Wow, when I was growing up, Gay Paree meant something entirely different from now. Gay meant happy, carefree and fun-loving. Well, Paris, Kentucky might not be quite as exciting as all that, but it is a charming, warm and inviting place to visit.
Do you remember studying Kentucky history? I hope so, but personally, I don’t remember much beyond Daniel Boone and Henry Clay. So imagine my surprise to learn just how old Paris, Ky. really is! Ok, I see you history buffs rolling your eyes, but for the rest of us, let’s explore a little history of the town that started out known as Hopewell. Well, wait a minute, first let me say that the Bourbon County librarian (who shall remain nameless because I forgot to ask) was a wealth of information about local history. Also, there is a very quaint museum, The Hopewell Museum, at 800 Pleasant Street. Both are worth a stop because the librarian and docent were so friendly, genuinely helpful and full of great information.
Hopewell was originally part of Virginia and it was established in 1775. James Garrard, Bourbon County’s Representative to the Virginia Legislature, petitioned to change the name to Paris in 1790. Bourbon County, formed in 1785 from Fayette County, and its county seat , Paris, were named for the Bourbon line of kings and the French city out of gratitude to the French for their assistance during the Revolutionary War. Paris was formally chartered by the Kentucky State Legislature in 1862.
Besides the history, here are some things I loved about visiting Paris. The drive is stunning – from I75 take Route 460 East and you’ll pass pastoral horse farms with miles of slave fences. It is the essence of bluegrass horse county! Yes, I made Charlie pull over (something he detests) and let me drink in the sights and take pictures, of course. I’m not sure which is most beautiful, the horses, the farms or the fences.
The most beautiful and peaceful spot in town is the Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum. It’s the headquarters of the Kentucky Garden Club. It was so impressive that there will be a separate post with lots of pictures. It’s at 616 Pleasant Street.
The architecture of the Bourbon County Courthouse and surrounding buildings are definitely in the European style.
And we ate a delicious lunch, including fabulous chicken salad, at Vardens which is an old style apothecary with lots of wood shelving and cabinets intact. There was even stained glass inside! It reminded me of a public restroom in Paris, France that had stained glass in the stall doors.
Well, that’s only the tip of the iceberg of things to do and see in Paris. More details will be forthcoming, including a look at Paris, Kentucky versus Paris, France. Hope you’ll stay tuned or maybe visit Paris and share some of your own finds from there.