Keyword Exclusive - Visiting Kentucky's awesome town squares
Supplement to “It’s Hip to be Square”
PLANNING YOUR VISIT
For more about the featured town squares and to plan your visit:
196 Daniel Boone Dr.
Barbourville, KY 40906
A historic walking tour of downtown is slated for spring.
Carlisle-Nicholas Co. Tourism
120 West Main Street
Carlisle, KY 40311
(877) 289-4212 or (859) 289-5174
Visit the Web site and call ahead if planning visits to The Kentucky Doll and Toy Museum, (859) 289-3344, Irvinton House Museum, which is open by appointment, and the Neal Welcome Center, (859) 289-4200, open 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday-Saturday.
City of Greensburg/Green County Chamber of Commerce
110 West Court St.
Greensburg, KY 42743
A self-guided walking tour of the downtown National Register District is available.
Historic Downtown Richmond
Richmond Tourism & Main Street Department
345 Lancaster Avenue
Richmond, KY 40475
(800) 866-3705 or (859) 626-8474
A self-guided walking tour booklet for the Richmond Downtown Walking Tour of Homes features more than 70 historic buildings, homes, and churches. Guided tours are available by advance arrangement.
Murray Convention & Visitors Bureau
201 South Fourth St.
Murray, KY 42071
(800) 651-1603 or (270) 759-2199
Murray Main Street
201 South Fourth St.
Murray, KY 42071
A historic walking tour of downtown Murray is currently in development.
MORE TOWN SQUARES TO VISIT
Stroll through many a small Kentucky town and you’ll find a town square at its heart. All make wonderful gathering areas for families, festivals, and events throughout the year.
On the National Register of Historic Places, downtown Winchester in Clark County, (800) 298-9105, www.tourwinchester.com
, is a stroll back in time with globe lampposts, an elevated sidewalk, and a Main Street theater, renovated and converted into Leeds Center for the Arts, offering community and cultural events, plus a slew of shops, including Court Street Gifts, and fun watering holes like JK’s Café, Bailey’s Café, and Expressions Coffee House. The Guild House Gallery is a wonderful place for poking around for local and regionally produced artwork. Guided walking tours of this vintage downtown with its architecturally and historically significant structures are available by appointment.
In Simpson County, Franklin, (866) 531-2040, www.franklinky.info, is known as one of the “50 Best Small Southern Towns.” It has all the earmarks of a traditional and historic courthouse square: the courthouse is surrounded by a grassy courtyard and the streets are abuzz with retail activity thanks to an active Franklin-Simpson Renaissance Group and Franklin Downtown Merchants Association. There’s A Quilter’s Fabric Garden, Classic Image Antiques, the Pineapple Lily, Crafters Guild, Pistols and Petticoats (a child’s clothing and accessories shop), Dixon’s Boutique, and the Gallery on the Square, plus eateries like Burgers on the Square and the Brickyard Café that join square staples like the bank, drugstore, and jewelry shop, among others. The courthouse square is the site of numerous events, including the Garden Spot Run in August, Antique Car Show Cruise-In, the Southern Kentucky Region Antique Car Show & Festival on the square in September, and, in December, the Smalltown Christmas and Parade and the Downtown Merchants Christmas Open House.
The hometown of novelist Bobbie Ann Mason, Mayfield, (270) 247-6101, www.mayfieldtourism.com, and its historic town square are chockablock with old-fashioned charm and grace—plenty of events, too, including a Fourth of July Festival and the Gourd Patch Festival in September that originates at the Ice House Museum one block off the square. On the National Register of Historic Places, Mayfield’s downtown, including the courthouse square, is defined by Classical Revival and Late Victorian architecture, historic structures, and a yesteryear vibe. With the courthouse at its center, antique shops, from In Its Time to Mayberry’s on Broadway to Kings, and specialty shops like Katie J’s and Sissy and Me Too, are a year-round lure for visitors. Wells Studio, in its newly renovated digs, evokes a New York City vibe.
In spite of some serious obstacles, including demolition of the east side of the square, partially destroyed in 2008, and the destruction of the Wooldridge monuments due to the ice storm of 2009, Mayfield maintains a cup—or square—half-full of optimism.
“Mayfield is changing and we have quite a bit of construction going on right now,” says Wendy Hunter, executive director of Mayfield Tourism Commission. “But I remain eternally optimistic.”
With a town square that is both scenic and traditional, Madisonville, (877) 243-5280, www.hopkinscountytourism.com, is marked by restored circa 1800s buildings, old-fashioned lamp lighting, and brick sidewalks, plus memorial statues, a grassy park accented with park benches (which are still referred to as “liars benches”), the Hopkins County-Madisonville Public Library with its much-visited Genealogical Collection, the Historical Society of Hopkins County, and the Ruby Laffoon Cabin, the birthplace of one of Kentucky’s most beloved governors. Adding energy to the square are lots of shops, including the Barbie Hunt Gallery, Yesteryear Antiques & Collectibles, Daisy’s Florist, two jewelry stores—Clement’s and Bryant’s—and a nice lineup of restaurants: DiFabio’s Casapela (the family-owned Italian restaurant), Blackwell’s (diner, deli, and sports bar), and Ferrell’s Snappy Service (a burger joint beloved by the locals). Events take place on the square all summer long, from Friday Night Live with its food booths and bands, to the Madisonville Kidapalooza to Kentucky’s Largest Veteran’s Parade.
Bowling Green’s town square, (800) 326-7465, www.visitbgky.com
, has been the focus of downtown since 1798 when it was a commercial center for trade and agriculture. In 1870, citizens voted to create Fountain Square Park and the present-day garden-like setting has retained much of the same appearance—in spite of a past that includes prohibitionists marching around it, trolleys encircling it, scrap drives headquartering on it, and hundreds of farm animals sold from it. Visitors can learn all about Bowling Green’s checkered past on a Fountain Square Walking Tour; pick up a brochure at the Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Today the square is the site of free concerts in the park in June and July and festivals throughout the year. Boutiques and specialty shops line the square—stocking everything from classic men’s wear to one-of-a-kind jewelry to Tibetan rugs to hand-poured candles to original artwork. Restaurants offer tastes from around the world, with European dishes at Verdi, New Orleans cuisine at 440 Main and Micki’s on Main, Mediterranean fare at A Taste of Europe, Southern favorites at Mariah’s, and a fusion of Bosnian, Italian, and German at The Brickyard Café.
To read the Kentucky Living April 2009 feature that goes along with this supplement, go to It's Hip to be Square.