Traveling to Irish Acres Gallery of Antiques is an adventure in itself, where on Highway 33 South near Versailles, the sprawling horse farms, gnarled trees, and rock fences seem to have leapt right out of a postcard.
After turning right onto Ford’s Mill Highway you may wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn, but green signs along the route reassure you that Irish Acres lies not far ahead.
Suddenly, around a bend and across from the quaint Nonesuch Grocery, is the gallery, a colossal 32,000-square-feet former schoolhouse that the Hannigan family first opened in 1986 after a two-year renovation. Nonesuch is an area of Woodford County near Versailles, but is not an incorporated city—locals say the name refers to its remote, out-of-the way location, distinctive while not quite a part of any nearby town.
The gallery, which has about 50,000 visitors annually, was originally a second location for the family’s first antiques shop in Ashland, which has since closed. Scouring estate liquidations and buying out shop inventories in search of antiques, Arch Hannigan and daughters Emilie McCauley and Jane DeLauter operate Irish Acres and its accompanying elegant restaurant, The Glitz, which serves a $17.95 lunch by reservation only.
“We have everything from high-end period furniture to kitchen gadgets,” McCauley says.
In the realm of antiques, Kentucky is known for its pretty cherry sugar chests, corner cupboards, and chests of drawers, McCauley says, but the gallery also has items from across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. A notable find is the three-piece carved walnut bedroom suite with Birdseye maple interior once belonging to U.S. President William McKinley.
Glass medicine bottles, china, vintage beaded purses, and sparkling reproduction and vintage jewelry rest in lighted glass cases along hallways, while alcoves in the upper and lower levels of the gallery are decorated to resemble miniature rooms in particular styles and themes. McCauley explains that these displays better illustrate how the items will look in shoppers’ own homes, with carpeting, art, and accessories. The elegant mood is accentuated with soft lighting and instrumental music.
Among sundry antiques you’ll find gallery signature items including bottled poppy seed dressing and spiced apple refresher, served in the glamorous 106-seat restaurant The Glitz. Menus there feature upscale American cuisine with a French influence. For a sweet finish, try the house specialty, the Nonesuch Kiss, jamocha ice cream nestled in a baked meringue shell, covered in whipped cream, hot fudge, and almond slivers topped with a cherry.
The gallery, with thousands of breakables and valuables, would not be the ideal place to bring young children, and guests are asked to not bring baby strollers, carriers, diaper bags, food or drinks, large purses, shopping bags, or gift packages inside.
If you’d also like to take an antiques journey of another sort, Debby Spencer, tourism development specialist with the West Kentucky Corporation in Bowling Green, is helping to coordinate a first-time event called 400 Miles of Antiques, Collectibles & Stuff, June 3-6, antiquing as you cruise along Highway 68/80.
Spencer says during this event, meant to spotlight small, diverse communities from Paducah to Maysville, there will be special events, food booths, local vendors, and of course, plenty of antiques. For more information, see the Destinations sidebar.
“It’s just an opportunity to go back in time,” Spencer says.
Irish Acres Gallery of Antiques
Located in Nonesuch at 4205 Fords Mill Road, Versailles. Take the Bluegrass Parkway to Versailles exit 68, follow Highway 33 South to a right on Ford’s Mill, and the gallery is about four miles out. Open mid-March through December, gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and its restaurant The Glitz, (859) 873-6956 by reservation only, serves lunch from 11 a.m. to a last seating at 1:30 p.m. The price fixe $17.95 meal includes appetizer, drinks, entree with sides, and dessert. The menu changes every two weeks. Gift certificates and group seating available. For more information, call (859) 873-7235 or go on the Web to www.irishacresgallery.com.
400 Miles of Antiques, Collectibles & Stuff
Cruise along highway 68/80, June 3-6, from Paducah and Columbus-Belmont to Maysville and back again, across 24 counties and more than 60 communities and 400 miles of historic roads as you shop for antiques.
In addition to 100 antique shops, arts, crafts, and special booths, you can also sample home cooking along the route. Also visit historic communities, stay in B&Bs, hotels, and resorts, and see Civil War sites, museums, and theaters on this unique four-day antique event. For more information call (270) 781-6858 or go on the Web to www.10000trails.com/68-80sale.
Pleasant Hill Antique Show and Sale
Also part of the event, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill near Harrodsburg will feature more than 70 dealers from across the U.S. Admission of $12 includes a tour of the village. For more info, call (800) 734-5611 or go online to www.shakervillageky.org.
OTHER AREA EVENTS
While mapping out your antiquing destinations, discover nearby community festivals like:
Highland Games in Glasgow, June 3-6, (270) 651-3141
Cadiz’s Summerfest, June 4-5, (270) 522-8756
Kentucky Lake Bluegrass Festival in Aurora at Kenlake State Resort Park, June 4-5, (800) 467-7145
Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.
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Robert Penn Warren (1905-1989), America’s first national Poet Laureate and triple Pulitzer Prize winner for poetry and fiction, was born in a red brick railroad bungalow in the railroad town of Guthrie in Todd County, right on the Kentucky/Tennessee border, a place where the stillness is broken only by an occasional train whistle.
“It has always struck me as a small town full of character and history,” says Rosanna Warren, Robert Penn Warren’s daughter, a Boston University professor and poet. “Of course, my family feels a particular reciprocal loyalty to the town, as the townspeople got together in a heroic effort to purchase and set up the house where my father was born as a literary museum.”
The Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Home opened in 1989 after modern trappings like siding and paneling were peeled away to reveal original walls and exterior brick. Robert, later dubbed The Nation’s Poet, lived there, at the corner of Third and Cherry streets, from birth until he was a toddler—his boyhood home is two blocks away, but is a private residence not open for tours.
The front parlor of the birthplace home is furnished with antiques and photographs of Robert Penn Warren’s parents, Frank and Ruth, in young adulthood, and of Robert as a schoolboy.
In the Brick Room, Guthrie’s history at the turn of the century is celebrated. Another area pays tribute to Robert’s best friend Kent Greenfield, who played major league baseball and was the focus of Robert’s poem American Portrait: Old Style.
And of course there are hundreds of books in the museum, from Robert’s personal collection and his biographies to Chinese translations of All the King’s Men in paperback. Others are for sale in the gift shop.
Even ordinary personal effects—a dorm key he used in 1925 at Vanderbilt University with an engraved keychain bearing his name, or a tiny pencil drawing of a bird from his childhood—provide intimate links to his past. Both gray-toned family photographs and sharp, modern images of the writer published in national magazines lend visual interest to exhibits.
Though Rosanna and her mother, the late author Eleanor Clark, both visited the museum, Robert’s failing health prevented him from seeing it—he died the same year it opened in 1989. A centennial celebration of Warren’s life is planned in Guthrie in 2005.
Relatives have told Jeane Moore, president of the nonprofit group that oversees the home, that Warren in his later years said he yearned to revisit his birthplace, and many of his later poems centered on his memories of the town.
“His mind went back to Guthrie and his childhood here,” Moore says.
The Robert Penn Warren Birthplace Home
Located at Third and Cherry streets in Guthrie off U.S. 41. Hours (CST) are 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.Tuesday–Saturday, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays, closed Mondays. Call to arrange other hours. Allow 30 minutes for guided tours; browsing is allowed. Free admission. Prefer advance notice for groups. For more info, call (270) 483-2683 or go online to www.robertpennwarren.com/birthpla.htm.
Robert Penn Warren Memorial
In Guthrie, visit a memorial stone for Robert Penn Warren and the graves of his family in Highland Cemetery. From U.S. 41, take East Park Street, through the main gates, and the stone is at the left. RPW’s gravesite is in Vermont, but he requested a memorial stone in Guthrie.
Robert Penn Warren Library
Located at Western Kentucky University’s Kentucky Building (2nd floor) in Bowling Green, it features about 2,700 volumes, many first editions of Warren’s works, his desk, hundreds of photographs, and memorabilia. Hours (CST) are Monday–Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Do you often wax poetic, rhyme like a wiz, or pour out poignant emotions onto paper? Join a writer’s group! Green River Writers Inc., Louisville, has a working poetry reading/critiquing group in Louisville the first Saturday of each month at 6:30 p.m. All poets welcomed. Locations vary. Call Mary O’Dell, (502) 245-4902, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kentucky State Poetry Society Members receive periodic KSPS poetry journals, exchange ideas, and meet for a weekend each October to commemorate National Poetry Day. Membership helps poets grow as writers, find mentors, and help promote the art of poetry. For contact information, visit the Web site at www.windpub.com/ksps.
Shannon Leonard-Boone is a regular contributor to the Traveling Kentucky column.