Back in the day (the day being 1900 when the Adsmore House was home to the prominent Smith-Garrett family), a lady wouldn’t dare show up unannounced at the front door of the Georgian-style home and expect to be received. Instead, she would wait in white-glove dignity for the appropriate day and time to pay a call, present her card to the parlor maid, and wait to be received.
Some of those calling cards presented way back when still rest in a little tray beneath a Fra Angelico angel print in the front hall of this Princeton house museum. Opposite, in the back hall, hangs a portrait of the last owner of the home, Katharine Garrett, the only child of Mayme and Robert Garrett.
Because Katharine lived in the home until her death in 1984, there remains a strong sense of the comings and goings of a close-knit family that included grandparents, aunts, uncles, and spouses. Most of the furnishings belonged to the family: the everyday English Crown Derby china on a fully dressed dining room table; Selina Smith’s 1899 diploma, awarded from Princeton Collegiate Institute where she studied Latin, English, mathematics, and natural, mental, and moral sciences; and letters written to and by Mr. Garrett, harkening back to the Victorian era and resting on his desk.
“When family members died, no matter where they lived, they sent their trunks back to Adsmore,” docent Ruth Riley says, explaining the store of Smith-Garrett riches that help narrate the life and times of this western Ken-tucky family. “Most of the family is buried here. It was forever the homeplace.”
Curator Ardell Jarratt keeps things lively year-round at Adsmore by focusing on the family’s milestone moments, then decorating each room in the house accordingly. You can see: Selina Smith’s Wedding to Dr. John Osborn (1907), now through August 7; Home from Washington, D. C. (1914), August 9–September 18; the Black Patch War (1906), September 20–November 6; and Victorian Christmas (1901), November 8– December 30. Other events that take place earlier each year are a Victorian Wake, Winter at Home, Katharine’s Birthday, and Selina’s Engagement.
In a different part of the state, even before the Smiths bought their 1857 home, another prominent Kentucky family had already been settled in theirs for more than half a century. The Dinsmore Homestead Historic House, today listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1842 by James and Martha Dinsmore. Visitors to the Burlington site take a giant, albeit genteel, step back in time to the mid-19th century and the rural farming life of a well-to-do family.
The house, surrounded by 400 acres of preserved woods, is a repository of five generations of Dinsmore family papers and artifacts. The Dinsmores’ middle daughter, Julia, just 9 years old when her family took residence, lived there until her death in 1926. From April to mid-December it is open for tours. A family cemetery is located on the grounds; family furnishings—including chamber pots—offer a peek into a slice of life long forgotten.
“Although all of the belongings in the house are original (selected and previously owned by the family) and we have done our best to maintain the main house and 10 outbuildings over the years, we are not technically a living history site,” says Marty McDonald, executive director of the Dinsmore Homestead Foundation. “We do not have first-person interpreters except for special events. The Homestead was a working farm until the 1950s, but we do not presently have farm demonstrations.
“The main house, cook cabin, caretaker’s quarters, and grounds are open to the public, and we are still learning important details about the family via their extensive writings. In that way, we do present a living history. We also celebrate the heritage of the place with festivals and programs.”
In fact, Julia Dinsmore, a poet whose collected poems were published by Doubleday in the 1910s, faithfully maintained a business journal from 1872 to 1926 that is currently being transcribed by volunteer Maureen MacGillivray. It is adding rich layers to the Dinsmore story: how Julia conducted farm business, who she trusted—and who she did not.
Says research/collections coordinator Cathy Collopy: “We do learn quite a bit about what it took for a woman to run a farm in the late 19th century, and what it took for anyone to run a farm at that time. Also, we are finding many references to neighbors, some of whose descendants still live in the area today. Additionally, we are able to tell something about the individual family members themselves—when they visited, where they traveled to—and changes made to the buildings.”
Upcoming events at Dinsmore Homestead Historic House include Civil War Day on Saturday, August 13; the Annual Harvest Festival, Saturday and Sunday, September 24–25, which features heritage crafters/ exhibitors; and Christmas in the Country, Saturday and Sunday, December 3–4.
Adsmore Museum is located at 304 North Jefferson Street, Princeton, KY 42445, (270) 365-3114, www.adsmore.org. Admission is $7 general, $6 seniors, $2 children ages 6 to 12. The Carriage House Gift Shop is tucked behind the museum and offers Victorian gift items. There is also the Ratliff Gun Shop, a circa 1844 restored log building that houses a gunsmith’s shop. Tours are $1 per person.
Dinsmore Homestead Historic House is located at 5656 Burlington Pike, Burlington, KY 41005, (859) 586-6117, www.dinsmorefarm.org. Admission is $5 general, $3 seniors, $2 students. Open April 1 through December 15. Tours are held on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1p.m.–5 p.m. and begin on the hour with the last tour beginning at 4 p.m. The Gift Shop is open year-round (call for hours).
Other Living History Sites
The Mountain Homeplace, 745 KY Route 2275, Staffordsville, KY 41256, (606) 297-1850, www.mountainhomeplace.com, a living-history village near Paintsville, depicts the mid-1800s wilderness life of the region. Visitors can tour the McKenzie Farmstead, blacksmith shop, mule-powered gristmill, one-room schoolhouse, Fishtrap Church, and other outbuildings. The Gift Shop features items made by eastern Kentucky artisans.
The Homeplace 1850, 100 Van Morgan Drive, Golden Pond, KY 42211, (800) 525-7077, www.lbl.org, located just over the border in Pryor Hollow in Tennessee, is a working historical farm and part of the Land Between The Lakes living-history complex that includes an elk and bison prairie and Nature Station, with an indoor discovery center and a back yard filled with wildlife (owls, wolves, coyotes, and turkeys). The Golden Pond Planetarium and Observatory gives visitors an opportunity to “look into the past millions of years,” as LBL lead interpreter Don Partain likes to say. Driving through LBL’s 170,000 acres, two-thirds of which are in Kentucky, visitors see a dozen or more family cemeteries of the Between the Rivers families who made their home in the area before the reservoir was built years ago.
Kathy Witt is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
In all likelihood, you don’t have a home where the buffalo roam.
But Jennifer Cox does, and chances are you’ll see a few of the 450 burly bison on your visit to the Buffalo Crossing Restaurant & Family Fun Ranch between Shelbyville and Bagdad that Cox and her family, the Allens, co-own.
The 1,000-acre working buffalo ranch has been in operation by the Allen family for about 11 years, and as its herds of award-winning buffalo grew, so did people’s interest in the animal and its heritage.
As a result, the offshoot tourism enterprise began about five years ago with the conversion of a barn into a rustic restaurant. Buffalo tops the menu, along with other traditional meats, side dishes, and desserts. It also houses an adjoining gift shop featuring gifts, souvenirs, and Kentucky-made products that naturally include buffalo burgers, roasts, and other cuts of meat, jerky, summer sausage, and bags of edible Buffalo Droppings—don’t panic, they’re really malted milk balls.
A previously endangered species, the shaggy brown behemoths have reigned as the largest land mammal in North America since the end of the Ice Age. Their numbers have been restored by individual ranching operations and national nature preserves to total about 300,000 now living in the U.S.
But what is the difference between a buffalo and a bison? Well, though the two terms are often used interchangeably, bison is the scientific name for what we call buffalo, and an example of true buffalo would be the African Cape Buffalo, according to various industry sources.
Either way you refer to it, bison meat is known for its rich, sweet flavor and versatility in many red meat recipes. It has more protein and nutrients than beef, but is lower in calories, cholesterol, and fat.
Admission to the ranch itself is free, with varying modest fees for different self-guided activities throughout the ranch, such as the five-acre petting zoo with frontier and exotic animals like camels and llamas, and pony rides. There’s a one-acre playground, basketball and volleyball courts, and 18th-century reproduction cabins to explore. Golf cart rentals are available to navigate the site. Most families stay between three and four hours, Cox says.
The ranch also hosts a horde of special events and festivals throughout the year, and offers educational field trips with a focus on Kentucky history. Its buildings and pavilions are often used for weddings and corporate and family gatherings, with business and birthday package rates available.
“We definitely have a lot more going on here this year than ever,” Cox says.
Buffalo Crossing Restaurant & Family Fun Ranch is located at 1140 Bagdad Road (Hwy. 12), Shelbyville 40065. Hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Closed January through March. For more information, visit www.buffalocrossing.com or call (877) 700-0047.
Upcoming events at Buffalo Crossing (call ahead as dates and times may change):
July 16-17: Wild West Buffalo Festival, Big Air Amateur Trials (competitive dog team events)
July 23: Point of Grace Christian concert
August 6-7: Kids Fest with booths, inflatable rides, clowns, and face painting. Free admission to petting zoo.
Aug. 20: Big Air Amateur Trials
September 15-18: Super Retriever Series and Big Air Event
September 17-18: Fall Craft Show
November 26-27: Christmas Craft Show & Santa’s Workshop
Area attractions and eateries
Old Stone Inn, 6905 Shelbyville Road, Simpsonville, (502) 722-8200. A 200-year-old former stagecoach stop, now a restaurant, bar, and National Historic Landmark.
Wakefield-Scearce Galleries/Science Hill Inn, 525 Washington St., Shelbyville; gallery (502) 633-4382 or online at www.wakefieldscearce.com; restaurant (502) 633-2825, reservations suggested. Galleries feature English Georgian antiques, with courtyard shops nearby selling gifts, home décor, and other items.
Claudia Sanders Dinner House, 3202 Shelbyville Rd. (U.S. 60), Shelbyville, (502) 633-5600. Restaurant, gift shop, and lounge, features four dining rooms, home-style cooking in the tradition of Claudia Sanders, wife of Col. Harland Sanders.
Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.