By Kathy Witt
Ever since its founding in 1798 by a Revolutionary War colonel – and even before – Richmond, Kentucky, has been a town busy making history.
Following skirmishes with Native Americans in 1775, Daniel Boone and a party of explorers laid out what would become Kentucky’s second settlement at Fort Boonesborough. During the Civil War, Union and Confederate armies clashed mightily at the Battle of Richmond. Meanwhile, Cassius Clay (whose father had fought alongside Daniel Boone to defend the fort) campaigned for equal rights for African-Americans while serving as the U.S. minister to Russia.
And while these three landmark events certainly define Richmond’s history, the city and surrounding area offer much more for visiting couples and families.
Rooted in History
History comes to life in Richmond, named for the Virginia birthplace of its founder and located in Madison County, just minutes from Lexington. A visit to any of these attractions will instantly whisk you back in time: Fort Boonesborough, a National Historic Landmark located on the banks of the Kentucky River; the Battle of Richmond Visitors Center and Battlefield Park; and White Hall, the Georgian/Italianate mansion where Clay grew up to become a fierce abolitionist.
Walk the same grounds Daniel Boone did as you explore the reconstructed Fort Boonesborough, stepping into a world nearly two and half centuries ago through cabins, blockhouses and furnishings that narrate the life and times of this legendary explorer.
Watch artisans re-create pioneer life through craft demonstrations of candle dipping, pottery turning, lye soap making and welding. Then return to the present with amenities for the 21st-century traveler, including a junior Olympic-size swimming pool with waterslide, miniature golf, gift shops, picnic shelters, paved nature trails, the Kentucky River Museum and more.
An Immersive Tour
The first major Civil War battle fought in Kentucky was the Battle of Richmond, which took place on Aug. 29-30, 1862, giving a decisive victory to the Confederate army. Learn about the devastation of Federal troops in three separate engagements as you follow the path of the battle on a self-guided driving tour.
Beginning at the Visitor Center, the tour takes you behind the lines and onto the battlefields and skirmish areas as the Battle Between the States entered a border state. This tour is part of the Kentucky Civil War Heritage Trail and the Civil War Trust National Discovery Trail. A re-enactment of the Battle of Richmond also takes place each year in August.
The 44-room mansion called White Hall is famous for the man who lived within its walls: Cassius Marcellus Clay. Emancipationist, newspaper publisher, minister to Russia and friend to Abraham Lincoln, Clay lived in the home when it was known as Clermont – the home his father, General Green Clay, built in 1798-1799 and was expanded in the mid-1860s to create the home you can tour today. Guides in period dress share the history and treasures of the man and the mansion.
More to See & Do
With a downtown brimming with more than 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Place and three National Registered Historic Districts, Richmond is indeed a treasure trove of history. But there are other lures as well, including the 18-hole, par-72 championship Gibson Bay Golf Course, ranked 4 1/2 stars by Golf Digest. Bring your clubs and test your skills among the course’s rolling greens and water hazards.
Star gaze at the Hummel Planetarium and Space Theater, the fourth-largest planetarium of its kind in the world. Located on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University (go Colonels!), it is open for scheduled public shows and every Saturday with no reservations required.
Spend time exploring Richmond’s downtown, home to one of the state’s finest restored 19th Century commercial districts. Shop the boutiques and antique stores. Dine in locally-owned restaurants. Overnight in a gorgeous circa 1880 Queen Anne residence that houses the casually elegant Bennett House Bed and Breakfast, with three guestrooms, and separate Taylor Cottage, with two luxury suites.
Come live the history – not to mention beauty, culture and downright fun – in Richmond, a town that welcomes visitors with Southern charm and hospitality. To plan your getaway, call 800-866-3705 or visit www.RichmondKyTourism.com.
If You Go
Battle of Richmond Association, 859-624-0013, website
Battle of Richmond Visitors Center and Battlefield Park, 859-624-0013, website
Bennett House Bed and Breakfast, 859-623-7876, website
Downtown Richmond Association, 859-559-0032, website
Fort Boonesborough State Park, 859-527-3131, website
Gibson Bay Golf Course, 859-623-0225, website
Hummel Planetarium and Space Theater, 859-622-1547, website
White Hall Clermont Foundation, website
White Hall State Historic Site, 859-623-9178, website