Travel

Top spots to explore the history of Central Kentucky

The Confederate Memorial at the Perryville Battlefield near Perryville, Ky., Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Centre students helped digitize, into a searchable database, the names of soldiers who were killed at the Battle of Perryville. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff
The Confederate Memorial at the Perryville Battlefield near Perryville, Ky., Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Centre students helped digitize, into a searchable database, the names of soldiers who were killed at the Battle of Perryville. Photo by Charles Bertram | Staff Herald-Leader

Kentucky, particularly the Bluegrass region, has a wealth of historical sites to explore. There are too many to list here, but what follows is a sampling of places that visitors might wish to see.

Old Fort Harrod, Harrodsburg. Founded in 1774, this was the first permanent settlement west of the Allegheny Mountains. A full-scale replica of the fort is the park's centerpiece. Cabins and block houses are furnished with handmade utensils, furniture, crude tools and implements used by the pioneers.

Call (859) 734-3314 or go to Parks.ky.gov/parks/recreationparks/Fort-Harrod/default.aspx.

Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate, Lexington. Clay was a lawyer who became prominent in U.S. politics as a senator, speaker of the House and secretary of state. He ran for president three times: in 1824, 1832 and 1844.

Call (859) 266-8581.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, near Harrodsburg. The Shakers were a religious sect whose name came from their ecstatic manner of worship. This site in Mercer County is the largest restored Shaker village in the country. With 34 structures, it is the nation's largest private collection of 19th-century buildings on their original site.

If you go, take a ride on the Dixie Belle, a paddlewheel boat that takes excursions on the Kentucky River. There also are horse-drawn wagon rides and evening hay rides.

Call 1-800-734-5611 or go to Shakervillageky.org.

Mary Todd Lincoln House, Lexington. This is the girlhood home of the wife of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president, and the first museum to honor a first lady. The Todd family moved to this two-story Georgian-style house in 1832, when Mary was 13. After their marriage, Mary Todd and Abraham Lincoln stayed here when they visited Lexington.

(If you want to see where Lincoln was born — and see how different his childhood was from his wife's — drive 90 minutes to the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site, on U.S. 31E south of Hodgenville in LaRue County.

For Mary Todd Lincoln House, call (859) 233-9999.

Camp Nelson Civil War Heritage Park, Jessamine County. This is a must for those interested in black history. This is the original site of the 1863-66 Civil War camp, which enlisted and trained more than 10,000 black troops and provided refuge for their families.

Go to Campnelson.org for information.

Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, Boyle County. More than 7,500 soldiers were killed or wounded in the Battle of Perryville in October 1862. The lack of a decisive Confederate victory meant Kentucky remained in Union hands for the rest of the war. Some local officials hope to see this site designated by Congress as a national park in the future.

Go to Parks.ky.gov/parks/historicsites/perryville-battlefield/

Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History, Frankfort. Open since 1999, this is the place to go to learn about Kentucky from prehistoric times to the present. There are permanent exhibits, but it is also a place to research family trees. The center is named for a former state historian who was instrumental in the building's planning and development.

Go to History.ky.gov/thomas-d-clark-center-for-kentucky-history.

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