Knob Creek, KY: Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home, from age 2

If you were on a Lincoln pilgrimage to the impressive memorial at Lincoln’s birthplace, and have some spare time, one of the places you might want to consider as part of your trip is  Knob Creek, KY, the homestead his family moved to when he was two years old; Granted, what’s currently there now is nowhere near as impressive as what stands at his birthplace, but it would have been the place he thought of as his childhood home, and unlike the birthplace, this is where he would have had an emotional connection to… and as such, it’s worth a few minutes.

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BOY do I fall behind in my “work” when it comes to this blog. WAY back in 2016 I visited this part of the country, and I had THOUGHT I had blogged about it, but when in 2018 I went to Springfield, IL, the site of Lincoln’s adult home, and his tomb… and found myself wanting to link to that blog post about the one I had done for his birthplace … and found myself wondering where in the hell that blog for it had gone to, only to realize I’d never written it … I decided to rectify that lapse (a few days ago), and today I’m doing the same for this satellite location where he grew up. That said, it’s been a LONG time since I was there, and although I’m looking back in my Facebook postings for notes, those were pretty scarce… so this post will mostly be about the pictures.

The site of Lincoln’s childhood home about 42.5 miles/about an easy 15 minute drive from his birthplace – where his family moved to when he was two years old. So if you choose to visit it (and why not) an important thing to keep in mind is that a horse walks about four miles per hour, and as such… in Lincoln’s time the distance between the two locations took was about 10 hours by horse, or about 14 hours by foot — so it’s likely Lincoln might have had no memory at all of the place of his birth, and as such, to him, Knob Creek would have been much more important to him emotionally.

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That said, it is a quick nine minute drive from Hodgenville, KY, a very small town of around five eateries (two being fast food) and little “commercial” museum (basically a business set up by a local). That’s also worth stopping in.

As you’re driving down road 31E watch out for this sign on your left, as it’s fairly easy to drive past if you’re not paying attention (like I said, it’s unimpressive).

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What you’ll see is a nondescript roadhouse type building that was built much later on the same property (sorry, I never bothered to take a picture of it, as it is NOT related to Lincoln) and some parking… At the time when I went to visit the building was essentially empty, but had some of these signs scattered around it explaining what it was

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Once you’ve parked and walked behind that front building, you’ll see this

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And then scattered around that are more official “tourist signs” offering information about the location.

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After that you might want to consider a trip back into Hodgenville for a bite to eat, and to walk around the little museum they have there.

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There are TWO massive statues in the middle of town….One is very similar to, but different from the at the Lincoln Memorial in D.C.,  As I discuss in the blog post about his tomb, which I visited two years later, in Springfield, IL in 2018; one of the things I learned there from the docent giving the tour was that first statue of Lincoln that you see when you enter the tomb is NOT an exact copy of the one in the D.C., but rather a precursor to it… according to the docent, the artist, Daniel Chester French had actually presented various bronze versions of the statue, before one was chosen to be chiseled in marble, and the one in the tomb was one of them. I initially was guessing that this one here near the place of his birth was one of those other designs (because it’s almost a copy of it) …. but one should never assume, because according to Wikipedia, I was wrong…  I actually feel kind of sad for the artist of this statue, because AS a former artist myself, there’s nothing more disheartening than having a paying customer who only wants you to mimic someone else’s work.

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Not my image, borrowed from this open source website dedicated to US presidents

Than, across the park (?) from the much older Lincoln, stands a newer smaller statue of Lincoln as the young boy he might have been when he lived here, sitting on a log, reading a book, and looking across a street to the statue of himself as an adult… almost as though he were dreaming of who he might be when he grew up. It’s really a very nice juxtaposition… and I’m guessing that artist (of the newer statue) has a lot of pride in his new creation. In fact, AS a former artist, I think the new statue sort of redeems the copycat older one.

 

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Keep in mind, when this picture was taken, Obama was still President

As is visible in the picture of the statue of the older Lincoln, behind it there is a museum dedicated to Lincoln. In fact it’s a sort of shop, really; as, it is a commercial/private enterprise rather than professionally curated museum, which is pretty obvious once you get inside. That said, I think it’s still worth looking at, especially if you have kids with you who are just learning about Lincoln.

First when you walk in there are a wide variety of art type objects related to Lincoln that are scattered pell-mell through the front rooms (like I said, NOT curated in any way shape of form)

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One of my favorite pieces in the collection, it’s very conceptual and made with local stone

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Two images… the first is a print where the artist has created a montage of Lincoln’s face using a variety of actual photographs taken of him, the second is an image of him made up of Lincoln pennies

Once you pass this area you enter a back section where a LOT more effort was put into creating the area. Each section is full of life-size constructed vignettes or dioramas full of antiques (authenticity or period-correctness be damned I am guessing, but again I’m not sure) with semi-realistic wax dolls, sort of like a mini Madame Tussaud‘s dedicated to Lincoln, at different points in his life

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So, like I said, especially if you’re traveling with a child, and you know your history and can explain, I think the museum is definitley worth a walk through.

 

 

 

 

 

Is there a the connection between Lincoln logs and the log cabin Abraham Lincoln was born in? HMMMMMMMM…. a theory

I have just come up with a convoluted but not so unlikely theory regarding the invention of Lincoln logs and why they are called Lincoln logs…

So yesterday while Visiting Lincoln’s home in Springfield, IL I learned they were invented by Frank Loyd Wrights son…

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Well I have been the memorial for Lincoln’s birthplace, inside of which stands a log cabin

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today I learn I was wondering who were these Lincoln Farm Association folks…  and learned that…

According to Wikipedia:

Richard Lloyd Jones “From 1903 until 1911, he was a writer and associate editor for Collier’s Weekly, working under the publisher Robert J. Collier.[1] In 1905, Robert Collier and Jones collaborated to buy the old Abraham Lincoln farm at auction in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Then they organized a fundraising campaign to establish a historic site, which was opened during the Lincoln Centennial in 1909. The first board of trustees for the site included Jones, Jenkin Lloyd Jones [his dad]Mark TwainWilliam Jennings Bryan and President William H. Taft.[1]

AND….

Jenkin Lloyd Jones was not only a famous Unitarian minister, but was ALSO the uncle of Frank Lloyd Wright.

So what you ask?

I have been to Lincoln’s birth place, and according to both the staff member at the memorial  and Wikipedia the log cabin that is there is NOT the original, but according to this site it was — or at least the guys who made up the Lincoln Association, who were the ones that bought the building thought it was. Doing more research I found this site which sort of explains the confusion.

Apparently, in 1894 a speculator by the name of A.W. Dennett bought the farm where Lincoln had been born thinking people would want to see it, and had deconstructed a two-story log cabin found on a different part of the property, and moved its logs over to the spot where the original farm was thought to have stood (the original building had long ago been disassembled and he just assumed that this Lincoln cabin had been built using those logs). He then opened the spot for business, only no one came — because, no one was interested enough to shelp to rural Kentucky… So, as the saying goes, if you can’t bring Mohammed to the Mountain…. and at one point he added the logs from the cabin that was supposed to have been the childhood home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. But, with all the building and taking-apart and moving around, the Davis logs and the Lincoln logs got mixed up… so that by the time the Lincoln Farm Association got around to buying the land and the logs back from Dennett, it was anybody’s guess (by historical standards) which if any of the logs were from the original house, when they ‘rebuilt the house’ in Hodgenville.

SO, Frank Loyd Wright’s son is the cousin of the guy who started the foundation to buy up the property that had been Lincoln’s birthplace and original home which was on touring display (come see Lincoln’s cabin) both of which were owned by the same guy… oh and this guy also own the Jefferson Davis logs from his original home and would show them together… and in the South, Lincoln logs were not marketed as Lincoln logs, they were marketed as Jefferson Davis Logs… coincidence? I doubt it…

 

Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace; Hodgenville, KY

The Birthplace of Abraham Lincoln is located on the top of a hill just outside of Hodgenville Kentucky, in National Historical Park that safeguards both his birthplace and the first home he lived in. Other than that, there’s really not much there.

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Over a year ago, on Sunday Nov. 13, 2016, during one of my many road trips I had pit stopped at the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln, and for some reason COMPLETELY forgotten to blog about it. (I had been to Zachary Taylor’s Tomb the day before and THAT I had blogged about, but for some reason never did this.) I thought I had, but apparently Not so much. I didn’t realize till just yesterday, when I was blogging about his tomb and wanting to link to the post about his birthplace and wondering where the hell the blog for it had gone to … so I have decided to rectify that lapse now. That said, it’s been a LONG time since I was there, and although I’m looking back in my Facebook postings for notes, those were pretty scarce… so this post will mostly be about the pictures.

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So, one thing I did find in my Facebook notes from the day of my visit was that there had been NO WiFi or data accessible outside of the building (I have T-Mobile), although there was some free WiFi inside of it.

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Getting up to the top of the building was NOT easy for me. My legs were still very weak at this point, and all of the various ways up to the monument involved a lot of steps (handicapped accessible the place is not)….

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The poor Dachshund belonging to these two people was not liking the steps either

Today I learned from Wikipedia that there are in fact 56 steps going up the hill, and that the number is intentional, as it was Lincoln’s age at the time of his death

Once you got to the top you could read this dedication laid into the stone …
(only I remember at the time I was seriously wondering why almost all the R’s in it looked like P’s)

Here
over the log cabin where Abraham Lincoln was born
Destined to preserve the Union and to free the slave
A grateful people have dedicated this memorial
To unity peace and brotherhood among these states
With Malice toward none, with charity for all

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And when you got inside (according to my FB notes from that day) there was movie about Lincoln and his life, whose over-riding message was that “acceptance and inclusion are what makes America great”… something that had sounded particularly jarring to me at the time. (Keep in mind that Donald Trump beaten Hillary in the election for President JUST four days before, and I was in the state of Kentucky, a former slave state that had declared neutrality at the start of the Civil war, and where pro-Trump stickers and posters were common place — he won the state by 62.54%, and on that day every racist red neck in the state was still in a state of euphoria over the win).

There was a nice bronze of Lincoln’s family, when he was a tiny baby (having just been born of course)

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And then inside this huge structure stood what the staff member (I remember this person was particularly grumpy) told me and the other visitors was a reminder of the original house. We were like all amazed that it was the actual house and he was like, “No, it’s just a replica.”

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You can see the cabin stands empty (no furniture), and in the bottom left the staff member who told us it wasn’t the actual home

So, while from the outside it’s a very nice looking building (there was a slab on the side of the building that gives you some of the history of the place… something about the whole thing had my hackles up… could a state that had just gone overwhelmingly Trump have actually put up a monument to Lincoln?

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According to this plaque on the outside of the building I still couldn’t be sure. It says that the memorial was built with funds raised by the Lincoln Farm association, the Cornerstone was laid by President Roosevelt in 1909, and it was dedicated by President Taft in 1911

However, now that I’m researching all of this I have learned that, the Association was founded in 1906 specifically to save this location, was headquartered in New York (NOT Kentucky) and included such notables as Samuel Clemens (aka, Mark Twain), Ida M. Tarbell, Robert Collier and Richard Lloyd Jones

According to Wikipedia: “From 1903 until 1911, he was a writer and associate editor for Collier’s Weekly, working under the publisher Robert J. Collier.[1] In 1905, Robert Collier and Jones collaborated to buy the old Abraham Lincoln farm at auction in Hodgenville, Kentucky. Then they organized a fundraising campaign to establish a historic site, which was opened during the Lincoln Centennial in 1909. The first board of trustees for the site included Jones, Jenkin Lloyd Jones [his dad]Mark TwainWilliam Jennings Bryan and President William H. Taft.[1]

So in other words, No, this memorial was NOT built by the state of Kentucky or even anyone who lived here.

According to both the staff member and Wikipedia the log cabin is NOT the original, but according to this site it was — or at least the guys who bought the building thought it was. Doing more research I found this site which sort of explains the confusion.

Apparently, in 1894 a speculator by the name of A.W. Dennett bought the farm where Lincoln had been born thinking people would want to see it, and had deconstructed a two-story log cabin found on a different part of the property, and moved its logs over to the spot where the original farm was thought to have stood (the original building had long ago been disassembled and he just assumed that this Lincoln cabin had been built using those logs). He then opened the spot for business, only no one came — because, no one was interested enough to shelp to rural Kentucky… So, as the saying goes, if you can’t bring Mohammed to the Mountain…. and at one point he added the logs from the cabin that was supposed to have been the childhood home of Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy. But, with all the building and taking-apart and moving around, the Davis logs and the Lincoln logs got mixed up… so that by the time the Lincoln Farm Association got around to buying the land and the logs back from Dennett, it was anybody’s guess (by historical standards) which if any of the logs were from the original house, when they ‘rebuilt the house’ in Hodgenville.

So, all that said, back to the site…  At the bottom of the hill where the memorial to Lincoln’s childhood home sits, on what is known to have been the location of said home is a spring, which is still there….

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And worth walking down to…

Also, out by the parking lot, there is something actually pretty cool. It is a metal copy of the memorial specifically designed to allow blind people to see the memorial. Keep in mind blind people see by using the sense of touch…  Cool right? I seriously wonder why I haven’t seen more of these around the country. This would be my first.

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Louiseville Slugger Museum, KY

What the name suggests: it’s very touristy, but interesting; and worth driving by, if only to see the worlds largest baseball bat (but made of carbon steel, not wood). It is an oversized replica of the bat the Louisville Slugger company made for Babe Ruth (aka, ‘The Bambino’ or ‘The Sultan of Swat’in the 1920s.

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Among the sources I used when planning my trips, there’s a web-page/iPhone app resource that I use, called Roadtrippers.com where you can load in your destinations, and the application/web site will pop up a list of all the various things you might want to consider stopping at along the way (in its “oddities” category, which I love). You chose the ones you want, and then on your iPhone you load the list… HOWEVER, I have also found that the addresses appended to those locations are NOT always correct, so it’s best to then double check them with google. (For instance, on this day I was TRYING to get to the Louisville Slugger museum which is in downtown Louisville, and got misdirected to a residential neighborhood in what seemed to be the worst part of Louisville (really run down). But there were factories there so I thought MAYBE this right… till I ended up on a residential street. That said, it wasn’t a complete waste, as I learned from the myriad of signs (advertising the fact), that this was the neighborhood where Muhammad Ali, formerly known as Cassius Clay, had been born.)

I then (thank the lord for the iPhone and cellphone data plans — folks not old enough to remember a time before such things don’t appreciate just how magical it is) googled the attraction and found the correct address, which was a good thing because an old friend of mine was actually driving in from her small town in Indiana (two hours away) to meet up with me there.

As I waited for her (she was, thankfully, running late as well) I discovered that Louisville has done something very smart, they’re historic downtown is full of these amazingly beautiful historic buildings. When the area got run down and the businesses for the most part left for safer neighborhoods, they ‘restored’ most of them, by leaving the amazing facades and ripping out everything behind it. Most of these buildings they then filled up with museums and other touristy attractions. So there’s now a ‘historic’ museum row / tourist mecca that is centrally located with most of what you’d  (as a tourist) want to see when visiting Louisville.

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Just out front of the Museum was a fairly in-congruent statue of Captain America… I have no idea WHY it was there, but it was pretty cool… and purely coincidentally, it matched my shirt.

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But it may have been reflective of the large number of street pieces along Museum row, of which I only photographed a few.

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And then lining the sides of the museum were these highly inconspicuous, to the point of one almost tripped me…  little memorials to various famous players who had preferred the Louisville slugger bat.

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The first (and last thing) you see upon entering the building is the gift shop, which impressive in it’s own right, with everything from key chains and bumper stickers to collectors items, like baseballs signed by some of the greats, which you can buy.

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The one things that I found “tempting” was walking sticks made out of mini baseball bats. As I’ve discussed previously I’ve been suffering from periodic bouts of benign positional vertigo now for about 15 years, so for me walking sticks are useful, AND these could double as a self-defense weapon.

that said, the Baseball Bat Museum is reasonably priced (see below); but that said, my friend and I were actually able to get in for FREE!! (can’t beat free). It was an off-season weekday, and the tour, which was just about to begin, was far from sold out; as such they were just handing out the tickets. (This made me think that the store is far more profitable than the museum itself, while the latter draws new customers to the former.)

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In the waiting area before the factory tour there’s a museum devoted to Louisville Slugger bats, and baseball in general.

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In it, there’s a batting cage area where you can put on gloves, and get to hold and test the weights of various bats that were ACTUALLY used by some the greats.

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In addition to an extensive collection of memorabilia, and explanations about the history of baseball, there are also Madame Tussauds type wax figures of some of the greats that you can can go right up to, take your picture with — and I saw some people touching them.

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At a certain time, an announcement is made, and all the people wandering through the museum file into a loading area, and watch a movie loaded with facts and figures regarding the production and sale of Louisville slugger bats.

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After the movie, we walked through the factory area, with demonstrations of bats being made by hand (solely for the purpose of the tour), and then there are explanations of how they are made now. There are low tech systems, which are used to make bats for sale to the general public, or little league teams. One interesting factoid she shared was that, if you’re a baseball player in the minor leagues, odds are you’ll use a custom made bat to your preferred configurations, however, you have to pay for your own bats, the teams don’t pay for them for you — while they DO pay for the major league players‘ bats.

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But, on the seemly unrelated topic of “why the jobs are not coming back” — a conversation I had had a few weeks before with a progressive liberal friend who was sure Bernie Sanders would be able to do this (I spent a few hours trying, but failing, to convince him otherwise…. I now offer the case of the Louisville Slugger:

According to our tour guide, it used to be that the bats were all turned by hand on the lave, each one taking about four hours of very careful shaving, smoothing and measuring to produce. Then, the industrial revolution reached baseball, and the bats were, and (for the most part) continue to be produced by a factory mechanized system which, while nowhere near as precise, allowed them to make bats that were much cheaper and therefore able to reach a broader market; and as I said, these are the ones that are today sold to the home market, Little League’s, and customers like that.  Then they showed us a brand new very expensive computerized machine that, in just one hour can produce the entire needs of a major-league team … THREE times over. They spoke of it with great pride, noting that at that moment it was making special order bats for the Chicago Cubs that were painted blue and said “World Series champions” — having just broken their 108 year losing streak by beating the Cleveland Indians, who were the 2nd most losing team in the country. And everyone in the group was all happy and impressed until I chirped up…

Question: “You said that untill the computerized system arrived professional bats, for minor league and National league players, were made by hand… correct?”
“yes”
“Then, could you tell me HOW many workers this one machine put out of work?”

Suffice it to say the girl leading the tour didn’t look happy, and the people in my tour group looked at me annoyed (how dare I point out the obvious)… She didn’t know but promised to get the answer by the end of the tour, which was that this one computerized machine has replaced/made redundant 50 highly skilled workers.

Jobs that be done cheaper aboard, enough so that the added shipping still results in a cheaper product than what can be produced at home will be produced abroad. At a certain point, labors who previously were happy with 10 cents an hour are now asking for $1.50, and that becomes no longer true. AT THAT POINT, it then becomes cheaper to invest in a computerized production system that can do a job as well as any skilled laborer, only much quicker…. And THAT ladies and gentleman is why the jobs aren’t coming back.

After the tour was over we were taken into a final room, and were allowed to choose our only miniature baseball bats out of the bin in this picture, to take home as a souveigner.

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And then towards the back of the building there is an actual batters cage where you can try out your skills against an automated pitcher, using different types and weights of bats produced by the company.

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On one side of the building that houses the factory tour, they also have a small Ripleys believe it or not subsection (believe it or not… seriously WHAT is this doing here?). Most of what’s there is less the “believe it or not” sort of stuff that would show up in a circus side show, and more art in utilizing “unusual” mediums, so like duct tape, chewing gum or nuts, but some of it is the more exotic stuff — at Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.

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After we finished with the museum, and walking around the downtown area we headed back to the neighborhood I had been to the day before, where Zachary Taylor’s grave yard is. We HAD wanted to have dinner downtown, but a staff member in the museum had STRONGLY warned us against it, saying that once the businesses had closed up it would quickly become an unsafe neighborhood. As such, I suggested that we go to the same restaurant I had gone to the night before, a place with AMAZING food in a neighborhood full of what looked to be multi-million dollar homes.

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Anoosh Bistro was a restaurant I had found the day before using Yelp. The first time I came I was deeply impressed with how Anoosh and his wait staff were HIGHLY accommodating to my medical dietary needs.  The first time I had the Cioppino (Fresh Fish, Shrimp, King Crab, Mussels, Clams, Tomato Saffron Clam Broth — all of which was incredibly fresh, and there was so much fish that I ended up taking home half) & the poached pear salad, which was incredibly tasty — I ate the salad before the meal and saved the pear for my desert (there was SO much alcohol in the pear that it left me tipsy).

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As I was leaving, the first time, I discovered that this place is actually halal (the owner is Lebanese — considered by many to have the best pallet in the middle east) — which is a good thing.

This time, with my old friend from University … I had the red snapper special with black rice and vegetables (they had modified it to meet my dietary needs) while she had the chicken curry which smelled amazing… and both of us were doing the ‘happy food dance’… Although Andie ate my carrots for me cause I hate cooked carrots (and they’re not good for me either, too much sugar) while I ate her asparagus for her…. She said my carrots were also amazing.

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Then, for dessert — something I generally skip unless they have fresh berries… she ordered the white chocolate bread pudding with their home made pistachio ice cream in place of vanilla. I had a tiny taste of both and they were amazing… especially the ice cream which we were sure was made in house… (we tasted a tiny undercurrent of rose water in it).

My Dad would’ve approved (and he always really liked Andie, and he loved bread pudding). As she ate it (I did have a small taste) we were remembering the one time my dad made her dinner, and it was mind-blowingly amazing…  but it was one of these things where he just kind of improvised with whatever happened to be in the house, so that afterwards he could never duplicate it because he could never remember how he got there.

Zachary Taylor National Cemetery, Louisville KY

Located just at the edge of Louisville Kentucky, in a residential neighborhood, this national military cemetery dedicated to the son, and 12th President of the United states, sits on part of what had originally been his father’s, Richard Taylor, 400 acre estate, Springfield; according to some sources — but not others, this land had been gifted to the President’s father by the government in thanks for his service as an officer of the Continental Army in the Revolutionary War, other sources claim he had purchased the land.

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Originally the family plot for the Taylor Family, after Zachary Taylor had ascended to the office of President of the United States, a Washington outsider and popular war hero with limited political experience — and was soon thereafter buried after having only served 16 months — probably from a horrible case of the shits (Dysentery), although from what I’ve read they tried to cover it up by saying he had Cholera, which was endemic at the time.

Much later, in the 1920’s, the family initiated an act of Congress to transfer the title to the government, at which time it was converted to also be a local military graveyard. Because of a legal technicality, members of the Taylor family can still be buried there in the family plot section; even though that bit is surrounded by the National Cemetery, it does actually not belong to the government, even though it is tended by government. This was despite the best efforts of the family, because the Army judge advocate general decided against federal possession, even though to the average it appears to be the same cemetery. Originally only a half acre in size, two donations from the state of Kentucky increased the size to its current 16 acres.

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The Taylor home, which is not far from the cemetery, is a private home hidden in an upscale residential neighborhood, and while it IS a National Historic Landmark it is NOT a designated national park, because the local neighbors have fought against it. All things considered, you sort of got to feel sorry for Zachary Taylor, it’s like the man quickly died an ignominious death and ultimately got no respect  … but in lieu of this years presidential election results…..

Anyway, it was a pretty graveyard
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Zachary Taylor and his wife were moved from their original resting place in the the family plot (see below) — a very plain almost ignominious subterranean mausoleum, which is NOT technically part of the cemetery, to this fancier mausoleum next to his monument (see above), which I’m assuming is…
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The Mary Todd-Lincoln House.

Definitely worth a visit: Apparently the first museum devoted to a first lady. I learned a lot about her during the visit and now have a lot more respect and sympathy for her than I did previously.

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Finding this place wasn’t difficult (with GPS helping), and once you’re in the right part of town the house its self is easy enough to spot, in fact there are signs everywhere of the “hi you’re here” variety — but I’ve got to warn you, that the signage that was supposed to direct visitors to it’s parking lot was horrible! There’s this narrow little alleyway that odds are you won’t spot, which is where you need to turn down off of the busy main street in order to get to the parking lot behind the house, and G-d help you! It really is NOT clearly marked, nor is the traffic pattern in front of the house set up to aid out-of-town visitors to make the turn safely.

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I enjoyed my visit here. A lot of historical research, time, effort, and money was invested in order to try to recreate the home as Lincoln might have known it when he visited here. According to our docent, a retired female lawyer, as a result of various historical flukes, historians have a pretty good idea of exactly what items were in the house, and if they weren’t successful in tracking down the specific items the Todds owned (although happily in many cases they were), then they were able to replace them with items sufficiently similar as to give visitors a fairly accurate sense of being in their home. Anytime the items were known to have been owned by the Todd or the Lincoln families, the docent would point them out, and she always made it clear when they were not. So for instance they knew Mary Todd had a preference for the work of a particular furniture designer, and they have some of his pieces but aren’t sure if they’re the exact ones own by Mary… etc. In the picture below for instance, the table she (in white sweater) is standing next to was the actual one from the home, as was the bible laying on it.

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I learned a lot of interesting things, such as the house (after the Todds had sold it) became the brothel where a soon to be famous madam, Belle Brezing, who many believe became the template for the Belle Watling character in ‘Gone with the Wind,’ got her ‘training’; and that after Lincoln’s death, Mary’s son, who didn’t recognized the symptoms of laudanum/morphine addiction (which she had been proscribed as a cure for migraines) had his mother declared insane, and tried to get control of her money.

The first time I read about this place was in a blog devoted to ‘things worth stopping to see while road-tripping with the kids down to Disney World.’ However, back in June of 2015, when I was initially making that trip south from Chicago to Orlando, I was still one month shy of the end of the proscribed (by Jewish law) 11 months of mourning for my father, and as such couldn’t do anything ‘fun.’ However, I remembered it now, almost a year later, and since I discovered it was effectively on my path from my friends home in Georgia, to visiting another friend currently doing time in Ohio, I made a point of stopping to see it (in fact, all other things I did while in Lexington were peripheral to this stop).

The American Saddlebred Museum

This is one of my favorite sorts of museums, folks who are entirely geeking out about something they love…. in this case, a specific breed of horse called the American Saddlebred horse, which used to be called “Kentucky Saddler.”

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I found this museum on a list of ‘unusual’ things to visit in Lexington, KY. I had just driven up from the Pigeon Forge, TN (Dollywood) and was hoping to arrive in time to see Mary Todd’s Home, but that had closed at 3pm and I arrived at around 3:30pm. So, I decided to spend the night and to do it the next day. It is located on the grounds of the Kentucky State Horse Farm Park and apparently is usually a combined ticket to the race track, meet and greet with the horses, pony rides, etc., but I wasn’t here for those things…I was here for the geek museum.

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The area is broken into two rooms — the first is a massive collection of personal momentous from trainers including paintings and sculptures they had commissioned of themselves and their favorite horses,

… as well as personal mementoes, like awards they’d won, or favorite saddles, riding gear, etc.

The 2nd is a museum dedicated to history of the breed, the uses of the horses, and some history of the people who worked with them. Walking around the space it is clear from walking around here that serious money had been spent.

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There are two full documentaries (which I have a feeling they had specially made), one about the horses the museum honors and another about the forgotten history of black trainers who didn’t receive any recognition before the 1970’s. According to the film the color barrier didn’t just apply to people; one of the stories the film told was about a horse that wasn’t winning awards because of her odd color (silver), so her trainer — who was a person of color himself, dyed her brown instead of silver and changed her name to painted lady, and she began winning.

The movie that was just about the horses, their history, and why these people love them, includes an interview with the actor William Shatner (of Star Trek fame, again, GEEK) …

 
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