The Patton Museum at Fort Knox provides a glimpse into General Patton’s war and personal life as well as armored vehicles, artifacts, and history from WWI to the Gulf War.
Some unexpected artifacts await visitors to the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor at Fort Knox–from a graffiti-scrawled hunk of the Berlin Wall to a diorama of the U.S. Bullion Depository used in the filming of the James Bond movie Goldfinger.
Still, it’s the more anticipated tributes to Gen. George S. Patton Jr. in exhibits and film presentations that in recent years have drawn more than 300,000 visitors annually to the facility.
Before your visit, plan on a few extra minutes to pass through the military checkpoint at the main Chaffee entrance to Fort Knox, just off U.S. 31W. At the checkpoint, a valid ID is required, and vehicles are subject to random security checks. Parking is available near the museum.
As you walk to the building, take a short detour into the outdoor U.S. Army Armor Center Memorial Park, which contains memorial structures honoring soldiers who fought with armor in wars of the 20th century. In the Patton Museum Vehicle Park in front of the museum building are massive tanks, armored vehicles, and a helicopter representing different eras of military history.
Once inside, tours are self-guided, unless prior arrangements are made with museum staff for larger groups. No food, beverages, or pets are allowed in the museum, and children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
Wind your way through the displays of armored vehicles featuring mannequins wearing period military battle uniforms from World War I through the Gulf War era. At different points on the tour, visitors can choose to stop and watch film presentations on topics including African-American soldiers and Patton’s life. Be advised–the movie Patton: The Man Behind the Myth contains violence and profanity.
A photo display details the history of Fort Knox, and a replica gold bar cast in lead duplicates the size and shape of those in the nearby Fort Knox Bullion Depository (the Depository isn’t open to the public).
In the Patton Gallery check out the displays of Patton’s sheepskin jacket, ivory-handled Colt .45 revolver, four-star helmet, and dozens of medals. One display details Patton’s participation in the pentathlon of the Stockholm Olympics in 1912, where he placed fifth overall.
Though not an Olympic gold medalist, Patton was among the greatest military leaders the world has ever known, whose gruff, cowboy-like persona embodied bravery, Museum Director Frank Jardim says.
“There are some people who are born warriors and in modern society there are few outlets,” Jardim says. “Patton definitely had a talent for war. That was all he wanted to do. There are many people who would say he was the greatest practitioner in armored warfare in World War II, and some people say the greatest ever.”
Patton’s personal belongings on display span a lifetime, not just his military career.
“We have everything from Patton’s baby toys to the car he was killed in here,” Jardim says.
The museum houses the since-repaired 1938 Series 75 Cadillac limousine, in which Patton sustained fatal injuries December 9, 1945, in Germany, as well as a specially furnished truck that served as Patton’s mobile office in World War II.
The museum has space to display only 20 percent of its 8,000 artifacts, and a fund drive is under way to build a new $40 million museum in the vicinity of the present one by 2007. For now, vehicles and displays are periodically changed.
The Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor is open to the public and located on Fayette Avenue near the main Chaffee entrance to Fort Knox. Hours are weekdays 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; hours for holidays and weekends are May through September, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and October through April, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day, December 24, 25, 31, and January 1. Admission is free.
The nonprofit Patton Museum Foundation is raising money for a new museum to be built by 2007. For more information about the fund drive, or to learn more about the museum and Patton’s legacy, visit the museum’s Web site at www.generalpatton.org or call (502) 624-3812.
While visiting the Patton Museum, if weather permits visit Keyes Park, adjacent to the museum. The park has shady picnic areas and a playground.
Fort Knox also offers public recreation facilities–golf courses in Anderson, (502) 624-4218, and Lindsey, (502) 942-0984; and bowling centers in Houston, (502) 624-1651, and Kelley, (502) 624-6840.
Just a few miles south from the post on U.S. 31W is Radcliff, a city known for its multicultural dining offerings, thanks to a steady infusion of residents from across the nation and world who come to live here via Fort Knox.
Visit Golden China Buffet at 597 W. Lincoln Trail Blvd., (270) 352-5788, for its Chinese-American fare, or try hot Cuban sandwiches at the Oasis Bakery and Cafe at 728 Knox Blvd., (270) 352-1131. For authentic Mexican food, stop by El Camino Real Mexican Restaurant at 133 W. Lincoln Trail Blvd., (270) 352-1070, or for Korean specialties try Kap’s Rice and Rolls at 605 N. Wilson Rd., (270) 351-7377.
Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
Sixteenth-century Ireland. A sleepy river town. Let’s travel to northern Kentucky to the towns of Newport and Carrollton.
The Emerald Isle in all its Gothic glory is no farther away than northern Kentucky and the Claddaugh Irish Pub.
“Walking into the Gothic room is like stepping into a castle in 1600s Ireland,” says Michael O’Connor, one of the pub’s six-member management team.
Indeed, diners who wend their way past the first pub–dressed as contemporary Dublin–find themselves in a wrought-iron gated room with stained-glass windows and candelabrum flickering in the stone fireplace while they sup on shepherd’s pie, fish and chips, and Guinness stew. Each of Claddaugh’s three bar rooms (the Gothic, Dublin, and Nautical pubs) boasts a distinct fireplace and attendant trims to reflect different periods in Irish history.
The pub is tucked into a corner of lively Newport on the Levee, an entertainment destination that is home to the Newport Aquarium, the raucous Shadowbox Cabaret, the high-energy GameWorks, sweet shops, and restaurants. Warmer months bring out the musicians who perform in the courtyard.
Overnighters will find several bed and breakfast inns in the vicinity, including Christopher’s B&B at 604 Poplar Street in Bellevue, (888) 585-7085. This transformed late-1800s church, named for the patron saint of travelers, features stained-glass windows and private bathrooms with whirlpools. Also in Bellevue is the charming 1880s Weller Haus at 319 Poplar Street, (859) 431-6829, actually two side-by-side Victorian Gothic homes that feature original millwork.
Driving south from Newport to Carrollton takes visitors from Gothic Ireland to down-to-earth Victorian at the historic Carrollton Inn. With just one of eight fireplaces surviving a 1980 renovation, current owner Bill Frederic added a gas fireplace with mahogany mantel several years ago to recapture the flavor of a 19th-century inn.
The 11-room inn enjoys a rural setting where historic homes line the streets and two rivers, the Kentucky and Ohio. It is part of a complex that includes the DeMint House Gift Shop and Carrollton Landing, an 1816 inn and bar with a 45-foot waterfall overlooking the Ohio River. Enjoy American comfort food, like the homey grilled chicken and dumplings, in the dining room before you retire to the comfortable, remodeled Victorian guestrooms.
Visitors to Carroll County, named in honor of Charles Carroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, will find an abundance of antiques in Carrollton’s historic downtown district and the lure of outlet shopping at Butler Outlet Mall. Nearby is General Butler State Resort Park, with 35 lodge rooms. At the front entrance of the park, off Highway 227, is the new Kentucky Veterans Memorial.
Claddaugh Irish Pub on the Riverwalk Level on the Exterior Plaza at One Levee Way, Newport, KY 41071. (859) 581-8888, www.newportonthelevee.com.
The Carrollton Inn 218 Main Street, Carrollton, KY 41008. (502) 732-6905, www.kytourism.com, click “links” and then “Carrollton.”
Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau 50 East RiverCenter Blvd., Suite 100, Covington, KY 41011. (859) 261-4677 or (800) 447-8489,
www.nkycvb.com, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Hearths & Homes
Back Home Restaruant, Elizabethtown
Warm up at one of four fireplaces in the historic 1870 Italianate-style Back Home Restaurant, an eatery graced with elegance, antiques, and handicrafts. Visitors can shop and dine before heading to other Elizabethtown attractions, like the Black History Gallery, the 1825 rural Federal-style Brown-Pusey House, and Schmidt’s Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia. Back Home Restaurant, 251 West Dixie Avenue, Elizabethtown, KY 42701, (270) 769-2800, www.elizabethtownky.org.
Marshall Key’s Tavern, Old Washington
Marshall Key’s Tavern, with two cozy fireplaces, is a soup-and-sandwich eatery located in the historic 1700s village of Old Washington near Maysville. The restaurant is in an area rich in museums, including the Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Museum; the Simon Kenton Shrine; Meffords Fort, the only known flatboat house in existence; and two church museums. Marshall Key’s Tavern, 2111 Old Main Street, Old Washington, KY 41056, (606) 759-5803, www.washingtonky.com.
Kathy Witt is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.