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KENTUCKY - A GUIDE TO THE BLUEGRASS STATE - 1939

FRANKFORT

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 one regiment.

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 Frankfort.

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, and churches. 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 cupola.

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 was $95,000.

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 history.

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 valued possession.

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 frontiersman.

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 in Kentucky.

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

 



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