Kentucky History January 18, 2023
There Are 3 Must-See Historic Landmarks In The Charming Town Of Bardstown, Kentucky
Bardstown, Kentucky, located roughly 45 minutes south of the state’s largest city, Louisville, is perhaps best known for its bourbon, the town playing host to 11 distilleries within 16 miles of its downtown. While an opportunity to taste the state’s famed beverage is as good a reason as any to visit this central-Kentucky town there is a historic side to Bardstown that is often overshadowed by whiskey.
The town – especially its aptly named Historic District, which lays claim to 279 properties on the National Register of Historic Places – is an absolute treasure trove of properties with historical significance ranging from churches to mansions and taverns. This town truly has something for everyone in your group – from amazing centuries-old paintings to antebellum history and interesting stories of famous visitors from centuries past.
1. Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral
The Basilica of Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral was built between 1816 and 1823 as the first Catholic cathedral west of the Allegheny Mountains and is perhaps most famous for the multiple Christian-themed paintings hanging on its walls. Donated by several wealthy or influential individuals - including Pope Leo XII and Louis-Philippe, the exiled French monarch - these pieces include works by such masters as Anthony van Dyck and Jan van Eyck.
Of particular interest is “The Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew,” painted by Italian artist Mattia Preti and donated by King Francis I of The Two Sicilies. This painting, which after years of neglect and poor restoration work, was properly restored over a two-year period and returned to its place in the basilica. Saint Joseph, due to the prominence of the paintings within it, will likely appeal most to those travelers interested in art or art history.
Basilica of Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral, 310 W Stephen Foster Ave, Bardstown, KY 40004, USA
To reach this site from the town’s visitor center head southwest toward Court Square and after 49 feet exit the traffic circle onto West Stephen Foster Avenue. After 0.3 miles the basilica will be on your right. It should be noted that the basilica is exclusively open for Mass on the weekend. If they wish to view the paintings, visitors must go anytime between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. There is no cost to visit the basilica but donations are appreciated.
Visit the basilica's website
or the basilica's Facebook page
for more information.
2. Old Talbott Tavern
The Old Talbott Tavern, a tan stone building built in 1779 and located next to the former Nelson County Jail, is an establishment that has hosted such celebrated Americans as General Patton, Abraham Lincoln, and Daniel Boone. Thought to both be the oldest surviving building in Kentucky and contain the world’s oldest bourbon bar, this tavern has truly earned its spot on the National Register.
Visitors to the Talbott can choose from the over 200 bourbons on offer, listen to live music into the night on Fridays and Saturdays, and even stay the night in one of the property’s six rooms named after a famous guest. The tavern’s guests can also view a mural allegedly painted by a member of King Louis-Philippe’s entourage as the monarch passed through the town and later shot at by infamous outlaw Jesse James during his stay at the tavern.
The bar, along with the establishment’s dining room, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays (although the bar stays open until 1 a.m. on nights there are musical performances). This establishment is the perfect stop for anyone wishing to hear interesting stories about some of America’s best-known historical figures.
To get to the tavern from the entrance of the visitor center, walk straight ahead to the brick-and-grass island in the middle of the street. Then turn left and walk toward the tan brick building. Visitors should note that in order to avoid the town’s (and thus the tavern’s) spring and summer crowds they should visit the Talbott in late autumn. Visit
the tavern’s website
the tavern’s Facebook page
to learn more.
Old Talbott Tavern, 107 W Stephen Foster Ave, Bardstown, KY 40004, USA
3. Wickland, Home of Three Governors
This Georgian-style brick mansion’s claim to fame is that, during the 19th and 20th centuries, it was home to three individuals in the Wickliffe family that would go on to become governor of either Louisiana or Kentucky - Charles Anderson Wickliffe, Robert C. Wickliffe, and John Crepps Wickliffe Beckham. The Nelson County Fiscal Court bought Wickland from its then-owners, the Trigg family, and since 2004 the home and grounds have been maintained by a non-profit called Friends of Wickland.
Built between 1826 and 1828 Wickland is an excellent example of Southern antebellum architecture. Its most striking features are the 11-foot doors that separate the mansion’s two parlors. Also of note are the Federal-style mantels in the parlor which feature sunbursts in the middle and pewter beading.
Wickland, Home of Three Governors, 550 Bloomfield Rd, Bardstown, KY 40004, USA
Wickland offers free self-guided tours of the house as well as paid events like living-history days and afternoon tea. Note that while the events are scheduled throughout the year the home itself is only open for tours from May until Labor Day. A tour of Wickland is the perfect choice for anyone interested in architecture or antebellum America. If you wish to tour Wickland try to come on a Monday between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. between the dates mentioned. If you are unable to come on a Monday call or text 502-275-6731 to arrange a tour at another time.
To get to Wickland from the Bardstown visitor center first head southwest toward Court Square. Then exit the traffic circle onto East Stephen Foster Ave. After 0.4 miles turn left onto Bloomfield Rd. After half a mile turn left at the Wickland sign. The mansion is at the end of the driveway.
Visit Wickland’s website
Friends of Wickland’s Facebook page
to learn more.
While bourbon may be the main reason people come to Bardstown, the town’s historic landmarks should not be overlooked. From antebellum mansions and basilicas to 18th-century taverns this central-Kentucky town has a lot more to offer if one knows where to look. Have you been to any of the sites on this list? If so, let us know about your visit(s) in the comments.
Address: Wickland, Home of Three Governors, 550 Bloomfield Rd, Bardstown, KY 40004, USA Address: Old Talbott Tavern, 107 W Stephen Foster Ave, Bardstown, KY 40004, USA Address: Basilica of Saint Joseph Proto-Cathedral, 310 W Stephen Foster Ave, Bardstown, KY 40004, USA
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