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Archive for kentucky

The Original Sin City

By Linda Tancs

It may be hard to fathom the Bluegrass State’s fair city of Newport as a precursor to Las Vegas’s baptism as Sin City. But so it was. In the 1920s and 1930s, the mob ruled locales like Newport, Kentucky, making millions in casinos, bootlegging and other illicit activities and earning the area’s designation as Sin City. Even the gangsters’ weapon of choice, the Tommy Gun, was invented by a Newport native, John T. Thompson—much to his chagrin, of course, having been developed for use by the military during World War I but delivered too late to be of value then. His historic home, Thompson House, is now an entertainment venue.

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Where Louisville Begins

By Linda Tancs

Situated on 55 rolling acres just six miles upriver from downtown Louisville, Kentucky, Locust Grove is a 1790 Georgian mansion that welcomed a generation of American luminaries, such as U.S. presidents James Monroe and Andrew Jackson, John James Audubon, Cassius Marcellus Clay and explorers Lewis and Clark. A National Historic Landmark, the homestead was built by William and Lucy Clark Croghan. Lucy’s brother, General George Rogers Clark, was a Revolutionary War hero and founder of Louisville. Daily tours offer a step back in time to the early days of Louisville’s history.

In the Heart of Horse Country

By Linda Tancs

In the heart of horse and bourbon country in Lexington, Kentucky, is Gratz Park. One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and a historic district, it’s named after early Lexington businessman Benjamin Gratz. Other luminaries who once graced this area north of Main Street include Mary Todd Lincoln, Horace Holley and horseman John Gaines. Colorful houses from the 1800s join stately dwellings like the Hunt-Morgan House, built for millionaire businessman John Wesley Hunt. His great-grandson Thomas Hunt Morgan was the first Kentuckian to win a Nobel Prize for medicine. The home is also the site of the Alexander T. Hunt Civil War Museum, a great resource for Civil War researchers and enthusiasts.

Wall to Wall in Paducah

By Linda Tancs

Designated a City of Crafts and Folk Art by UNESCO, Paducah, Kentucky, is graced with a floodwall that protects its historic downtown from surges of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers. But as you might suspect, this isn’t just an ordinary floodwall. Like Portsmouth to the north, it includes a number of painted murals. In fact, three city blocks (at Water, Jefferson and Washington) boast more than 50 life-sized panoramic murals by renowned artist Robert Dafford and his team, representing such crowning moments of the city’s history as its role in the riverboat trade and the day in 1803 when the Lewis & Clark Corps of Discovery passed by Paducah on their trek to find the Northwest Passage. Guided tours are given on request.

Grand, Gloomy and Peculiar

By Linda Tancs

Grand, gloomy and peculiar.  That’s what cave guide Stephen Bishop said in the 1800s about south central Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave.  Spelunkers might not agree with that assessment, but mammoth is certainly an apt description, considering it’s the world’s longest known cave system, the oldest part of which began forming over 10 million years ago.  Over 400 miles of this national park have been explored; the main passageway alone is seven miles long.  Short on time?  Take the popular two-hour Domes & Dripstones Tour.  As for that cave guide?  He’s buried at the park’s Old Guide’s Cemetery.

Boone’s Forest

By Linda Tancs

A legendary huntsman and pioneer, Daniel Boone dared to cross the treacherous Appalachians to explore Kentucky’s great wilderness.  A great part of that terrain is commemorated in his name, the Daniel Boone National Forest. Over 700,000 acres of rugged terrain embraced by forested ridges, narrow ravines and thousands of miles of sandstone cliffs attract nearly five million visitors annually.  Those guests may not need to trap, hunt and fish like Boone, but they enjoy the foothills nonetheless by backpacking, camping, picnicking, rock climbing and boating.  Not sure where to start?  Try the 269-mile Sheltowee Trace National Recreation Trail,  which extends across the length of the forest.

Pikeville’s Famous Feud

By Linda Tancs

Pikeville, Kentucky lies in the heart of Appalachia, appropriately nicknamed “the city that moves mountains,” a reference to the cut-through that relocated the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River.  It’s probably better known, though, as the site of that infamous feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Rival families in the Tug Valley, their animus was fueled by opposing philosophies during the Civil War.  For starters, a member of the McCoy clan was killed by some Hatfield boys for being a Union sympathizer.  The ensuing years saw additional bloodshed between the families arising from forbidden romance, political intrigue and property disputes.  A two-hour tour will take you to several locations where the feud ensued.  So what do the descendants of these famous families have to say on the matter?  Oh, they’ve mended fences, you might say.  They united for a special taping of the game show Family Feud in 1979.

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