— Tree lover that I am, I was thrilled to see the incredible Osage orange tree at Fort Harrod in Harrodsburg, Ky.
The massive tree’s trunk is split in two and part of it sprawls over the ground with twisting limbs and branches.
The beautiful specimen dates back to the late 18th century and is actually taller and broader than the national champion, a title it would hold if not for its bifurcated trunk.
Harrodsburg is even older than the venerable Osage orange. Established by its namesake, James Harrod, in 1774, the town claims to be Kentucky’s first English-speaking settlement west of the Alleghenies. Abandoned due to attacks by hostile Indians the same year, the site was resettled in 1775 when Fort Harrod was constructed.
Today, visitors can see a full scale replica of the old fort rebuilt near its original location and adjacent to the oldest cemetery in the state, which holds the remains of close to 500 pioneer settlers.
Once in the log stockade, visitors can walk into replicas of the George Rogers Clark blockhouse, where the general planned his Northwest campaign during the American Revolution, as well as period furnished log cabins and the town’s first school.
Adding interest to the log structures, interpreters dressed in period-accurate clothing giving demonstrations on pioneer activities such as blacksmithing, broom making, weaving, soap making and woodworking.
The fort also holds an historic shrine, sheltered by a church-like red brick building. Inside its walls is the log cabin in which Abraham Lincoln’s parents were married in 1806. Originally located in Springfield, Ky., the cabin was moved to Fort Harrod circa 1906 where it was reassembled, log by log.
David Coleman, park manager, said he was told three of the logs were so rotten they had to be discarded but were replaced with logs from one of the original 1774 log houses conveniently located nearby.
Another interesting historical structure, the impressive granite monument to George Rogers Clark’s Northwest Expedition, was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1934. The grounds also hold a well-preserved mansion, said to be one of the oldest Greek Revival home in Kentucky.
The mansion serves as a museum where visitors can view a number of exhibits including three original documents signed by George Washington, a Union and a Confederate room, Native American artifacts, Lincoln memorabilia and a one-of-a-kind McIntosh gun collection.
On June 23 and 24, the fort will stage its signature event of the year, a raid by Native Americans on the fort daily at 2 p.m. The fort will also have 18th century settlers, sutlers, long hunters, natives and traders mix with the public.
For approximately 40 years, visitors were treated to live outdoor drama productions of "The Legend of Daniel Boone." The annual event just outside the fort ended in 2004, but Harrodsburg’s Ragged Edge Community Theater will pick up the slack this year by staging a production titled "James Harrod and the Battle for Kentucky" on July 13, 14, 20, 21, 27 and 28.
With a National Register Historic District that dates back to the 1880s and 90s downtown Harrodsburg is worth a leisurely stroll. On Main Street, Kentucky Lit is stocked with old books and new cigars and specializes in "Kentucky authors and Kentucky broadleaf."
Also on Main, the Dedman Drug Store dates back to 1868 and boasts the sort of soda fountain our parents and grandparents frequented in the good old days. In addition to tin ceilings, original cabinetry, drug store memorabilia, home made fudge, lunch and dinner and all sorts of ice cream treats, the owners recently added a liquor license. So if you ever thought of adding a shot of bourbon to your chocolate malt, here’s your chance.
If You’re Going . . .
For more information on Harrodsburg, stop at the Diamond Point Welcome Center at 488 Price Street or phone 800-355-9192.For a place to stay or dine, the Beaumont Inn, 638 Beaumont Inn Drive in Harrodsburg, is Kentucky’s oldest family-operated country inn. Be sure to have your photo taken in the chair in the vestibule in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt sat in 1934 when he dedicated the Northwest Expedition Monument.
This stately inn offers 31 guest rooms, many of which are furnished with antiques. The inn’s cozy Old Owl Tavern is a reference to the owners’ original Kentucky Owl Distillery. In addition to exhibiting old photos of the now gone distillery, the Old Owl serves more than 32 different bourbons as well as flights of three bourbons for $8. The inn’s main dining room features classic Kentucky cuisine and Southern hospitality inside its 1845 building. Phone 800-352-3992.
Dave Zuchowski is a travel writer for CNHI News Service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.