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Berea’s Artisan Center Showcases Kentucky

Making Merry in Old Washington

Berea’s Artisan Center Showcases Kentucky
The Kentucky Artisan Center at Berea serves as the traveler’s gateway to the best of the Commonwealth’s proud and diverse arts and crafts industry, whether it’s woodcraft and weaving from Berea, pottery from Philpot, or Shaker boxes from Cynthiana.

Located near Interstate 75, exit 77, in Berea, the 25,000-square-foot facility, which opened in late July, is an impressive structure featuring copper gabled roofs and rugged Kentucky limestone walls. Step inside the Center and you’re treated to exhibits that showcase the unique talents of woodturners, glassblowers, quilters, weavers, jewelry makers, and potters across Kentucky.

Beyond the exhibit area, explore the works of other Kentucky artists in the Center’s retail section, which features regional music, literature, authentic honeysuckle baskets, hand-woven shawls, candles, and other products from across the Commonwealth.

Painter Mitchell Tolle says the Center invites visitors to share the rich tradition of Kentucky crafts, and perhaps own heirlooms of tomorrow that are crafted by the hands of today’s Kentucky artisans.

“It’s what the artists of Kentucky do every day,” says Tolle. “They get a shovel of dirt and make a piece of pottery suitable for a king’s table. Some of the most beautiful things being made on the face of the earth are being made right here.”

The Artisan Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time. During November and December, artisan demonstrations will be held every Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on an ongoing basis. Call (859) 985-5448 for more information or go on the Web at

Information about points of interest around the state is available at the push of a button at the Kentucky Artisan Heritage Trail computer kiosk, Using the KAHT terminal is free, and it enables travelers to tailor road trips that suit their specific interests, featuring galleries, artist studios, shops, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, and historical attractions.

While the Artisan Center offers much that is pleasing to the eye, the Kentucky Artisan Center Café features regional specialties that are sure to please the palate. Spoonbread, Southern fried catfish, and country ham and onion quiche are among the favorite entrees, while desserts such as chocolate bourbon pie, Boone Tavern Lemon Pie, and bourbon bread pudding with bourbon ice cream are fast becoming something of local legend. The bright and airy café offers a pleasant dining atmosphere, and visitors can enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner under the steepled roof of yellow southern pine, or dine outside on the patio.

When entering the Center, you can’t help but notice the immense hand outside the front door—a six-foot painted, fiberglass sculpture, one of a dozen deployed around Berea. Driving around Berea to see the other 11 welcoming hands is a pleasant way to explore more of Berea and a good starting point to explore the rest that the Bluegrass State has to offer. “The hand is a symbol of welcome, generosity, and friendliness,” says Berea Arts Council Director Gwen Childs. “It’s what Kentucky is about.”

Area Attractions
Berea’s Old Town crafts district offers visitors a rare glimpse of artists at work. Beautiful handmade jewelry and pewter are crafted at Gastineau Jewelry, (859) 986-9158, and the Dragonfly Gallery, (859) 986-1057, while weaving is done and authentic corn-shuck dolls are made at Weaver’s Bottom, (859) 986-8661. After paying a visit to woodworker Doug Haley, (859) 986-7243, stop in for a treat at The Coffee Conspiracy, (859) 986-8597, for a specialty coffee and the house dessert, Tiramisu.

In the historic heart of Berea, College Square offers opportunities for both shopping and dining. Enjoy the elegance and gracious Southern hospitality of Boone Tavern Restaurant, (800) 366-9358, or online at, where regional dishes such as Chicken Flakes in a Bird’s Nest and Chess Pie have kept travelers coming back for generations.

Just up the square, peruse the wood, paint, and felt works of regional artists at the Upstairs Gallery, (859) 986-4434, or take a tour of Berea College Crafts beginning at Log House Craft Gallery, where you can shop for weavings, broomcraft, woodcraft, wrought iron, and ceramics created by student artisans. Call (859) 985-3226 for tour information or go online at

Another favorite Berea destination is Churchill Weavers, where one can enjoy a free tour of the loomhouse or buy fine throws, baby blankets, and other woven items; call (859) 986-3127.

After exploring the College Square, Berea Coffee and Tea is an ideal spot to escape the chill of autumn, and gaze out the picture window while enjoying a gourmet coffee or hot chocolate, or sample something from the ice cream fountain. Call for menu items at (859) 986-7656.

Andy McDonald is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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Making Merry in Old Washington
Thirty-five years ago, museum and shopkeepers in Old Washington adorned their historic log cabins with fresh greenery, nuts, and fruits in anticipation of the tiny village’s first Frontier Christmas celebration.

“Mrs. Andrew Duke started the event, along with purchasing and restoring the two log cabins, which are now the Visitor’s Center and the Simon Kenton Museum,” recalls Phyllis Helphenstine, a visitor to the event who eventually bought a building in Old Washington.

That first year, fresh homemade bread was sold along with hurricane shades and just a few other items. Today, with more than 25 shops and eight museums standing beam to board, the 1780s village that pre-dates the Commonwealth’s entry into the Union verily bursts with holiday cheer. Merrymakers come to shop for Christmas gifts, listen to holiday music, and tour the museums, which continue the tradition of doors, windows, and halls decked with boughs of holly and garlands of pine and fruit.

Strolling along the uneven and, in some cases, broken flagstone walkways gives visitors a sense of having stepped back into the late 18th century, yet it adds charm to the old-fashioned landscape and lends a pioneer flavor to Frontier Christmas. Inside the buildings, mantels are trimmed with holly, windows are lit with candles, and rooms are spiced with the aroma of freshly baked Amish goods. In many of the shops, visitors are invited to register for door prizes; last year, a hand-carved Friendship Cane, a country ham, and an Old Washington throw were given away.

For its 36th annual Frontier Christmas, December 6-7, Old Washington will have woodcarving and spinning demonstrations, candle dipping in Mefford’s Fort log cabin, quilting in the Albert Sidney Johnston Museum, dulcimer artists and bell ringers, bagpipers and harpists, carolers dressed in their Victorian wraps, costumed characters including buckskin-clad frontiersmen and muzzleloaders, and a holiday play.

Shoppers can delve into primitive antiques, handmade specialties, pottery, jewelry, glassware, sweet and savory herbs, silver, prints, framed art, and collectibles in chummy little boutiques and galleries that include Buffalo Trail Antiques, David’s Brass Works, Keepsake Treasures, the Purple Turtle Silversmith, and the Strawberry Patch. When Helphenstine bought her own building 32 years ago after attending Frontier Christmas with her husband and young daughter Elaine, she opened Phyllis’ Antique Lamp Shop. Her daughter later hung out her own shingle at Elaine’s Gallery and Framing.

The museums, several of which were part of the Underground Railroad, including the Harriet Beecher Stowe Slavery to Freedom Center and the Albert Sidney Johnston Museum, will be decorated and open for touring.

The newest museum to open in Old Washington is the Carriage Museum, owned by Tom and Elaine Haughaboo. Visitors are ushered into its contemporary interior to see antique buggies, sleighs, racers, and surreys, many of which were owned by Andrew Duke, husband of the woman who founded Frontier Christmas. “He was so proud of those carriages!” says Elaine. It was Mr. Duke who suggested that Tom build a museum for the carriages.

Frontier Christmas comes to Old Washington with all its bells, bagpipes, and whistles, yet the village retains the simplicity of that first celebration when Mrs. Andrew Duke set the wheels in motion for what has become a holiday tradition.

Frontier Christmas 2003
The 36th annual Frontier Christmas in Old Washington (now part of Maysville) is Saturday and Sunday, December 6 and 7, 2003. Carriage rides, museum tours, pioneer craft demonstrations, music, dining at the historic Paxton Inn and Marshall Key’s Tavern, door prizes, and shopping are all part of the event.

For a detailed schedule of events, call the Visitor’s Center at (606) 759-7411 or visit Old Washington’s Web site at

•Visitors can stay in the renovated 1888 Row House called Moon River Bed and Breakfast at 320 Market Street in downtown Maysville. Innkeeper Marti Insko prepares breakfast with homemade buttermilk biscuits and apple butter; $80 per night; (606) 563-8812, 866-823-1946,
Serenity Farm Bed and Breakfast sits on 335 acres seven miles from Old Washington. Rooms are characterized by fine linens, French Country décor, and lake views. Innkeepers Scott and Joni Powers offer a full breakfast, $120-$150 per night. Located at 3049 T. Beckett Road, Dover; (606) 883-3993,

Maysville hosts a number of holiday events on the same weekend as Old Washington’s Frontier Christmas:
Christmas Open House, December 5 at Mason County Museum, (606) 564-5865, serves refreshments after the parade at 6 p.m.
A Vintage Christmas, in nearby Augusta, (606) 756-2183, unfolds December 5-7, with luminaries, the lighting of the Christmas tree, caroling in the streets, and shops offering complimentary refreshments.
A Community Sing-a-Long, (606) 564-8447, is sponsored by the Mason County Arts Commission, December 7, 3 p.m., at the Church of the Nativity.

For more information on these events, contact the Maysville-Mason County Area Chamber of Commerce, 15 West Second Street, Maysville, KY 41056, (606) 564-5534, or on the Web at

Kathy Witt is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.

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