Old Kentucky Turnpike Scenic Byway

It’s a picturesque route starting at the Falls of the Ohio, that traels deep into the rich, green wooded landscape further south. And the story you’ll discover is the story of Kentucky itself. When statehood arrived on the frontier in 1792, most of the residents were poor, scratching out a living farming and traveling by flatboat and wagon. By the time the Antebellum era arrived in the early 1800s, Marylanders and Virginians began moving in to find fresh land to grow tobacco, building great plantation houses, and acquire massive spreads. A network of stagecoach roads, including the Old Kentucky Turnpike, were constructed to make it easier for the new planters to get their crops to market. When it became evident that War would come, many residents migrated to Tennessee and Missouri to avoid disputes that ultimately split the state, which was part Northern and part Southern, and its families in two. It was into this milieu that Abraham Lincoln, the US President during the Civil War, and Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy were both born in Kentucky, just a few years apart. Self-taught Lincoln was the son of a hardscrabble frontier farmer and Davis, who was raised on a prosperous farm, would go on to West Point. The route itself begins at My Old Kentucky Home State Park, where his cousin’s prestigious Antebellum mansion, Federal Hill, inspired the great American composer Stephen Foster to write what was likely his most recognized song. The story of the struggle during the Civil war is told in Bardstown at the Civil War Museum, where you can also ride the Old Kentucky Dinner Train for an evening of gracious dining and enjoy a carriage ride through a historic downtown. The rest of the Byway moves deep into the back country, where you’ll discover the hardscrabble life of Abraham Lincoln as he struggled to learn and make a living. It’s quite a story that’s revealed in a short 28 miles. One of great contrasts, like the state itself.