Winchester’s Pastime Theater Disaster

Historic Marker on Main Street, Winchester. Author’s collection.

On March 9, 1918, occurred what is often described as “the worst catastrophe in Winchester’s history.” The Pastime Theater, located on Winchester, Kentucky’s Main Street could seat 500, but it was not unusual for folks to stand or sit on the floor. It is estimated that at least 600 attended that Saturday evening’s showing of The Silent Man.

At 7:45 pm on that fateful night one century ago, twelve perished under fallen debris from a collapsing wall.

The Pastime

Main Street Winchester, looking north. The Pastime is near the center of the photo on the left (west) side of the street. Main Street Winchester collection.

Opening night of The Pastime Theater (24 N. Main St.), Winchester’s second movie house, was on April 4, 1912. At the time, it could seat 333 patrons. The following year, the theater promoted its ability to show “Kinemacolor” films which was the first technology that colorized films (although the technology was relatively short-lived).

Just three years after the theater opened, its operation was transferred to Vic Bloomfield who took a 17-year lease on the building. By May of 1915, the theater had been remodeled, overhauled, and expanded to its final seating capacity by extending the front of the auditorium some twenty-five feet.  That extension was a single story in height, unlike the remaining parts of the theater.

Public Domain.

Featured Film: The Silent Man

It was toward the end of the evening’s first showing of The Silent Man that the tragedy occurred. The silent film was released on November 26, 1917, and was directed, produced, and starred William S. Hart.

Hart plays the role of a gold prospector (‘Silent’ Budd Marr) who arrives in a town where he promptly is relieved of his treasure; Marr then goes about trying to recover his wealth.

Although portions of the movie were subject to censorship boards across the country, the full feature film can now be watched on YouTube:

A few days before the tragedy, a fire struck the Luman Building which was immediately south of the Pastime. Gutted, the Luman Building’s brick north wall (adjacent to the theater) remained unsupported.

On the day of the disaster, a local blacksmith named James Gartland observed that the unsupported brick wall was swaying. He reported this to local officials, but they determined that it posed no risk to the citizens of Winchester. 

That evening, the Pastime was to air two showings of The Silent Man and it was toward the end of the first showing, around 7:45 p.m., that the bricks from the Luman Building’s unsupported brick wall came tumbling into the single-story addition which had been added to the building during the recent remodel. 

The front rows of the theater were packed with children and injuries were numerous. The Winchester Sun reported that the cries of the injured could be heard for a block. Within an hour of the collapse, nurses began arriving to care for the wounded from the nearby communities of Lexington, Mt. Sterling, Paris, and Richmond. 

Interior of Pastime Theater, post-collapse. Source.

The Victims

Twelve souls perished in the tragedy; the vast majority were children with their high percentage on account of their being predominately seated under the single-story addition which took the brunt of the damage from the collapsing wall.

Memorial Plaque to the Victims, dedicated in 2013.
Author’s Collection.

Abram Field, 52.
Houston Noel, 21.
Coleman Aldridge, 16.
Jesse Adams, 18.
Tommy Thomas, 12.
Rosie Azar, 16.
Andy Henry, 10.
Everett Shindleblower, 33.
Houston Frisbee, 10.
Georgie Frisbee, 8.
Russell Smith, 12.
Robert Baber, 33.

Houston and Georgie Frisbee, brothers, sons of Colonel Frisbee, are buried side by side at the Winchester Cemetery. The Frisbee Boys are noted on the cemetery’s walking tour.

George and Houston Frisbee, ages 10 and 8.
Roberta Newell collection.

Rosie Azar and Tommy Thomas were members of a small Lebanese community in Winchester, their parents having immigrated to the United States. They, too, are buried in Winchester Cemetery.

Tommy’s sister, Helen Thomas, was a senior White House correspondent for decades. Helen was born in 1920, two years after the tragedy that took her brother’s life.

One young man, however, was not among the victims. George “Shanty” Gartland’s father, who warned city officials of the swaying brick wall, wouldn’t let his son George attend the Pastime that evening because he did not feel it safe.

A plaque remembering the names of the victims, pictured above, was dedicated in 2013. The final line on the plaque is a reminder to us all.

Let Us Never Forget

Regional Look to Blue Grass Trust’s 11 Endangered List

Photographs of Select Sites on the Blue Grass Trust’s Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour List

Each year, the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation assembles a list of historic central Kentucky properties which are threatened. For the 2015 edition of the “Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour” list, the BGT has looked primarily beyond Fayette County to sites across 11 central Kentucky counties.

The list of counties largely resembles those included in the 2006 World Monument Fund’s designation of the Inner Bluegrass Region. The Blue Grass Trust included Madison County on its “11 Endangered List” while omitting Anderson County. All Kentucky counties, however, have “at risk” structures and deserve the attention of preservationists.

The BGT’s list is a great step toward recognizing that preservation can and should occur throughout Kentucky and not only in our urban cores. The 14 structures within the 11 counties also reflect that theme.

According to the BGT, “the list highlights endangered properties and how their situations speak to larger preservation issues in the Bluegrass. The goal of the list is to create a progressive dialogue that moves toward positive long-term solutions. The criteria used for selecting the properties include historic significance, lack of protection from demolition, condition of structure, or architectural significance.”

The sites are listed below.

Bourbon County – Cedar Grove & John T. Redmon House 

Both Cedar Grove and the Redmon House are architecturally significant houses from the early 19th century. The circa 1818 John & John T. Redmon House has a steep roof more often found in Virginia than Kentucky and has lost its original one-story wings. Though both buildings are vacant, they have undergone partial renovations recently and the BGT believes these structures could be still restored.

Boyle County – Citizens National Bank & Dr. Polk House

Mostly empty for two-plus years, the Citizens National Bank building at 305 West Main Street in Danville was built in 1865 with a double storefront that housed First National Bank of Danville and a drug store. Bank-owned and listed for sale, a demolition (or partial demolition) of this structure could affect adjacent structures with which the building shares walls.  Dr. Polk House at 331 South Buell Street in Perryville sits across from Merchants’ Row and is arguably the historic landmark most in need of restoration in the downtown. Built in 1830 as a simple Greek Revival house with two chimneys and two front doors, the structure was purchased by Dr. Polk in 1850. A graduate of Transylvania University, he was the primary caretaker of wounded from the Battle of Perryville and his 1867 autobiography details the gruesome battlefield.

Dr. Polk House in Perryville, Kentucky. Photo courtesy of the BGT.

Clark County – Indian Old Fields 

Indian Old Fields in Clark County was the location of Eskippakithiki, the last known Native American town in what became Kentucky. Located on Lewis Evans’ 1755 map of Middle British Colonies, this highly important site was significantly impacted during construction of a new interchange (which opened September 2014) for the Mountain Parkway crossing KY 974 near the center of the Indian Old Fields.

The Kentucky Heritage Council noted in 2010 that “’Indian Old Fields,’ is a historic and prehistoric archaeological district of profound importance,” with 50 significant prehistoric archaeological sites identified within 2 kilometers of the interchange. These sites cover the Archaic Period (8000-1000 BC), Woodland Period (1000 B.C. -1000 AD) and Adena Period (1000-1750 AD), with several listed on the National Register of Historic Places. These include villages, Indian fort earthworks, mounds, sacred circles and stone graves. The site also has substantial ties to the famous Shawnee Chief Cathecassa or Black Hoof, Daniel Boone, and trader John Finley.

With the new $8.5 million dollar interchange now open, there are significant concerns that these sites with be under threat from pressure to further develop the area.

Fayette County – Modern Structures 

The Blue Grass Trust’s 2014 “Eleven in Their Eleventh Hour” focused on the historic resources at the University of Kentucky. Many of those included on the list (and most of those demolished) were Modern buildings designed by locally renowned architect Ernst Johnson. Research into Johnson’s work by the BGT and others such as architects Sarah House Tate and Dr. Robert Kelley was joined with education and advocacy programming focused on his architecture and legacy as a master of Modernism. This research and programming led to other efforts by the Blue Grass Trust, namely working to educate the public on the historic value of mid-century architecture.

In our continued education and advocacy effort surrounding these structures, the Blue Grass Trust lists Fayette County’s mid-century Modern architecture as endangered. Often viewed as not old enough or not part of the traditional early fabric of Lexington and surrounding areas, the Modern buildings of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s are being substantially and unrecognizably altered or demolished. It is important to recognize that buildings 50 years of age are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, a length of time deemed appropriate by the authors of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 for reflection on an era’s importance. Read more from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on the People’s Bank branch on South Broadway.

People’s Bank in Lexington. Photo by Rachel Alexander.

Franklin County – Old YMCA & Blanton-Crutcher Farm

Both the Old YMCA in downtown Frankfort faces potential demolition and the Blanton-Crutcher Farm in Jett are slowly deteriorating from neglect and both structures are worth saving. The 1911 Old YMCA at 104 Bridge Street in Frankfort, designed in the Beaux Arts style by a a Frankfort architect, was a state-of-the-art facility featuring a gymnasium, indoor swimming pool, bowling alley, meeting rooms and guest quarters. While a local developer is hoping to transform it into a boutique hotel, there is also a push by the city of Frankfort to demolish this structure. If saved, this could be a transformative project in our capital city. 

The Blanton-Crutcher Farm in Jett includes an architecturally and historically significant circa 1796 house built by Carter Blanton, a prominent member of the Jett farming community. In 1831, Blanton sold the farm to his nephew, Richard Crutcher, the son of Reverend Isaac Crutcher and Blanton’s sister, Nancy Blanton Crutcher. The 1974 National Register nomination for the farm notes: “The Crutchers were excellent farmers. Three generations of the family farmed the land and made improvements on the house until 1919 when the property was sold. It has remained a working farm with a large farmhouse, at its center, that has evolved over 180 years of active occupation.” In the 1880s, Washington Crutcher significantly increased the size of the house, turning it into the Victorian house that stands today (although the porches were removed due to deterioration and other modern features have been added).

Harrison County – The Handy House aka Ridgeway 

The Handy House, also known as Ridgeway, is located on US 62 in Cynthiana, KY. The nearly 200-year-old house was built in 1817 by Colonel William Brown, a United States Congressman and War of 1812 veteran. The farm and Federal-style house were also owned by Dr. Joel Frazer, namesake of Camp Frazer, a Union camp during the American Civil War. In the 1880s, the house underwent significant renovations by W. T. Handy, the owner from 1883-1916 and for whom the house remains named.

The Handy House checks almost every box when it comes to saving a structure: an architecturally and historically important house in good enough shape to rehabilitate, a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, qualification for the Kentucky Historic Preservation Tax Credit, and a group, the Harrison County Heritage Council and a descendant of the original owner, willing to take on the project. Unfortunately, the Handy House is jointly owned between the city and the county. County magistrates voted to tear it down, and the city opted not to vote on it with the hopes that the new council will come to a deal with the Harrison County Heritage Council, which has offered to purchase and restore the house as a community center. Read more from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on Ridgeway.

Jessamine County – Court Row 

Completed in 1881, Nicholasville’s Court Row is located right next to the Jessamine County Courthouse. Italianate in design and largely unchanged exterior-wise, Court Row is one of the most significant and substantial structures in downtown Nicholasville.

In a broad context, the listing of Court Row is a comment on the status of all the historic resources in downtown Nicholasville. Several threats exist that are culminating in drastic changes to the fabric of the town. Foremost, Nicholasville failed in 2013 to pass its first historic district, an overlay that would have encompassed the majority of the downtown and helped to regulate demolition and development. Then, within the past month, two historic structures were demolished, including the Lady Sterling House, an 1804 log cabin very close to the urban core. Additionally, Nicholasville is on the ‘short list’ for a new judicial center, the location of which has yet to be determined but will almost certainly have an effect on the downtown. Together, these threats present the potential for the loss of significant portions of Nicholasville’s charming downtown.

Madison County – Downtown Richmond 

Preservation has had a lot positive movement in Richmond. The Madison County Historical Society is active; the beautiful Irvinton House Museum is city-owned and the location of the Richmond Visitor’s Center; and the downtown contains a local historic district. Like most local historic districts (also known as H-1 overlays), though, the Downtown Richmond Historic District protects historic buildings and sites that are privately owned. That means that city- and county-owned sites are exempt from the H-1 regulations.

The potential damaging effects of this can already be seen. In February 2013, downtown Richmond lost the Miller House and the Old Creamery, two of its most historic buildings. Both were in the Downtown Richmond Historic District and on the National Register of Historic Places. Owned by the county, the buildings were demolished with the hopes of constructing a minimum-security prison on the site that would replicate the exterior façade of the Miller House, according to Madison Judge/Executive Kent Clark. There are several other historic sites in the urban core that are owned by either the city or the county, leading to worry about the state of preservation in Richmond’s downtown.

Mercer County – Walnut Hall

Built circa 1850 by David W. Thompson, Walnut Hall is one of Mercer County’s grand Greek Revival houses. A successful planter and native of Mercer County, Thompson left the house and 287 acres of farmland to his daughter, Sue Helm, upon his death in 1865. In 1978, Walnut Hall was listed on the National Register of Historic Places along with two other important and similar Mercer County Greek Revival houses: Lynnwood (off KY Highway 33 near the border of Mercer and Boyle Counties) and Glenworth (off Buster Pike).

The James Harrod Trust has notified the Blue Grass Trust that the house may be under threat of demolition, as it is owned by a prominent Central Kentucky developer known to have bulldozed several other important historic buildings.

Scott County – Choctaw Indian Academy 

Located in Blue Springs, KY, off Route 227 near Stamping Ground, the Choctaw Indian Academy was created in 1818 on the farm of Colonel Richard M. Johnson, who served as Vice President of the United States under Martin Van Buren (1837–1841). The Academy was created using Federal funding and was intended to provide a traditional European-American education for Native Americans boys. (It was one of only two government schools operated by the Department of War – the other being West Point.) Originally consisting of five structures built prior to 1825, only one building – thought to be a dormitory – remains. By 1826, over 100 boys were attending the school, becoming well enough known to be visited by the Marquis de Lafayette in 1825. The school was relocated to White Sulphur Springs (also a farm owned by Colonel Johnson) in 1831. The site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Read more about the site from the Kaintuckeean’s earlier post on the Choctaw Indian Academy.

Remaining structure of Choctaw Indian Academy. Photo by Amy Palmer.

Woodford County – Versailles High School 

 Located on the corner of Maple Street and Lexington Pike in Versailles, the Versailles High School is a substantial structure built in 1928. The building operated as a high school for 35 years before becoming the Woodford County Junior High in 1963, operating as a middle school until being shuttered in 2005. After 77 years of continuous operation, the building has been empty for nearly 10 years.

With no known maintenance or preservation plan, concern exists that the historic Versailles High School will deteriorate from neglect and, ultimately, be demolished.

You can learn more about the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation on its website,

Lower Howard's Creek: A Story in Both Beauty and History

Pool in the Lower Howard’s Creek – Clark Co., Ky.

As we entered the Lower Howard’s Creek State Nature Preserve and Heritage Park, as adults visiting for the first time, we were taken aback by the beautiful sweeping views of the region’s agricultural landscape. As we gathered near an old dry stone limestone fence, we anticipate our three-hour hike.

Contrast out perspective with that of our guide: Clare Sipple, the Preserve Manager, has a professional and personal connection with this land. Her earliest memory of visiting the creek dates to age 3 – traversing the snow-covered creek banks on a horse-drawn sled. Her passion for Lower Howard’s Creek was evident through both the knowledge of an expert and the wonderment of a child.

Soon we descended the trail into the gorge formed by the creek. As we trekked, Sipple regaled us with detailed explanation of the many flora (several endangered) we encountered. Rare plants in the Preserve include water stitchwort, running buffalo clover, Kentucky viburnum, white walnut, and nodding rattlesnake-root. A second growth forest largely covers the LHC Preserve with approximately 400 different plant species growing under the canopy.

But this is not merely a State Nature Preserve filled with flora and fauna, it is also a Heritage Park that contains multiple structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Though described today as remote, one must examine LHC with the sense that it was once an industrial center for water-powered stone milling from the late 1700s until the mid-19th century.

Ceramic Shards and the Martin/Bush House

Martin/Bush House at Lower Howard’s Creek

Research conducted in 2002 examined the ceramic shards around the Martin House to find an unusually high concentration of refined earthenwares. Researchers concluded that “although secluded and isolated by today’s standards, the valley was at one time connected to a larger national and global economy through its position on the Kentucky River.”

The John and Rachel Martin House began as a log cabin in the 1780s, but two stone additions were added in the following decades to create a rather significant structure. Though the log cabin is lost to history, great effort is being made to preserve the stone remaining stone structure. And though the National Register of Historic Places (as well as the majority of documentation on the property) identifies the property as the “Martin House,” it may well be in error.

To understand this conundrum, local historian Harry Enoch provided me with several documents explaining the long standing confusion. Apparently, Clark County’s history contains no fewer than five John Martins. The John Martin associated with Lower Howard’s Creek owned a 250 acre farm here, but it was situated outside the bounds of what is now the Preserve. Enoch and Sipple both suggest that the stone house and nearby mill were those belonging to Jonathan Bush as the Bush family held title to the land and the elaborate tablet over the tomb box from Jonathan’s second wife, Diana Emerson Bush, was discovered near this significant stone house.

Whether Martin or Bush, the house and the nearby mill are both spectacular examples of stone construction in this remote corner of the world. The sheer size and grandeur of the structures seem to support the suggestion that the area was economically connected to the rest of the nation and world.

The Bush Mill

The old Bush Mill (clockwise from top: remains,
rendering from Patent No. 3, remains of chimney)

The Bush Mill is in such good condition that one can understand the workings of Oliver Evans’ automatic flour mill (U.S. Patent No. 3) from what remains. A dam, nearly a half mile upstream from the mill, diverts water down the gravity-fed mill race to a point some thirty feet above the mill. From the pooled water, a sluice transports the water to the twenty-foot mill wheel which then turns the numerous inner workings of the mill. Turned water then drains through a series of channels back into the creek. A significant portion of the corner fireplace in the mill’s interior, as well as the chimney, remain.

Throughout the Preserve, the limestone walls seemingly indigenous to Kentucky abound. Several have been rebuilt in the past decade through joint efforts with the Dry Stone Conservancy. Two parallel dry laid limestone walls create a wide path along what would have been part of the wilderness road linking Fort Boonesborough to the Blue Licks.

Murder at Hieronymous Place

The chimney at Hieronymous Place

Another interesting story was that of the triple murder at Hieronymous Place. Of the house, begun as a cabin in the early 19th century and added to through the years, only the chimney remains. The story of intrigue dates to January 3, 1939. The Lexington Herald reported “three men were shot to death late this afternoon during a bloody gun battle staged in a ramshackle three-room cabin on the side of a hill near the Kentucky river in Southern Clark county.” Apparently, one of the three (Sowers) “had been awful drunk since about Christmas Day.” So, naturally, Sowers and Robert Martin spent the afternoon finishing off three pints of whiskey before they started to argue. Sowers shot Robert Martin who escaped with only a buckshot wound to the face. Sampson Estepp, whose family lived in two of the three rooms of the cabin, heard the shot and went forward to investigate. He arrived to find a 12 gauge shotgun firing at him at point-blank range.

John Martin, who lived across the creek and is different than the other five John Martins mentioned above, rushed over to see what the commotion was about; he was instantly killed by Sowers. Finally, John Martin’s brother, Stanley, arrived. Seeing his brother dead on the floor must have sent him into a rage for the scene that followed would have appropriately fit into the song “Cell Block Tango” from the Broadway revival of Chicago. Stanley shot Sowers ten times with a .22 before bludgeoning Sowers head with the butt of not one, but two, shotguns. The force was such that neither shotgun was operable after the incident which the presiding judge described as “the bloodiest in Clark County history.” Unlike the ladies in the “Cell Block Tango,” the claims of self-defense and of temporary insanity were successful as the murder charges brought against Stanley Martin were ultimately dismissed.

Historic Marker for Capt. John
Holder near Hall’s on the River

In our three hours, I feel that we merely scratched the surface of the Preserve. There is so much history and so much beauty that you could easily explore Lower Howard’s Creek for days. One option of seeing the Preserve is to hike the publicly accessible John Holder Trail. This Trail opened in 2012 as a 3 mile loop with the trailhead at the parking lot of Hall’s on the River.

Most of the trails through the Preserve, including those which we traversed on our visit are accessible only on official tours which are conducted almost every Saturday on trails not connected with the John Holder Trail. For these guided treks, reservations are required and a $5 donation is suggested for those who are not members of the Friends of Lower Howard’s Creek. Information about these tours, and about the Preserve generally, are available at

Additional photographs are available here.

  This column originally appeared in a recent issue of Preservation Matters
a publication of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation

Answering Last Week’s #TBT Mystery: the Clark County Courthouse

Clark County Courthouse – Winchester, Ky.
(Photo: University of Kentucky)

Last week, I received several good guesses attempting to answer last week’s #ThrowbackThursday. Someone guessed Jefferson County (Louisville), while another guessed Lincoln County (Stanford). It was, however Michael Chambers who was the first to accurately identify last week’s #TBT photograph of the Clark County Courthouse in Winchester.

Clocktower of the
Clark Co. Courthouse

The magnificent edifice of the Clark County Courthouse in downtown Winchester was completed in 1855 the cost about $40,000. The iconic Clocktower was added in 1889, while a rear addition was built in 1938.

Last week’s photo was taken in 1939 after the completion of that rear addition. It is contained in the Goodman-Paxton Photographic Collection at the University of Kentucky.

Be sure to check out Nate’s notes from the KY120 project on the “stellar” Clark County Courthouse.

NoD: Celebrate Veterans Day by Thanking a Doughboy

Carter County, Ky. Jamestown, Ky.
Doughboy – Grayson, Ky. Doughboy – Jamestown, Ky.

I’m sure that around the country, hospitals will see an uptick in deliveries and scheduled caesareans. And many couples will share their nuptials on this memorable date: 11-11-11. Grooms won’t have to worry about forgetting that anniversary!

Rowan County, Ky.
Morehead, Ky.

But November 11 also has a symbolic meaning in our country and around the globe for on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” in the year 1918, hostilities with Germany ended thus concluding “The Great War” (n/k/a World War I). In America, this date was celebrated for years as Armistice Day until after the conclusion of another great war – World War II – that the date became known simply as Veteran’s Day. In other countries, November 11 is referred to as Remembrance Day.

I am particularly fond of the original term Armistice Day because of its historic context. The young Americans in the early part of the twentieth century crossed the ocean to fight the Germans in an era when crossing the ocean wasn’t something you did for reasons other than immigration. Earlier this year, Frank Buckles of Missouri passed away – he was the last of the American doughboys from World War I.

Pikeville, Ky.
Pikeville, Ky.

Statues of  World War I doughboys stand in memorium around America in front of courthouses, in cemeteries and in town squares. In fact, the doughboy statue is the most reproduced life-size statue in America with 140 known copies. First designed and sculpted by E.M. Viquesney in 1920, “The Spirit of the American Doughboy” went through a few design changes over the years. Though most don’t realize it, Viquesney’s doughboy is likely the most witnessed sculpture in the United States other than the Statue of Liberty herself.

In Kentucky, eight Viquesney statues are known to exist in the following towns: Grayson, Harlan, Jamestown, Liberty, Monticello, Morehead, Pikeville and Winchester. The first of these to be installed was the Monticello doughboy in January 1923; the last was in Jamestown 75 years ago today on Armistice Day, 1936.

Whatever its name, it is a day to thank the men and women in uniform who have served our country. And though many people only recognize today as being a day when schools, banks and government offices are closed, it is because our soldiers fought that we can enjoy our freedoms today.

Source: Viquesney Database

No Destination: Winchester

After leaving the Howard’s Creek area in southern Clark County, I traveled north on Boone Avenue (KY 627). After his courthouse visit, Nate had told me about the great oddity of Winchester: College Street.

Look far and wide, but there is no remaining college on College Street or elsewhere in Winchester. But, from 1890 to 1954, Winchester was the home of Kentucky Wesleyan College; it has since relocated to Owensboro. Among its most notable alumna, Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Reed (1902).

The old college grounds are now a city park and some of the campus buildings remain. The Carnegie Library (c. 1914) is now a community center (a child’s birthday party was going on during my campus visit) and the Spencer Memorial Gymnasium is currently being expanded and converted into the city natatorium.

Downtown Winchester has many small, locally owned and operated businesses. The historic buildings are mostly well-kept, in repair and freshly painted. The downtown area is dominated by, as Nate put it, a “massive” whitewashed courthouse.

Leaving Winchester, I drove past the Ale-8-One bottling plant. Ale-8-One is a Kentucky soft drink that is most like a ginger ale, but that would still be an inaccurate description. Introduced in 1926, the soda has a limited distribution area but it is “the drink” in Winchester. I saw countless young teenagers milling around drinking from the iconic glass green bottle.

A final note: Helen Thomas, journalist and White House correspondent for every President since John F. Kennedy was born in Winchester. Regrettably, there is no historical marker related to Ms. Thomas in Winchester.

No Destination: Howard’s Creek (Providence) Church

I continued without destination by heading east from Athens. I have found that a No Destination trek is made more comfortable with the GPS feature on the iPhone as I could take a few extra turns with the knowledge that I was merely on a detour and not going down a dead-end.

I found Grimes Mill Road – just inside Clark County – to be breathtaking. The beautiful stone home, the red barns and the bridge over the stream all captured eras past. Minutes later, I find myself peering in the windows of a cafe & bakery at Combs Ferry. It was closed, but not out of business as large sacks of organic sidamo coffee beans lay on the floor.

Uncertain as to whether my destination for the day would be McKee, Winchester or Paris, I saw a historic marker and followed the path down which it led. The church at Howard’s Creek was regularly attended by Daniel Boone. In 1790, the church was renamed “Providence” and the present stone structure was contructed by William Bush, who was a member of Boone’s second Kentucky expedition. According to the historic marker, the church “passed to Negro Baptists, 1870.”

After a heavy rain, the road to the church would be under water at two points. It was a beautiful, short drive to the church and the old, stone building was picturesque. As I walked up to the church on a Saturday, I noticed the freshly mowed grass. As I snapped a few pictures, the minister came out and we exchanged greetings.

He had been preparing the Sunday sermon for his flock at the Providence Missionary Baptist Church. About 14 attend weekly, and the church remains a black baptist congregation. It also remains as the oldest Baptist church west of the Alleghenies.

Clark County Courthouse – Winchester, Ky.

I think it’s interesting that I’ve been in Winchester a handful of times, and never really went downtown. It’s a very lively downtown area, with tons of active businesses and some really interesting architecture. Most of the buildings seem pretty well preserved, and a couple were undergoing some extensive renovations. I was really impressed by not only how big downtown Winchester is, but by how busy it was.
Not to mention that the drive from Lexington to Winchester is among the prettiest I’ve been on yet. It’s like something out of a horse country theme park – if such a park were to exist.
Anyway, this courthouse building is massive. The oldest part of it was completed in 1855, costing $40,000. The clock tower was put in in 1889, and the back part of it that you can’t see in this picture was built in 1938. The coolest part about the addition though, is that it perfectly matches the and mirrors the front you see here. Based on some of the other courthouse expansions I’ve seen, this one is pretty stellar.

BONUS PIC FOR PETER – This appears to be a courthouse annex or “judicial center” in Clark County. I thought Peter would like this one, because it’s not your typical annex. This building was built by the Federal Government in 1912 and was used as a post office for almost 90 years.