Kentucky: Other Historic Sites Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Kentucky, popularly known as the Bluegrass State, was the first state west of the Appalachian Mountains populated by settlers from the original thirteen English colonies.

Beard Boyhood Home

Location: Covington, Kenton County

Relevant issues: Cultural history, literary history

Statement of significance: This was the boyhood home of Daniel C. Beard (1850-1941), American author, illustrator, and key figure in the movement that led to the founding of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. “Uncle Dan” served as a National Scout Commissioner from 1910 until his death.

Burks’ Distillery

Location: Loretto, Marion County

Relevant issues: Business and industry

Statement of significance: The oldest Kentucky distillery site still in use, Burks’ Distillery’s origins extend back to 1805. Representing the growth of distilling as a major industry in Kentucky after the Pinckney Treaty (1795) gave U.S. citizens the right to unhampered passage down the Mississippi to New Orleans, it also marks the development of bourbon into a distinctive liquor marketed worldwide.

Churchill Downs

Location: Louisville, Jefferson County

Relevant issues: Sports

Statement of significance: Modeled after Epsom Downs in England, this track was laid out in 1874 by Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark, a prominent Louisville horse breeder, in an attempt to stimulate the thoroughbred industry. Since 1875, it has been the home of the Kentucky Derby, the internationally renowned race of three-year-old thoroughbred horses, the first phase of the Triple Crown.

Clay Home

Location: Lexington, Fayette County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: From 1811 until 1852, this two-story brick mansion was the residence of Henry Clay (1777-1852), the distinguished pre-Civil War political leader, statesman, and presidential candidate. Clay served as a U.S. senator, Speaker of the House, and secretary of state. The house was reconstructed after Clay’s death on the original plan.

Fort Boonesborough Site

Location: Richmond, Madison County

Relevant issues: European settlement, Revolutionary War, western expansion

Statement of significance: Fort Boonesborough served as the primary defensive sanctuary, communication center, and political seat for hundreds of settlers who entered Kentucky in the 1770’s to 1790’s. Boonesborough was one of the earliest attempts at European American settlement in Kentucky. The role of this western frontier settlement in the American Revolution was pivotal in securing and holding the trans-Appalachian area for future American settlement. The site of Fort Boonesborough is of national significance with regard to western expansion of the American frontier, for its association with Daniel Boone, and for its research potential to provide information on the lifeways of early settlers of Kentucky and the Appalachian frontier.

Jacobs Hall, Kentucky School for the Deaf

Location: Danville, Boyle County

Relevant issues: Education, social reform

Statement of significance: Established in 1823, the Kentucky School for the Deaf was the first publicly supported institution for the education of the deaf in the country. Jacobs Hall, a four-story brick structure completed in 1857, is the oldest surviving building at the school.

Keeneland Race Course

Location: Lexington, Fayette County

Relevant issues: Sports

Statement of significance: Completed in 1936, this is the most conspicuous manifestation of horse raising and racing in Lexington, the heart of Kentucky “bluegrass” country. It is the site of the Phoenix Handicap, the oldest stakes race in the United States, and the Blue Grass Stakes; it is also preeminent for its annual horse sales. The track was begun in 1916 by Jack Keene, an extraordinary figure in American racing.

Locust Grove

Location: Louisville, Jefferson County

Relevant issues: Revolutionary War

Statement of significance: This two-story brick house was the residence of George Rogers Clark (1752-1818), who lived here with his sister and her husband as a semi-invalid from 1809 until his death in 1818. Clark was the hero of the Western theater of the American Revolution, achieving fame for his conquest of the trans-Ohio frontier at such places as Vincennes, Indiana, and Kaskaskia and Cahokia, Illinois.

McDowell House

Location: Danville, Boyle County

Relevant issues: Health and medicine

Statement of significance: Here, in the two-story frame house that served as both home and office, Dr. Ephraim McDowell (1771-1830) performed the first successful ovariotomy. In December, 1809, McDowell was called to treat Jane Todd Crawford of Greensberg, Kentucky, whom he diagnosed as suffering from an ovarian tumor. After warning his patient of the risks involved, McDowell asked her to make the journey to his office (Crawford traveled the distance on horseback), where, assisted by his nephew James, McDowell excised the tumor. The complete recovery of his patient did much to dispel the misconception among both physicians and laymen that exposing the inner wall of the abdomen invariably produced fatal infection and eventually led to the development of a new area of surgical practice.

Middle Creek Battlefield

Location: Prestonsburg, Floyd County

Relevant issues: Civil War, military history

Statement of significance: Control of Kentucky, the ninth most populous state at the time of the Civil War, was very important to President Abraham Lincoln, who had been born there and appreciated its strategic value. The eastern Kentucky campaign that resulted in this battle was part of the overall Union strategy to keep Kentucky within the fold. At the Battle of Middle Creek (January 10, 1862), Union forces led by Colonel James A. Garfield met and defeated Rebel forces under the command of Brigadier General Humphrey Marshall, thus securing eastern Tennessee. The battle was an important early victory for the Union and brought hope to a disheartened Northern population.

Perryville Battlefield

Location: Perryville, Boyle County

Relevant issues: Civil War, military history

Statement of significance: This is the site of the battle in October, 1862, which climaxed the major Confederate invasion of Kentucky and, in conjunction with the Battles of Antietam, Iuka, Corinth, and Newtonia, broke the back of a Confederate offensive along a one thousand-mile front.

Pine Mountain Settlement School

Location: Bledsoe, Harlan County

Relevant issues: Cultural history, education, women’s history

Statement of significance: The construction of Big Log House in 1913, the first building of the Pine Mountain Settlement School, launched one of the most important efforts to adopt the urban settlement house to a rural community. Katherine Pettit and Ethel de Long, the founders of this school, were moved by the limitations of the one-room schools, the primitive dwellings, and the harsh lives of women living in the region. While offering instruction in traditional subjects to resident students, the school included such classes as furniture making, home nursing, weaving, and stockraising in the curriculum; also, the preservation of ballads, folk songs, and dances served to instill a knowledge and appreciation of mountain heritage.

Shakertown at Pleasant Hill Historic District

Location: Shakertown and vicinity, Mercer County

Relevant issues: Religion

Statement of significance: The Shakertown at Pleasant Hill, among the most successful of nineteenth century religious communitarian settlements, was founded in 1805. The community plan was laid out in 1808, and from 1809 to 1860 the village grew to its maximum size and prosperity. By 1820, some five hundred Shakers lived here on three thousand acres of land. The community was dissolved in 1910.

Taylor House

Location: Louisville, Jefferson County

Relevant issues: Political history

Statement of significance: From about 1790 to 1808, this two-and-a-half-story brick house was Zachary Taylor’s boyhood home, as well as the scene of his marriage in 1810. Taylor (1784-1850) returned here often during his military career and briefly again before his short term as the twelfth president of the United States (1849-1850).

Wendover

Location: Hyden, Leslie County

Relevant issues: Health and medicine

Statement of significance: Established in 1925 by Mary Breckinridge (1881?-1965), this marked the first effort to professionalize midwifery in the United States. Up until the 1930’s, an American woman was more likely to die in childbirth than from any other disease except tuberculosis; the mortality rate was especially high in rural areas. Breckinridge and her nurses provided quality prenatal and maternity care. Their skill and devotion to the cause of improving the health of mountain people has had a great impact in a formerly isolated and rural area.

Young Birthplace and Boyhood Home

Location: Lincoln Ridge, Shelby County

Relevant issues: African American history, social reform

Statement of significance: This simple two-story frame house, on the campus of the school where his father served on the faculty, was the birthplace and boyhood home of Whitney Moore Young, Jr. (1921-1971), civil rights spokesman, adviser to three presidents, and influential ambassador to major corporate leaders for the cause of racial equality. Young, the executive director of the National Urban League from 1961 to 1971, drew unprecedented support for the league’s social and economic programs, working for an equality beyond civil rights causes.

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