DYCHE | Spring Break in Frankfort? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

DYCHE | Spring Break in Frankfort?

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News: John David Dyche Opinion Graphic News: John David Dyche Opinion Graphic
By John David Dyche
WDRB Contributor

Spring Break is upon us. Beaches are nice, of course, but if you are looking for an alternative trip – closer, cheaper, and perhaps of more educational value -- consider one focused on Kentucky history and politics in Frankfort, the state capital. Really.

The General Assembly will be adjourned so it should be safe to travel there. Frankfort is full of fun stuff for the history buff and political junkie. You can enjoy a lot of it on a walking tour.

Stroll the downtown area bounded by Wapping, Wilkinson, Broadway and St. Clair Streets to see some lovely historic homes. Historical markers abound and will inform you about the many famous people who preceded you at the sites.

Visit the Old State Capitol designed by the great Kentucky architect Gideon Shryock. This beautiful Greek Revival structure served as the state's seat of government between 1830 and 1910, a period that included Civil War cavalry raids and the convention that produced the current state constitution.

Stand where progressive firebrand William Goebel fell in 1900 after being shot by an assassin firing from a nearby building. The aftermath of this incident divided the state along economic and party lines and threatened violent insurrection.

You can easily imagine the agitated and emotional comings and goings of partisans on the railroad tracks that run in front of the grounds. The depot down the street is a reminder of how relatively recently train travel was still a big part of Kentucky life.

Check out the Franklin County Courthouse, too. The lovely original structure has seen lots of the state's biggest legal battles, and a new addition beautifully complements the old columns and worn steps.

If you like Kentucky books, be sure to browse awhile in Poor Richard's bookstore not far away. There are some good dining spots close by, and the recently restored Grand Theater also merits a look.

The Thomas D. Clark Center for Kentucky History is a wonderful resource as befits its namesake, the state's preeminent historian. Its Hall of Governors is fascinating, and there is a library if you want to do some genealogical research.

Continue to the State Capitol campus across the Kentucky River. Dedicated in 1910, Kentucky's capitol building is as beautiful inside and out as any in the United States. Note in particular the pediment sculpture, the murals, and the House, Senate and Supreme Court chambers.

Rub the toe of the Lincoln statute in the rotunda. Four others surround Abe: Senator and Speaker of the House Henry Clay; frontier surgeon Ephraim McDowell; Vice President Alben Barkley; and, controversially, President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis.

Just a short stroll away, the Governor's Mansion and its gardens are also magnificent. It is not hard to visualize the many inaugurations, addresses, parades, and rallies that have happened in this area.

Look high across the river at the Frankfort Cemetery, a fine example of the so-called rural cemetery movement. When you go there, see the (supposed) grave of pioneer Daniel Boone, Goebel's tomb topped by a statue of him shaking his fist at the city below, the Confederate monument surrounded by soldiers, and the last resting places of many governors and other famous Kentuckians.

Perched on the hill just below the graveyard the Kentucky Museum of Military History is housed in a fortress-like building that once served as the State Armory. The Davis statue from the Capitol rotunda might be better here to recognize his service as U.S. Secretary of War and open a spot for a less divisive figure there.

Other interesting sites are situated at each end of town along the river that snakes through it. On the north side is the picturesque (and deliciously fragrant) Buffalo Trace Distillery. Bourbon is an important part of Kentucky's economy, history, and, yes, politics. Some of the very best is aging in barrels at this historic place.

Two wonderful places are situated south of the city. The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial features a creative and moving design in which a sun dial casts a shadow on the name of deceased soldiers on the date of their deaths. Next door, the Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives Building is not really a tourist attraction, but is nonetheless a nice building of interest as our state's equivalent of the National Archives.

Having not only recommended it before, but also having done it, you can be sure that not every kid will cotton to the idea of a day trip to Frankfort instead of a week in Destin. But others might be so inspired by it that you someday return to watch one of them take an oath of office at the Capitol.

John David Dyche is a Louisville attorney and a political commentator for WDRB.com. His e-mail is jddyche@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @jddyche.

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