Discovering Seven Lexington Favorites, Horses, Castles, and Bourbon
By Wynne Crombie
The Hunt-Morgan House
The Hunt-Morgan House goes back to the early 19th century when it served as the Lexington home of John Wesley Morgan, confederate grandfather, He became a merchant, horse breeder, hemp manufacturer, banker, and first millionaire west of the Alleghanies.
In 1814, he built a two-story brick mansion known as the Hunt-Morgan House.
The period furnishings gave us a glimpse into the social interaction of the day. Rooms were dressed seasonally…slipcovers, straw mats rugs for summer, dark colors in the winter. There were nine bedrooms; the nursery being the smallest.
Fire screens had a special function. In 1814, women wore heavy makeup to cover smallpox scars. Their makeup would melt if they were seated too near the fireplace. Hence, the screen.
Shakers started arriving at Pleasant Hill, Kentucky somewhere around 1805, As early as 1816, they were producing enough surpluses of brooms, preserves, packaged seeds and other products to begin regular trading trips to New Orleans.
There are some thirty-four surviving buildings to explore. These are structures without fanfare, simple lines without curves. The Shakers were self-sufficient. They took what they had and made do. Crops were grown, and the seeds saved for the next year’s harvest. They made their own furniture and wove their own cloth…a way of life that was simplicity itself.
Camp Nelson and the Civil War
I felt freedom in my bones. When I saw the American Eagle upon the American flag with the motto E Pluribus Unum, the thought came to me, “Give me liberty or give me death. Then, all fear was banished. Elijah Marrs, 12th U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery Camp Nelson, Kentucky
It’s a short stroll from the Visitors Center to the Civil War areas of the Camp Nelson Cemetery. Intermingled among the precisely lined up white tombstones are short white blocks without any inscriptions. These are the graves of some 1,200 unknown Civil War soldiers.
Some stones state the soldier’s name, regiment and state. Others have U.S. C. T. stamped upon their surfaces. The initials stand for United States Colored Troops. It was here at Camp Nelson that many black soldiers gained freedom upon enlistment,
Four Roses Distillery
We were ready to begin our exploration of just what bourbon was and how in the world they made it. The Four Roses Distillery, built in 1910, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For a fee of $10.00, we were given a very comprehensive one-hour tour of how corn, rye, water and yeast come together to become bourbon. (It can take years) At the end of the tour, Four Roses invites you to a sampling of three different Bourbons. You are invited to keep the glass. (You must be over 21 to participate in a Bourbon tasting).
Lexington’s Valley View Ferry
My husband Kent and I were about to cross the Kentucky River, not by a bridge, but by a three-car ferry that has been in existence since 1780. Its glistening red paddle wheel churned water, as overhanging cables guided the John Craig II along for its two-minute journey.
There’s not much room, but you are welcome to get out of your car. And, the ride is free!
It is the oldest year-round ferry service in the United States and the last ferry remaining on the Kentucky River. The ferry was founded seven years before Kentucky became a state; the Valley View Ferry’s charter was signed by Virginia Governor Patrick Henry in 1785.
It makes for a novel side trip.
Keeneland, The Huge Horse Auction House
Keeneland is the world’s largest thoroughbred auction house. It hosts world-class racing twice annually during its Spring and Fall sessions. Owners, trainers, riders and fans from all over the world travel to Lexington to participate at Keeneland. It is open to the public every day (Also a great venue for people watching)
Its architecture competes with any large castle, turrets and all. Its gourmet restaurant specializes in locally sourced, ingredients. Their saying s, “we treat your family as we treat our family” The Kentucky Castle is located just a few miles from Keeneland Racetrack, the Kentucky Horse Park and the Lexington Airport. There are fifteen luxury guest rooms and suites to choose from plus an elegant ballroom, bourbon bar, gardens, and spa.. Note: it is expensive.