has played in the wars of the Nation. Encircling
the base are the graves of soldiers whose remains were brought here
from the battlefields of the Mexican War.
Within the oval, just outside the circle of soldier dead, is the TOMB
OF THEODORE O'HARA, citizen of Frankfort, editor, soldier of the
Mexican War and of the War between the States. Engraved upon his
tomb are verses from his ode, the Bivouac of the Dead, memorializing
his comrades of the Mexican War.
Beyond the O'Hara tomb, at the southern tip of the oval and screened
by heavy foliage, is the COL. RICHARD M. JOHNSON TOMB. Johnson
led the Kentucky troops who in 1813, at the Battle of the Thames,
helped break the Indian power north of the Ohio. He is credited with
killing Tecumseh, the Indian leader, in this battle.
5. STATE ARSENAL (not open to
public) E. Main St., at foot of
hill, attracts attention by its commanding position, rather than from its
size or style of architecture, which with its ornamental battlements and
turrets is suggestive of the Tudor. It was erected in 1850 as a storagehouse
for equipment and materials belonging to the State Militia and
it still serves that purpose.
6. CAPITAL BRIDGE, E. Main St. and Capitol Ave., is dedicated
to the memory of those who fell in the World War. It unites north
and south Frankfort, crossing the Kentucky River at a level that assures
uninterrupted highway communication in the event- of a flood similar to
that of 1937, when all highway travel by way of Frankfort was suspended.
The area between Capital Bridge and the intersection of East Main
and Ann Streets (L) is one of the oldest business blocks in the west.
The STONE HOUSE, the first abutting the street on the left, was built
by John Hampton, an early settler. A few doors beyond an old building
reveals itself as a clapboarded LOG HOUSE, one of the first in the
growing village. First built as a home, it has served several uses since.
The largest building in the row, formerly a livery stable, is used as a
garage. The buildings between the old barn and the Ann Street corner
are of the same early period. The great hewn timbers, doorways, windows,
worn thresholds, chimneys, weathered siding between the buildings
all attest their age. At the southeast corner of Main and Ann
Streets, a BRONZE MARKER attached to the Ann Street wall of the
building tells that a few feet from the corner, and toward the river at
a jog in the building line abutting the street, the first stake was driven
of the original survey of the town site.
7. STATE INDUSTRIAL INSTITUTE (Kentucky Negro College),
E. Main St. and City Limits, is a teachers' training school for Negroes.
The plant is on a 35-acre campus overlooking the northwestern section
of Frankfort and consists of six modern, well-equipped school buildings,
together with dormitories provided for students and faculty. A
farm of 265 acres, owned and operated by the school, lies immediately
south of the highway and serves as an out-of-doors laboratory for students
in agriculture. It is equipped with barns, a silo, cattle and hog
sheds, and a poultry building. Training for steam and electrical engineering,
manual training, dressmaking and domestic science is stressed.
Students also may receive a thorough training in teaching, for which
purpose there are maintained elementary courses that any Negro child
may attend. The institution possesses the finest library of Negro literature
Under the laws of Kentucky white and Negro children are separately
educated. Negro children receive training under Negro teachers. An
impartial pro-rata division of school funds assures to children of both
races their full share of school equipment and of teacher-service. To
meet the demand so created with trained men and women, the State
Industrial Institute was founded by an act of the legislature in 1886.
The Negro illiteracy, estimated at 96 percent in the late 1860's, now
averages 5 percent for the State as a whole.
8. US LOCK 4, N. end of Kentucky Ave. (open), part of the engineering
improvement by which the Kentucky River is made navigable.
9. HEMP MILLS (Kentucky River Mills), Wilkinson St. extended,
N. of City Limits.
10. O.F.C. (Frank Stagg) DISTILLERY (open weekdays on application),
Leestown Pike (Wilkinson St. extended), where Bourbon (corn)
whisky is manufactured.
This information was Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project
of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kentucky - 1939