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.
The Shaker Museum at South Union
850 Shaker Museum Rd.
(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.
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.
Hiestand House Museum
1075 Campbellsville Bypass Hodgenville Road,
(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.
African-American Heritage Center
500 Jefferson Street, Franklin, KY
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.
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.
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 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.
Alice Allison Dunnigan House
6th & Morgan Street, Russellville, KY
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.
183 W. Fourth St.
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.
East 6th Street, Russellville, KY
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
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.