WILMORE — A three-story warehouse near the railroad tracks of this Jessamine County town might become the site for a transportation museum.
The city of Wilmore has been awarded $463,000 in federal money to purchase the three-story granary now used by Brumfield Hay & Grain Co.
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Margaret Morgan, Wil more's community-development director, envisions the building as place for a free museum that would tell the story of how railroads, stagecoaches and Kentucky River travel played a part in Jessamine County's development. She also hopes the building could be home to a Wilmore welcome center to tourists.
The city of 5,900 is perhaps best known for Ichthus, the annual three-day Christian music festival that draws about 20,000 people each year. But the city hopes to attract more visitors throughout the year, and the current widening of U.S. 68 between Wilmore and Southland Christian Church might help achieve that.
"Wilmore is not a destination for tourism, really. We're sort of hidden," Morgan said. "We're not that far from U.S. 68. It's just a hop, skip and a jump. But with a welcome center here, I think we will be able to peel people off the road."
The Wilmore City Council recently voted to seek two appraisals for the warehouse. The appraisals, which are required by the federal government, might cost a total of $10,000.
The appraisals won't be done until next year, and there's no guarantee that owner David Brumfield will want to sell the building. (Wilmore doesn't have possession of the money but would be reimbursed for what it spends toward acquisition and renovation, Morgan said.) If Wilmore could not buy the building, it would forfeit the grant money.
"But nothing ventured, nothing gained," she said.
Local historians trace the granary's beginnings to a grist mill started in 1782 on nearby Jessamine Creek by Daniel Boone Bryan, a nephew of Kentucky pioneer Daniel Boone. Bryan's son, Joseph, built the Waveland estate in southern Fayette County.
The granary has been on the present site near the railroad tracks since 1890, Morgan said. The building has a new roof, and solid construction inside.
"You could put elephants on all three floors, and it wouldn't even shake," Morgan said.
She said the building might also be a place for local artists and craftspeople to rent space to display their work. And Morgan dreams of putting an indoor, year-round farmers' market into the building.
"We have so many people who do quilts and knit sweaters and hats. They really need a place to sell those things," she said.
As for the transportation museum, there is plenty to tell.
South of Wilmore is High Bridge, an engineering landmark. When it was built in 1877, it was the highest railroad trestle over a navigable stream in the United States.
Norfolk Southern trains still rumble daily through Wilmore, which also has a small museum in a caboose.
Then there's the Riney-B railroad, a former rail line that served Richmond, Irvine, Nicholasville and Beatty ville (the first initials of the towns are how the line got its name). Built in the 1880s, it hauled lumber and coal from Eastern Kentucky to Central Kentucky. The rail line is long gone, but the piers of the Riney-B trestle can still be seen by people who cross the Kentucky River via the Valley View Ferry.
Established in 1785, the ferry is known as the "oldest continuous business of record in Kentucky," even though it is now operated by Jessamine, Madison and Fayette counties. It shuttles vehicular traffic across the Kentucky River.
In the 1800s, Wilmore was also a rest stop for stagecoaches to water and change horses during travel between Lexington and Harrodsburg.