From border to border, our state has some unique pieces of local, national and worldwide history. Some places are renowned, like Churchill Downs or Mammoth Cave, but other historic gems in Kentucky aren’t as known. Here are 11 historic gems in Kentucky where we can peek into the past:
11. Kentucky Derby Museum
The Kentucky Derby Museum is located at 704 Central Avenue and is home to all things derby. You can see pictures of many famed derby winners and jockeys, along with silks, saddles, and other memorabilia.
10. Belle of Louisville
Located at 401 W River Road in Louisville, the Belle is the oldest, still functioning steamboat in the U.S. She was built in 1914 and has been rolling down the mighty Ohio River ever since. People can see her along the riverfront and even take a dinner cruise for a fee. Just imagine, this use to be the primary mode of river travel other than rafts and canoes.
9. International Bluegrass Music Museum
Bluegrass Music is the heartbeat of Kentucky, and the museum at 117 Daviess Street in Owensboro is a great place to get familiar. You can watch a short film, see memorabilia, hear music and see many of the first Bluegrass Music stars.
8. Kentucky Coal Museum
The museum of everything coal is on 231 Main Street in Benham. It tells the tales of the hard working coal miner industry in parts of Kentucky. Visitors can see images, equipment and memorabilia from decades of coal mining in our state.
7. Portal 31
Located at 100 Church Street in Lynch, visitors can experience the first ever coal mine exhibition tour. Instead of just reading, watching a film or looking at images, you can load onto the cart and actually tour the mine with an informative guide. These underground rail tours are a unique way to experience the history of coal and coal mining in our state.
6. Constitution Square
This historic section in the block of 134 S. Second Street in Danville was the site of a constitutional convention that led to Kentucky being declared a state. Issac Shelby was declared the first Governor here as well. There are several historic buildings, picnic tables and a park available to be enjoyed with no fees.
5. National Quilt Museum
If you are a fan of quilts or quilting, you will want to check out this museum located at 215 Jefferson Street in Paducah. There are a variety of quilts of varying techniques, ages and patterns, along with other hand quilted items. There is a real art to quilting that has been passed down for generations in some cases. It may not sound very exciting, but the National Quilt Museum is filled with some memorable works of fabric art.
4. Pine Mountain Settlement School
This old school in Harlan County is on 36 State Hwy 510 in Bledsoe. It has been an institute of learning for the Appalachian community, featuring updated Appalachian and environmental education and enlightenment about the area over the decades. It is said that this century old learning institute set the precedence for schools in the state. There will be an Independence Day picnic held there on July 4th, but the school has events regularly.
3. The Hunt Morgan House
This beautiful brick mansion at 201 North Mill Street was built in 1814. The first millionaire west of the Alleghenies, John Wesley Hunt, had it designed. Hunt made his fortunes in hemp farming.
2. Old State House
This historical building in Frankfort was built in 1830, becoming the third capitol building for Kentucky. It served in that position from 1830 till 1910. Now, visitors can go to 300 W Broadway Street and see the place where some of our forefathers planned and helped organize the state.
1. Kentucky Folk Art Center
Since Bluegrass Music is the heartbeat, Folk Art is pretty much the heart. From wood carvings to clay to whatever materials were available, this facility at 102 W 1st Street in Morehead offers all types of Folk Art. The people of the Appalachians and other rural areas of our state have been creating art with whatever they could acquire for decades. Many techniques, like whittling, have been passed down for generations and seeing the unique creations can be quite memorable.
Each of these historical gems in Kentucky has its own story to tell, and they combine to paint a portrait of our state’s evolution. We continue to grow, but preserve the beauty and dignity of our past. What do you think about these attractions? What else would you like to add to the list?