The Capital City Museum is a god place to learn about Frankfort, Kentucky.

Capital City Museum – Frankfort’s Time Capsule

It’s not as easy to be a capital city.  Frankfort had to outbid neighboring cities to gain the title, in 1792. Twice the capitol building burned down, which allowed those other cities to attempt to usurp the seat of state government. Having a centralized location helped keep the capital in “Mainhattan” (Frankfort’s nickname). To learn more about Kentucky’s capital city (our 18th capitol visit), we stopped by Capital City Museum. This FREE attraction lays out the city’s history with a nice selection of exhibits. 

We want to thank Visit Frankfort for hosting our visit. rest assured all opinions are our own.

The origins of Frankfort, Kentucky holds many interesting stories.

A New State is Born

Right out of the chute, we learned that Kentucky was carved out of  Virginia territory. We knew this was the case for West Virginia, but didn’t realize just how large Virginia had been. The area that has become the capital city originally had several river fords. They were used by herds of buffalo to cross the Kentucky River. By the time European explorers arrived, they discovered various native tribes were frequenting the region. Stephen Frank, an early settler, was killed during a skirmish with natives, in 1780. His demise would lead to the name “Frank’s Ford”, which was later changed to Frankfort.

capital City Museum tells the story of various American presidents who visited Frankfort.

VIP Appearances

Hailing from a state that gained statehood in 1861, we were surprised to see how many early notable names had come from or visited Frankfort. These days it’s a big deal when a president visits your city. It’s hard to imagine an event that would draw four American presidents (one past, the present, and two future). In 1819, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and Zachary Taylor paid a visit to Kentucky statesman John Brown. This capital city was also the location of Vice president Aaron Burr’s first trials for treason. Three times he was called to court and each one ended in acquittal. 

The Civil War had a lasting impact on Frankfort, kentucky.

Capital City Museum Makes it Personal

The unusual history didn’t end there. At the Capital City Museum, we learned that Frankfort was the only Unionist state capital ever held by Confederate troops. Many of the border states had both North and South sympathizers. Kentucky started the Civil War as a neutral state, but would eventually side with the Union. After the war, racial and political violence grew. While on a history walk, we  noted a statue of Governor William Goebel. After winning a hotly contested election, he was shot in front of the Old State Capitol. He was sworn in the following day and succumbed to his injuries a couple of days later. This makes him the only state governor to be assassinated while in office. 

Crafting bourbons has become a lucrative business in Frankfort.

Kentucky Gold

Before our visit to Frankfort, we had limited knowledge of Kentucky’s notable products. The Capital City Museum would help us gain more insight. We knew that the state was famous for its bourbons, but never realized how many distilleries there were in this state. Buffalo Trace is one of the oldest continuously operating distilleries. Their award winning operation has survived floods and fires, during its 200-year history. While prohibition signaled the end of some bourbon crafters, others have risen from the ashes to make Frankfort a key stop along the Bourbon Trail.

Kentucky fishing reels are sought after prizes by many anglers.

Unexpected Finds

I grew up in a family that enjoys fishing. Little did I know, but Frankfort is home to world famous reel makers. During the first half of the 1800s, the Meek Brothers, Jonathan and Benjamin, were successful watchmakers in Frankfort, Kentucky. Seizing on the demand for an effective baitcasting reel, they began building small reels for freshwater fishing. Over time, they would expand their line to include larger reels for tarpon and tuna.   

The authors treated themselves after their visit to Capital City Museum.

Celebrating Our History Lesson

As we continued exploring the Capital City Museum exhibits, we found more surprises. In 1910, Boy Scout Troop 1 was chartered in Frankfort, Kentucky. Dr. Martin Luther King was joined by baseball great, Jackie Robinson, during a march on the Kentucky capital in 1964. There were many more memorable events in Frankfort’s history, but our time had come to move along. To celebrate our successful history lesson, we rewarded ourselves with a special treat from Hoggy’s Ice Cream. This woman-owned enterprise was another historic stop for us, in Kentucky’s capital city. 

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