Part 1 of a Series
Chances are…if you ever traveled to Kentucky, you explored such attractions as the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, or Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville.
Chances are… if you did travel to Louisville or Lexington, you never bothered to take the time to explore Frankfort, Kentucky’s small-town capital city perfectly positioned between those two cities.
Well, I took the time, and I’m sure glad I did!
A WARM WELCOME AWAITS VISITORS TO FRANKFORT, KENTUCKY
The doors to history will open up to you on the streets of Frankfort. With the city’s history dating back to the 1700s, there are interesting stories to be found in the structures that dot the streets of Frankfort. If you love history, antiques, art and architecture, Frankfort is the mother lode.
Two of the most beautiful state CAPITOL buildings in America are in the CAPITAL city of Frankfort. Try to remember what you learned in elementary school...CAPITOL is a building that houses government chambers and offices…a CAPITAL is a city that is the seat of government of a state or nation.
|CAPITOL VS. CAPITAL|
The fourth capitol building (1910), and current crowning glory of this seat of state government, is the impressive Kentucky State Capitol Building rising above the city on Capital Avenue. Listed on the National Register for Historic Places, Frankfort’s Capitol is one of the most impressive capitols in the nation and its art, architecture and antiques are not to be overlooked.
THE KENTUCKY STATE CAPITOL BUILDING
The 14-foot tall Lincoln statue in the capitol rotunda is one of the most impressive statues of the sixteenth president. This historic piece of art is surrounded by statues of other high-ranking Kentucky politicians. If you’re into antiques, check out the Capitol Building’s Italian Breche Violette Italian marble-topped Circassian walnut table and the cut crystal light fixtures in the State Reception Room and the single-globe brass light standards on three pronged lion head and claw bases in the East and West wing lobbies.
|THE CAPITOL’S ELEGANT STATE RECEPTION ROOM|
Kentucky's Old State House (1830) was the third permanent capitol building erected on Frankfort's old public square after the two previous ones had burned. This Greek Revival-style edifice is faced in polished limestone quarried near Frankfort. Its self-supporting marble staircase, that splits to become a double circular staircase, is one of the most distinguishing features of the building.
OLD STATE HOUSE
The Governor’s Mansion is the residence provided to the Chief Executive of the Commonwealth of Kentucky during his term as Governor. Styled after the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinnette’s villa near the Palace of Versailles, it reflects the French influence much as the interior of the Capitol does. The mansion is built of native limestone with eight Ionic columns adding to the majesty of its appearance. Considered to be a palatial home at the time of its construction, it cost $91,500 including grounds and original furnishings.
KENTUCKY’S EXECUTIVE MANSION
The Grand Theatre is one of five theaters operated between the mid-1800s and the 1970s in Historic Downtown Frankfort. Originally a vaudeville house built in 1911, it eventually added silent movies and then advanced to “talkies”. The theater operation closed in 1966. After decades of different commercial occupants, the Saving the Grand Theatre Preservation Project reopened the theatre in 2009. It is now a state of the art performing and visual arts theatre.
|THE RESTORED GRAND THEATRE WAS BUILT IN 1911|
Liberty Hall is said to be the finest example of early Federal-era architecture in Kentucky. The 4-acre manicured site contains two houses. The first, Liberty Hall (1796), was built for Senator John Brown a member of one of Kentucky's most important families. One morning in 1819, President James Monroe breakfasted with future presidents Zachary Taylor and Andrew Jackson at Liberty Hall. The second house on the site, the Orlando Brown House (1835), was built for Senator Brown’s son. While you’re there, check out the local legend about the spooky ghost known as the “Gray Lady “ of Liberty Hall.
ORLANDO BROWN HOUSE
The Federal-style, architecturally notable Hoge House (1810), once the grandest of all Frankfort homes, was constructed of bricks and logs and covered with red clapboards. It was built in Frankfort’s famed “Corner of Celebrities” Historic District, an area comprising little more than one city block that once claimed more nationally prominent one-time residents than any other four acres in the United States.
The Bibb-Burnley House, also known as Gray Gables, is a 21-room Gothic Revival house that was built by John Bibb in the 1850’s. His niece Mary Anne Burnley also lived in the house. Thus the name Bibb-Burnley House. Bibb loved gardening and he developed the leafy gourmet vegetable, Bibb Lettuce, in his backyard garden.
|BIBB BURNLEY HOUSE|
You can’t miss seeing the Glen Willis House. It is just next door to Buffalo Trace Distillery, a must-see stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. With its southern-style back porch, and a killer view overlooking the Kentucky River, this grand historic house is now home to Terri’s Catering.
|A KILLER VIEW FROM THE BACK PORCH OF THE GLEN WILLIS HOUSE|
The Frank Lloyd Wright Zeigler House perched atop a hill, was built for the Reverend Jessie R. Zeigler in 1910. It is the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house erected in Kentucky during his lifetime. It has the only lighted, stained-glass case that Wright built above a fireplace during his Prairie Period.
|FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT’S 1910 ZEIGLER HOUSE|
A permanent home for many of Frankfort late residents is the Frankfort Cemetery, the second incorporated cemetery in the United States (1844). The grave of Daniel Boone and his wife Rebecca overlooks Kentucky’s capital city and is an appropriate resting place for one of Kentucky’s founding fathers. Once dubbed “The Westminster Abbey of Kentucky”, the cemetery is the #1 visited tourist spot in Frankfort.
The motto of the friendly folks who live in this small town on the banks of the Kentucky River states that their city is KENTUCKY DISTILLED. According to my dictionary, the adjective distilled means ‘summing something up’. According to the Frankfort Tourist Commission, Frankfort sums up the essence of everything that makes this gracious southern state special…from her natural charm and beauty to her world-renowned bourbon, all in one distinctly small and spirited package.
I agree. Frankfort truly is KENTUCKY DISTILLED.
PHOTOS by JANET STEINBERG
JANET STEINBERG is the winner of 43 national Travel Writer Awards and is a Travel Consultant with The Travel Authority in Cincinnati, Ohio