Elizabethtown: Crossroads of Kentucky
Want to find a city site that prospers? The key is transportation.
In the 19th century, this meant being on a rail route. Today it means highways.
Elizabethtown—known affectionately as E-town—qualifies on both counts. It was
a major way station on the L & N Railroad, so much so that John Hunt Morgan
raided it during the War Between the States. And now, four major highways cross
at E-town—I-65, Western Kentucky Parkway, Blue Grass Parkway, and Dixie Highway.
This strategic location makes E-town the true crossroads of Kentucky. Many
attractions and points of interest can be found within 50 miles. Fort Knox and
the Gold Vault, for instance, are only 14 miles north, and Hodgenville—with
its collection of Lincoln memorabilia—is a scant 12 miles to the south. Indeed,
you can hub-and-spoke with E-town as the center to sites as far away as Louisville
and Mammoth Cave.
Start your weekend visit with a stop at the visitor center, just off I-65 on
Mulberry Street. There you’ll find a wealth of brochures and maps and a helpful
staff. Be sure to check out the collection of radio-controlled model airplanes
hanging from the ceiling. They were built by a local club and are on permanent
Many of E-town’s attractions lie right along the Dixie Highway. Starting on
the south, side trip a few miles to the Glendale Historic District, a restored
1920s-era railroad community. There’s an old-time general store and an array
of antique shops.
Returning to E-town, watch for the white frame house where Dixie Highway and
Hawkens Drive come together. There you’ll find the Emma Reno Connor Black History
Gallery. Although open by appointment only, a phone call, (270) 769-5204, to
owner Charles Connor can usually get you in with a few hours’ notice.
The gallery is a collection of photos, posters, newspaper clippings, and historic
documents that highlight the contributions made by black Americans. Ms. Connor
started the collection when she was a schoolteacher to show young black people
that they could accomplish whatever they wanted in life.
There are five galleries in the museum, each generally carrying a theme such
as Arts & Entertainment, Sports & Military, and Local People.
A few blocks further north is Public Square, and the start of E-town’s historic
walking tour. There’s a public parking lot on North Main Street, which is right
next to the first stop on the tour.
Twenty-five buildings are marked on the walking tour, many of them on the National
Register of Historic Places. Of particular note is the cannonball imbedded in
the wall of the building on the corner of Public Square and West Dixie Avenue.
The cannonball was fired from Cemetery Hill by Morgan’s Raiders in 1862. When
the original building was replaced in 1887, the owners took care to replace
it in as nearly the same spot as possible.
Even more noteworthy is the Brown-Pusey House, a brick mansion that spans the
Federalist and Greek Revival architectural styles. Built in 1825, it served
for many years as a hotel operated by “Aunt Beck” Hill. Among the famous guests
at Hill House were General George Armstrong Custer and his wife, who boarded
here from 1871-1873. During her second stopover in 1851, Swedish soprano Jenny
Lind sang from the steps in response to popular requests.
The gardens at the Brown-Pusey are very popular, and numerous weddings have
been performed there.
If you’re really into architecture, there’s a driving tour available as well.
This includes the sites on the walking tour, but extends to encompass 35 historic
buildings, 23 of which are on the Historic Register.
Continuing on Dixie Highway, watch for the signs leading to Freeman Lake and
the Lincoln Heritage House. Freeman Lake Reservoir is one of three lakes that
are part of E-town’s greenbelt project. Unfortunately, due to repairs on the
dam, the lake is dry right now, and won’t be refilled until next year. So if
you’d like to take a nature walk, use the trails at Buffalo Lake or Fishermans
What you will find at Freeman are several historic buildings. The Lincoln Heritage
House, home of Hardin Thomas, was built with the help of Thomas Lincoln, father
of the 16th president. Just down the hill from this double cabin is the Sarah
Bush Johnston Lincoln Memorial, a small log cabin built in 1992 from 122-year-old
hand-hewn logs. It is a close replica of the one Abraham Lincoln’s mother lived
in when she married Thomas Lincoln in 1819.
Next to the Lincoln Heritage House is the oldest one-room schoolhouse in the
county. Constructed in 1892 as “the finest school in the county,” it served
as an active schoolhouse until 1953.
Directly across Dixie Highway from Freeman Lake’s entrance is Swope’s Cars
of Yesteryear Museum. This free museum houses part of Bill Swope’s private collection
of restored automobiles. Two dozen cars are on display at all times, but periodically
several of them are swapped out with others in the collection.
You may not spot the museum right off, because it is part of the Swope automobile
Time allowing, complete your tour with a side trip to Fort Knox. On the way
you’ll pass the U.S. Treasury Department Bullion Depository, better known as
the Gold Vault. And on the Ft. Knox reservation itself is the Patton Museum
of Cavalry and Armor, which houses collections of weapons, vehicles, and equipment
pertinent to cavalry and armor.
For more information, contact: Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau,
1030 North Mulberry Street, Elizabethtown, KY 42701, (800) 437-0092.
Day Trips & Short Stops
Mounds of mystery
Before there were modern Native American tribes, several prehistoric cultures
inhabited what is now Kentucky. The Archaic and Woodland cultures, for instance,
flourished here. Last of these were the Mississippian peoples, who built mounds
as part of their ceremonial and religious lifestyle.
One of the best examples of this can be found at Wickliffe Mounds Research
Center, in far western Kentucky.
For more than 500 years, from about 900 A.D. to the late 15th century, the
mounds were the site of a prosperous village with more than 300 residents. In
addition to the mounds, there were homes, farm fields, and trading centers.
The Mississippians disappeared around 1500. Archeologists still aren’t sure
exactly why. But they left behind a myriad of artifacts available to the modern-day
Exhibits at Wickliffe Mounds include the Lifeways Building, where you’ll see
a reconstructed village, complete with cooking and storage pottery, grinding
stones, posthole patterns (where dwellings once stood), animal remains, and
other artifacts. There’s the Cemetery Building, containing displays featuring
burial goods and gifts interred with the deceased, the Architecture Building,
with exhibits and displays on how the mounds and village were constructed, and
the Ceremonial Mound itself.
For more information, contact: Wickliffe Mounds Research Center, P.O. Box 155,
Wickliffe, KY 42087, (270) 335-3681.
Say “bird” to upland gunners, and they immediately think “quail.” The words
are practically synonyms in Kentucky. Few are aware that there’s a second game
bird in the Bluegrass State. Ruffed grouse, the so-called “king of game birds,”
thrives here, and has in fact been expanding its range.
It’s kind of ironic. The ranks of quail hunters swell every season. Yet there
are fewer and fewer birds to be hunted. True, quail populations have been up
slightly the past couple of years. But they’ll never return to the numbers that
once prevailed, mostly due to agricultural practices and suburban sprawl.
Meanwhile, grouse expand their numbers. So much so that this year’s bag limits
have been liberalized. You can take four per day, and have eight in possession—a
reflection of their growth and the lack of hunters to thin them out. Kentucky’s
bag limit is twice the national average.
Nor is there any lack of hunting areas. There are 52 counties in the Eastern
Zone, which includes virtually the entire Daniel Boone National Forest and the
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area—nearly 300 miles of public
land to hunt. In addition, an ambitious stocking program has established them
in the Pennyrile State Forest, giving western Kentuckians a shot at the russet
Grouse are best hunted with dogs. And as much as we love setters, if we were
getting a dog strictly for grouse hunting, we’d opt for a springer spaniel.
In fact, for the one-dog hunter in Kentucky, springers probably are the best
choice all around. They are good in the woods, where they hunt close, they open
out a bit in the quail fields, and their coat is warm enough that they can be
used as water dogs for hunting ducks and geese.
Grouse do not hold readily for pointing dogs anymore, so you’ll be much more
successful with a flusher like the springer. Retrievers can also be trained
for this, but frankly, we think that’s a misuse of the breeds. Retrievers come
into their own when doing what they were bred for, which is bringing back downed
Double guns are traditional in the grouse woods, and we’re not ones to argue
with tradition. Doubles certainly bring a style and grace, but it’s rare that
you get more than a second shot at a grouse.
Grouse season opens November 13 in the Eastern Zone, and continues through
February 28. In addition, there is grouse hunting on the Pennyrile, Tradewater,
and Ft. Knox Wildlife Management Areas during the month of December.
For details about Kentucky grouse gunning, contact: Department of Fish and
Wildlife Resources, #1 Game Farm Road, Frankfort, KY 40601, (800) 858-1549.