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Few residents, and even fewer businesses, realize the abundance of history, attractions, natural resources, and even art and culture, that are available in Frankfort and Franklin County.  Most of you log onto Capital Living to find out what events are coming up and what has already happened in our area.  But few stop to realize the things that are available daily to residents, businesses and their employees, and the visitors that make their way into the commonwealth’s capital city.

Frankfort/Franklin County Tourism recently put together a special tour for residents, home schoolers, community leaders, local restaurateurs, and hoteliers. On Monday, a group of sixteen of these people, boarded the Frankfort Trolley for a day long tour of Frankfort to explore their own backyard. Starting off at the Frankfort Tourism Office, located at 100 Capital Avenue, they were able to go on an adventure and see history, learn about the areas largest attraction, explore the wonders of nature, visit state government, and walk on hallowed ground.  Not a bad way to spend a day. Take a trip with us and become a “Tourist in Your Town” this summer!

The Old Governor’s Mansion

One of the oldest Executive residences in the United States, Kentucky’s Old Governor’s Mansion has a rich and diverse history, and stands as a reminder of the growth and history of our state.  From its construction as Kentucky’s first Governor’s residence and office of the Governor, through its nearly fifty years as the official residence of our Lieutenant Governors, this building has seen more historic events and has borne witness to more important persons than almost any home in the Commonwealth.

Built in 1797-8 in the Federal style, the home was first occupied by our second governor, James Garrard and his family.
From 1798 until 1914, thirty-five governors and their families lived and entertained here, with James McCreary as the last governor to reside at the mansion.  The mansion served as the office of the Governor until the 1872 Annex building was constructed next to the Old State Capitol in downtown Frankfort.  For several years even after the Governor’s office relocated to the Old Capitol Annex, the Mansion remained a work space for the governor.

Several important visitors to the Governor’s Mansion include Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, William Jennings Bryan, and Theodore Roosevelt.  However, when General Lafayette of France visited Frankfort on his tour of the southern states in 1825, Governor Desha received and met with General Lafayette at the Weisiger Tavern, not the Governor’s Mansion as expected.

Due to the early instability and speculation on whether the capital of Kentucky would remain located in Frankfort, the Governor’s Mansion sometimes suffered from neglect and lack of funding for renovations. While it did receive a modest renovation and new furnishings around 1818, in 1858 a major renovation of the house included enlarging the windows, a new front doorway, and several other touches that brought it up to date with the then popular Greek Revival-style.  This renovation, however, was short lived as a major fire in the 1890’s damaged the home and destroyed many of the Governor’s papers and state documents.

Upon the completion of the New State Capitol across the river in 1910, it was decided, finally, to replace this older, disused house with a more substantial residence for the First Family.

This move caused the building to remain vacant, and it continued to deteriorate over the next 30 years, with the exception of a short period of time when the State Highway Patrol used the mansion as headquarters and a dormitory.  Governor Simeon Willis saved the building from demolition in 1948 by appropriating money to stabilize the structure.  A major renovation on the home was completed in 1956 and the Old Governor’s Mansion then became the official residence of Kentucky’s Lieutenant Governors.

The last Lieutenant Governor to live in the mansion moved out in 2002 to make way for a total and extensive renovation and reconstruction.  Upon completion of this project, the first floor formal rooms were painted and decorated in a way that would represent a Kentucky home in the early to mid-19th century.

In 1971, the Old Governor’s Mansion was added to the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1973, a small garden and patio area were added to the grounds.  In 2000, a larger, more formal garden was completed as part of the Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History garden project.  The garden consists of native Kentucky flowers and plants, as well as a fountain.

Facility Details

Open: Tours – available by appointment only please contact 502-564-3000 or Dalaina.Bean@ky.gov.

Parking: Yes – Convenient parking is available off Clinton Street in the lot adjacent to the Luscher House, directly across from the garden entrance.

Wheelchair Access: Yes

Built: 1798

Style of Architecture: Federal style

Location

The Old Governor’s Mansion is located at:
420 High Street
Frankfort, KY 40601-2175

Please call the following number for more information:
(502) 564-3449

Buffalo Trace Distillery

Standing today as the oldest continuously operating distillery in America, Buffalo Trace Distillery has been making whisky for more than 200 years. Designated as a National Historic Landmark, Buffalo Trace is the most award-winning Distillery in the world, garnering more than 300 awards for its wide range of premium whiskies. As an American family-owned company based in Frankfort, Franklin County, Kentucky, the Distillery is fully operational and dedicated to preserving the rich history and rugged authenticity that founded the Distillery, while always striving to create the world’s most perfect bourbon ever made through innovative experimentation.

  • The Trace TourThe Trace Tour begins with an engaging video of the history of Buffalo Trace Distillery. You will then walk amidst the path of rolling bourbon barrels. You will be captivated by the alluring smell and atmosphere of bourbon sleeping inside the aging warehouses. Then you will go inside the renowned Blanton’s Bottling Hall where you will see signature bourbons being filled, sealed, labeled, and packaged—all by hand.

    All tours are complimentary and include a tasting of some of our award-winning products.

    All visitors are welcome to walk in and there is no need to make a reservation unless you have a group of 25 or more. Please contact reservations@buffalotrace.com for booking large group tours.

    Families of all ages welcome.

     

    DURATION: 1 hour

    Mon-Sat: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
    Sun: 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

    The Trace Tour leaves every hour, on the hour or more frequently as needed.

    Due to limited quantities of our whiskies, we only offer a few brands for tasting and purchasing in our Visitor Center. Click here for more information. 

  • Hard Hat TourAn insider’s look into the behind-the-scenes work that goes into crafting truly great bourbon. You’ll witness everything from grain delivery to the cooking process to fermentation and, of course, distillation. The tour includes a stop at the E.H. Taylor, Jr. Microstill, where the Distillery’s unique and award-winning Experimental Collection whiskies are made.

    Tour route includes stairs and there is a lot of walking involved. Comfortable shoes and clothing are recommended.

    All tours are complimentary and include a tasting of some of our award-winning products.

    Space on the tour is limited. Reservations are required.

    DURATION: 1 hour

    Mon-Fri: 10:30 a.m. & 1:30 p.m.
    Sat: 10:30 a.m.

    Reservations required
    Click here to request a reservation for a Hard Hat Tour

    Due to limited quantities of our whiskies, we only offer a few brands for tasting and purchasing in our Visitor Center. Click here for more information. 

  • National Historic Landmark TourLearn why we are described “as a rare, intact example of a distillery operating before, during, and after Prohibition” on this educational and informative tour that focuses on the buildings, architecture, and history in the years between 1933-1953, which is the period of significance on which our National Historic Landmark distinction is based.

    All tours are complimentary and include a tasting of some of our award-winning products.

    DURATION: 1 hour

    Mon-Fri: 11:30 a.m.

    Reservations required
    Click here to request a reservation for a National Historic Landmark Tour

    Due to limited quantities of our whiskies, we only offer a few brands for tasting and purchasing in our Visitor Center. Click here for more information. 

  • Bourbon Barrel TourMove alongside our barrels during their journey throughout the Distillery. Learn about the specifications and history of our barrels, the different ways they age, and what happens to them when they can no longer be used for bourbon. Finish it all off where they finish, in our dump room.

    All tours are complimentary and include a tasting of some of our award-winning products.

    DURATION: 1 hour

    Mon-Fri: 9:30 a.m.

    Reservations Required
    Click here to request a reservation for a Bourbon Barrel Tour

    Due to limited quantities of our whiskies, we only offer a few brands for tasting and purchasing in our Visitor Center. Click here for more information. 

  • Ghost TourAccording to lore, there are more spirits residing at the Distillery than those aging in the warehouses. Featured on the popular TV show “Ghost Hunters,®” Buffalo Trace Distillery has long been rumored to have visits from the supernatural, most notably the ghost of Col. Blanton. Hear the legendary stories and get a look into the more haunted sites, including the rarely visited Stony Point Mansion where Col. Blanton died in 1959.

    All tours are complimentary and include a tasting of some of our award-winning products.

    DURATION: 1 hour

    Thurs-Sat: 7 p.m.

    Reservations required
    Click here to request a reservation for a Ghost Tour

    Due to limited quantities of our whiskies, we only offer a few brands for tasting and purchasing in our Visitor Center. Click here for more information. 

Salato Wildlife Center

The Salato Center is closed Sundays, Mondays and state holidays. For more information about our hours, seasonal closings, school groups, special events, shelter reservations, volunteer and intern – ship opportunities, and more, visit fw.ky.gov, or call (502) 564-7863 / 1-800-858-1549. While the Salato Center maintains seasonal hours, the remainder of the Headquarters’ recreational complex, including fishing lakes and hiking trails, is open daily from sunrise to sunset. DIRECTIONS From 1-64 at Frankfort, take exit 53B to US 127 north and travel 1.5 miles to US 60. Turn left and drive 1.7 miles west on US 60 to the entrance of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Headquarters on the right. Turn into the complex and proceed 0.5 miles to the Salato Wildlife Education Center. Please drive carefully!

Daily Admission Price
Adult $4.00
Youth (5 to 18) $2.00
Children 4 and under Free
Scheduled school groups and chaperones $2.00 (age 5 and older)
Annual Memberships
Individual Membership $20.00
Family $30 (includes 2 adults in the household and all children in household)
Friend Membership $50 (family and 5 guests)

Hours and Seasonal Closings

While the Salato Center maintains seasonal hours, the remainder of the KDFWR headquarters complex is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Days Hours
Sunday and Monday CLOSED
Tuesday – Friday 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
SEASONAL/HOLIDAY CLOSINGS: The Salato Center will be closed November 26 – March 1st and will re-open March 2nd.  We will also be closed on all State Holidays.

Kentucky State Capitol

Kentucky’s Capitol is the fourth permanent building since statehood in 1792.  It was built to replace the earlier 1830 capitol, still standing in downtown Frankfort, which had become inadequate to accommodate the growing state government.  A long and bitter quarrel among Louisville, Lexington and Frankfort over which city should be Kentucky’s Capital finally ended in 1904, when the legislature voted to spend one million dollars for a new capitol to replace the 1830 capitol on the old public square in downtown Frankfort.  The architect’s design was far too immense for the square, so the present site in south Frankfort was chosen instead.

Ground was broken in 1904 and on June 2, 1910 Kentucky’s New Capitol was dedicated with imposing ceremonies.

The architect was Frank Mills Andrews, a native of Iowa who practiced in Chicago, New York City, Cincinnati and Dayton.  Andrews was a distinguished architect.  He received the Silver Medal Award from the Royal Society of Arts in 1911 for a paper he presented on “American Architecture” at a meeting of the Society in London.  A proponent of the Beaux-Arts style, many striking architectural features and opulent decorative finishes in Kentucky’s Capitol illustrate his penchant for classical French interiors.

The State Reception Room was designed as a place for ceremonial events.  The walls are decorated with pilasters finished in scagliola and murals, hand painted to resemble tapestries from the Gobelin Tapestry Guild.  Original to the room, the hand carved Circassian walnut furniture was crafted to resemble 17th century French Baroque pieces.

The room was recently restored under the direction of the Historic Properties Advisory Commission (HPAC) and the Office of Historic Properties.  The project included installation of HVAC for climate control, the conservation of wall murals and the restoration of the decorative finishes and furniture.

The elegance of the Capitol’s interior was largely achieved by the generous use of white Georgia marble, gray Tennessee marble and dark green Italian marble.  On axis with the rotunda, the grand corridors feature 36 imposing columns of Vermont granite and delicate art glass skylights.

Decorative lunettes above each staircase highlight the entrances to the House and Senate chambers.  Painted in oils by T. Gilbert White, both depict frontier scenes with Daniel Boone.  The east mural portrays Boone and his party catching their first glimpse of the Bluegrass region atop Pilot Knob in 1769.  The west mural depicts the negotiations for the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, which lead to the purchase of Cherokee land that would eventually become Kentucky.

Kentucky’s legislative bodies meet in the House and Senate chambers.  Both chambers continue the classical motifs of the building, incorporating scagliola (faux marble) for their decorative architectural features.

The resplendent Supreme Court room serves as the seat of the judicial branch of state government.  The room is noted for its solid Honduras mahogany paneling and the elegant coffered ceiling covered in Old Dutch Metal leafing, hammered to imitate old bronze.

The exterior of the Capitol is faced in Indiana limestone and Vermont granite.  The richly sculptured pediment of the classical front portico was designed by Charles Henry Niehaus and carved by Australian sculptor Peter Rossack.  Allegorical figures represent Kentucky, the central female figure, with Progress, History, Plenty, Law, Art and Labor as her attendants.

The Office of Historic Properties of the Finance and Administration Cabinet serves as state curator over all state owned historic properties and is responsible for the preservation and maintenance of the Capitol so that we and future generations may continue to enjoy it.  The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Facts about the Kentucky State Capitol

  • The landscape the new capitol sits on was not originally as high as it appears today. The original site was built up with several hundred thousand pounds of fill and excavated to embrace the building’s mass.
  • The size and scale of the design for the new capitol required it to move from what had been historically in the downtown Frankfort area, to a $40,000 piece of property to the south of Frankfort called the Hunt property purchased in 1905.
  • The final official costs of the new capitol included $1,180,434.80 for the building and $639,565.20 for landscaping, furniture, power plant and architect fees for a grand total of $1,820,000.
  • None of the planning for the new capitol included any consideration for parking. Popular opinion in the early 20th century viewed the automobile as a fad.
  • The dedication ceremony for the new capitol began on June 2, 1910 and included Governor Augustus Willson, former governors of Kentucky, judges, generals, and congressmen.
  • The cornerstone of the new capitol was laid in a ceremony on June 16, 1906 with an estimated 20,000 onlookers. The exact location of the cornerstone is unknown, although a plaque commemorating the event is located on the northwest rotunda pier wall.
  • The “new” capitol was built because the old capitol was in deteriorated condition, was heated by fireplaces, increasing the risk of fire, and all buildings surrounding the capitol were at max capacity.
  • Kentucky used the over $1 million from the federal government for damages sustained during the Civil War and for services provided in the Spanish-American War of 1898 in addition to $1 million from the legislature to build the new capitol.
  • There were great stories told during the construction of Kentucky’s capitol of teams of elephants, sophisticated rail systems from the river, and other methods. In reality, the labor was provided by horses and men.

Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial

The design of the Memorial earned the Kentuckiana Masonry Award in 1988 and the AIA Merit Award in 1995. Numerous periodical articles have been published about the Memorial, including British Sundial Society Bulletin, February 1993 and Southern Living, May 1994.

The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial overlooks the state Capitol and honors the 125,000 Kentuckians who served this nation so courageously and unselfishly during the Vietnam era (1962-1975). More than 58,000 Americans gave their lives during the conflict. Among that number, 1103 were Kentuckians. Thousands of those who served were wounded in action and hundreds are still listed as missing in action (MIA).

The veterans whose names are listed on this Memorial fought and died for the same values that inspired their ancestors since the Revolutionary War – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The blue-gray granite plaza of the Memorial contains the names of Kentucky’s 1104 citizens who died. Each name is precisely located so the shadow of the sundial pointer, or gnomon (pronounced ‘noman’), touches each veteran’s name on the anniversary of his death. Thus, each individual is honored with a personal tribute. Accordingly, every day is memorial day for a Kentucky Vietnam veteran. The Memorial’s unique design was created by Helm Roberts (1931-2011), a Lexington, KY architect and veteran. The ground breaking ceremony was held November 7, 1987 and construction was completed in late summer 1988. The Memorial was opened on November 11, 1988 and officially dedicated on November 12, 1988.

The area north of the winter solstice line is designated for ceremonies. The United States flag and the Kentucky flag are flown every day signifying the common bond among all who are memorialized here. These are the flags they knew when they served the nation. Special ceremonies are held on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, POW/MIA Recognition Day and Veterans Day. The POW/MIA flag is also flown beneath the US flag in memory of POWs and MIAs from all wars and conflicts.

The Memorial is one of the largest granite memorials in the nation and contains 327 cut stone panels weighing more than 215 tons. The stone came from the Pyramid Blue quarry in Elberton, GA. The lettering of the names and dates are the same style used for official government grave markers throughout the nation, including Arlington National Cemetery.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was built through the leadership, resolve, and perseverance of Vietnam veterans at a time when many people were deaf to the need for such a tribute. A few members of the General Assembly, the Executive Branch, and the National Guard also believed in and supported the project. The Memorial Foundation (KVVMF) is a non-profit 501(C)3 corporation that maintains the Memorial and grounds. No taxpayer dollars were used to build or maintain this site. The site was leased to the KVVMF “in perpetuity” by the Commonwealth.

The Memorial is open to visitors every day of the year. Since being dedicated in 1988, it has become one of the most visited landmarks in the Commonwealth. Schools, civic groups, tour groups, veteran groups and individuals visit the Memorial often to learn about the Vietnam War and the Kentuckians who served there.


Plan your Visit to Frankfort or Explore Your Own Backyard by Utilizing these Itineraries provided by Frankfort/Franklin County Tourism Commission

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