OUR TOWN: Bardstown's Talbott Tavern is country's oldest bourbon - WDRB 41 Louisville News

OUR TOWN: Bardstown's Talbott Tavern is country's oldest bourbon bar

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The Talbott Tavern was built in 1779. The Talbott Tavern was built in 1779.
Customers have been coming to the Talbott Tavern since before Bardstown was founded. Customers have been coming to the Talbott Tavern since before Bardstown was founded.
According to legend, outlaw Jessie James put these bullet holes in the walls when he became upset during a poker game. According to legend, outlaw Jessie James put these bullet holes in the walls when he became upset during a poker game.
Talbott Tavern owner Jim Kelley and his brother are expanding the Talbott Tavern, and plan to open the Talbott Inn. Talbott Tavern owner Jim Kelley and his brother are expanding the Talbott Tavern, and plan to open the Talbott Inn.

BARDSTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) -- It could be the oldest remaining tavern in the United States -- the Talbott Tavern was built in the heart of Bardstown in 1779. It's part restaurant, part bar, and part inn.

Stepping inside the Talbott Tavern is like stepping back in history. You'll find bullet holes in the walls where outlaw Jesse James actually shot the place up. According to legend, James was in a poker match one night and had a little too much to drink before he opened fire. 

"We are the oldest bourbon hall in the world," said Jim Kelley, the owner.

In fact, the Talbott Tavern's was built before Bardstown became an actual town. 

"Early settlers, this is what they would call a public house," Kelley said.

"We we offer it all here rooms, food....everything that they need," he added.

The tavern is the cornerstone of Court Square and for Kelley, it's a second home. 

"I grew up in the place, started washing dishes, and did all the jobs between there and actually running the place," he said.

Kelley and his brother are building a new chapter in Talbot Tavern's history. They bought the property next-door at auction. Plans call for a $1 million renovation, converting the space into 15 hotel rooms. 

Builder Bill Brown says the property was in such bad shape when he started construction he worried if it would stand. 

"We stripped everything out of here except of what was holding the building up," Brown said.

"I lost sleep, yeah," Brown said. "Sleepless night, you'd wake up and try and figure something out for the next day.

But after hauling out the mess workers uncovered a frame in solid shape. When the project is finished, the masonry will stay exposed, marrying together the architectural fabric with a modern design. 

Cobbled in the tavern walls, the Kelleys found a family secret -- the building had been in their family all along. 

"Found out it was built by my great grandfather in 1913, he and another partner built it for his law office," Kelley said. 

The Kelleys want to capitalize Bardstown's Bourbon boom. 

The Talbott Tavern Inn is scheduled to open Oct. 1. The oldest living footprint in Bardstown, Kentucky, building a new chapter -- one that Kelly hopes will live for another 200-years. 

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