Kentucky Tourism
Back to Listings By Region

South Central Kentucky

This section includes the Caves, Lakes & Corvettes & the Southern Lakes tourism regions.

This is Kentucky's vacation paradise - a region teeming with lakes offering some of the best bass fishing in the country, and home to Mammoth Cave, the world's longest recorded cave system. Mammoth Cave attracts over one million visitors annually, who come to see such spectacular formations as Giant's Coffin, Bridal Altar and the Snowball Room. But the cave, located in the scenic valleys of the Green and Nolin Rivers, has an equally fascinating history. Exploration began thousands of years ago by Native Americans, and some of the earliest cave guides were enslaved African-Americans.

Mammoth Cave, a National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of eight area caves open to the public. The region's above-ground attractions are equally spectacular. Area state and resort parks include Dale Hollow Lake, Barren River Lake, and Lake Cumberland State Resort Parks and Green River Lake State Park. With more than 60,000 acres of water and 1,225 miles of shoreline, Lake Cumberland is considered one of the finest fishing and boating areas in the Eastern United States. While recreational opportunities abound in Kentucky's South Central Region, there is also much to attract the history buff. Bowling Green's ShakeRag Historic District, placed on the National Register of Historic Places for its significance to African-American history, as well as 10 other sites on the Civil War Discovery Trail, and Freetown, a community on the Kentucky-Tennessee border begun by emancipated slaves, are two great examples.

Kentucky's South Central Region is known for attractions both natural, the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, and man-made, Bowling Green's National Corvette Museum.

Auburn

The Shaker Museum at South Union
850 Shaker Museum Rd.
Auburn, KY
(270) 542-4167 www.shakermuseum.com
This Shaker community was established by the Shakers in 1807 and closed in 1922. They kept journals of their activities, shedding light on their belief in work and
worship, their inventions and contributions and the birth of the seed industry. Perhaps the most interesting piece of history is the Civil War period, 1861-1864. Even though
the Shakers did not fight, their losses were great. It is a little known fact that there existed African-American members of the Shaker communities.

Bowling Green

Riverview at Hobson Grove
1100 West Main Street,
Bowling Green, KY
(270) 843-5565 www.bgky.org/riverview
Built by Atwood and Juliet VanMeter Hobson on a hill overlooking the Barren River, Bowling Green's historic landmark has been restored to its original splendor and is listed on the National Register. An official site of the Civil War Discovery Trail, it was used for storage of Confederate munitions when the Rebel forces held Bowling Green. Riverview is an elegant interpretation of a prosperous Victorian home of the 1860-1890 period.

ShakeRag Historic District Walking Tour
352 Three Springs Road
Bowling Green, KY
(800) 326-7465  www.visitbgky.com
ShakeRag Historic District, located along the north end of State Street in downtown Bowling Green, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in September 2000. It is Bowling Green's first National Register District
recognized for its significance to African-American history.

The Kentucky Library & Museum
1906 College Heights Blvd #11092
Bowling Green, KY
(270) 745-2592 www.wku.edu/Library/kylm/
The Kentucky Museum collects and exhibits a wide range of artifacts; objects, documents, manuscripts, photographs and rare books to enhance your understanding of Kentucky. The library includes a large section on genealogy, and the largest collection of
Civil War documents in the south. The museum displays quilts, furniture, toys and art by Kentucky artists. Included is the 1815 Log House, which shows how a wealthy
family lived at the end of the pioneer period.


Campbellsville

Hiestand House Museum
1075 Campbellsville Bypass Hodgenville Road, Campbellsville, KY
(270) 789-4343 www.campbellsvilleky.com
This is one of the few German stone houses in Kentucky. African-Americans played an important role in the construction of this 1823 residence. The Hiestand's were the parents of ten children, but black persons
outnumbered white persons within the household during the antebellum period.

Franklin

African-American Heritage Center
500 Jefferson Street, Franklin, KY
(270) 598-9986
A cultural and educational facility designed to echo the events of the past, reflect on activities of the present and preserve these events for the future generations. Its purpose is to enhance, through appropriate programs,
genealogical research, workshops and activities, preserve artifacts, memorabilia, oral and written histories, exhibits, and files on communities and buildings. Located in
Franklin's Harristown Historic District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Gamaliel

Free-Town Church

Free-Town Church
202 Magnolia Street, Tompkinsville, KY
(270) 457-2901 www.monroecountykytourism.com
"Free-Town Church" was built in 1846 by freed slaves of William Howard, who gave them 400 acres on which to build homes, known since then as Free-Town. Albert Martin gave them the land for the church. The church is all original building material, except for a metal roof in place of old wooden one. The logs are
held together by wooden pegs and chinked with clay.

Horse Cave

American Cave Museum/Hidden River Cave
119 East Main, Horse Cave, KY
(270) 786-1466 hiddenrivercave.com
This attraction tells about the early slave guides in South Central Kentucky, who were rated among the finest explorers of their time. It's Hidden River Cave tour is a great introduction to learning about the history and
science of the large cave system originally investigated by Native and African-Americans.

Mammoth Onyx Caverns
3700 L&N Turnpike Road, I-65 Exit 58
Horse Cave, KY
(270) 786-1010 www.kdu.com
A 45 minute cave tour features stalactites, stalagmites and other formations created by water and time to effect an incredibly beautiful underworld scene. Although the
cave contains some steps it is among Kentucky's easiest guided cave tours. Also located on this site, is Kentucky Down Under, the interactive, fun and educational Australian themed Animal Park.

Mammoth Cave

Bibb House

Mammoth Cave National Park
1 Mammoth Cave Parkway, Mammoth Cave, KY (270) 758-2180 www.nps.gov/maca
Mammoth Cave is the longest recorded cave system in the world with more than 365-miles explored and mapped. Visitors touring Mammoth Cave may visit the 1812 saltpeter mining works which involved over 70 slaves,
and follows routes initially explored and guided by African-Americans. The mining of saltpeter was essential for the production of gun powder required for the war of 1812.
Tours of the historic section commemorate the discoveries of African-American slave guide, Stephen Bishop.

Russellville

Alice Allison Dunnigan House
6th & Morgan Street, Russellville, KY
(270) 726-1678
Home of Ms. Dunnigan, author and journalist, the first African-American woman to be a member of the White House press corps and Chief of the Washington Bureau of the Associated Negro Press, 1947-1961. She worked for the Owensboro Enterprise and the Louisville Defender before moving to Washington in 1942, and held appointments from President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson. The renovated home hosts changing historical exhibits.

Bibb House
183 W. Fourth St.
Russellville, KY
(270) 726-1678
This house, built in 1820, was the townhouse of Revolutionary War Major Richard Bibb who freed twenty-nine of his slaves in 1829 and paid for their passage to Liberia. He then provided for the liberation of his remaining slaves by his will at his death in 1839. The Palladian style home, furnished with a lifetime collection of antebellum antiques is an excellent example of the fine, early architecture of Kentucky.

Cooksey House
East 6th Street, Russellville, KY
(270) 726-1678
The home of Solomon Cooksey, born into slavery in Logan County in 1835 and later freed by the 1850 will of Dorcas Cooksey. Solomon purchased the land for the home in the 1880's and his family would own the land for 70 years. After renovation, the house will open in late 2007.

Knights of Pythias Hall
5th & Morgan Street, Russellville, KY
Built in 1920, this hall has served the local African- American community in many ways. In its early years, it was as a dance hall and meeting house. Entertainers such as Cab Calloway, Earl Hines and Jelly Roll Morton played here. In recent years the dance hall has been refurbished to its 1920 appearance. It currently serves as a multipurpose
facility for the local African-American community.

1817 Saddle Factory Museum
S. Breathitt Street at E. 4th Street, Russellville, KY
(270) 726-2005
www.logantele.com/~loganhistory/saddle.html
The 1817 Saddle Factory Museum is a four-story brick building that may be Kentucky's oldest industrial building. Exhibits include early saddles and leather goods which demonstrate the use of natural resources to produce goods which were sold regionally and as far away as
New Orleans. One focus of the museum is the indentured servants and enslaved African-Americans who provided much of the skilled labor and who lived on-site. The fourth-floor living quarters are available for touring and
feature preserved, pre-1835 writings on the walls.