Kentucky County Seats: Paris
On a rainy morning, I ventured to southward to photograph one of the Commonwealth's most underrated county seats. Paris
, located in Bourbon County northeast of Lexington, is known for its "horses, history and hospitality," and is surrounded by storied horse farms and thousands of acres of fertile land.
The city was settled near Doyle Spring long Stoner Fork of the Licking River in 1775 and was officially chartered in 1789 as Hopewell, most likely named after Hopewell, New Jersey, hometown of Lawrence Protzman who was the proprietor of the land on which the town was founded upon. James Garrard, the Bourbon County Representative on the Virginia Legislature, petitioned to change the town name to Paris in 1790 after the French city as tribute to the gratitude towards the French for their assistance during the Revolutionary War. Bourbon County was named for the Bourbon line of kings in France.
In 1792, Kentucky was admitted to the Union and the first post office in Hopewell was referred to as Bourbonton and Bourbon Courthouse. It was not until 1862 that Paris was formally chartered by the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The city grew in the early 1900s, namely because of burley and hemp, major cash crops for the state. Hemp and cotton factories were located in the city that manufactured rope and cloth, and mammoth warehouses stored crops for sale on the market.
But Paris became a sleepy bedroom community of Lexington in later years, divided by the dangerous Paris Pike that carries US 27 and US 68 between the two cities. The 12 mile, two-lane roadway was rebuilt in the early 2000s in one of the most context sensitive projects ever undertaken by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The now-four-lane highway is considered one of the most scenic routes in the United States, and the roadway was carefully integrated around historic dry-laid stone walls, century-old Burr Oaks and amongst manicured horse farms. Restrictive zoning in the county limited development outside of Paris.
But its Main Street languished for years and was regarded as a city that was the "least changed" of any central Kentucky community. Downtown storefronts were altered with facade renovations, and many buildings were vacant or underutilized. But an investment in a new streetscape, including period light fixtures, bike lanes and refreshed sidewalks have improved the general appearance Tax incentives and abatements have driven renovation and restoration projects throughout.
It is aided by the Downtown Paris Historic District that is comprised of 319 buildings within the Courthouse Square, business district, several warehouses and a residential neighborhood. It includes building stock from the 1700s to the Great Depression-era, as well as numerous High Victorian-era commercial and residential structures.
: The Bourbon County Welfare Building, at 24 Bank Row, was constructed in 1939 in a restrained Art Moderne style and faced with dark-red brick and limestone Moderne-styled ribbed entrance surrounds. It was built under the administration of County Judge George Batterton under the Works Progress Administration to house the county jail and human services programs.
: A glimpse of Ardery Place. The brick structures on the left were constructed in the 1830s and underwent facade reconstruction in the 1980s. Duncan Tavern, 323 High Street, is the focal point of Ardery Place and was constructed in 1788 of locally-quarried limestone in the Georgian/Federal style. It was one of Paris' first hostelries and was a popular stopping place along the Lexington - Maysville Turnpike. It was later used as a boarding house and slum, and restored in the 1940s by the Kentucky chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution under the leadership of local resident Julia Ardery.
: The Deposit Bank of Paris Building at the end of Ardery Place was constructed in 1859, seven years after the bank was formed. In the mid-1880s, the Italianate-style building was renovated to serve as a residence for the Frank family. In 1922, it was converted into a memorial for those Bourbon County residents who perished in World War I and was abandoned in the 1980s. It was sold to new owners in 1988 and has not been used since.
: The 200 block of Main Street has seen better days. From left to right:
210 Main Street was constructed in the 1870s and is a three-story Italianate with storefront modernizations. It served as a saloon, barber shop and furniture warehouse.
214-216 Main Street was constructed in the 1860s, and served as a bank in 1886.
220 Main Street was constructed in the 1930s.
224 Main Street was constructed in the 1930s, and contained a black Vitrolite bulkhead. It was home to the Ford Hardware Store, one of the oldest continuously operated businesses in downtown. 220 and 224 replaced Victorian-era structures.
226-30 Main Street was constructed in 1904-05 and housed the hardware business of James S. Wilson and brothers who dealt in tobacco, seed, farm implements, coal and horse-drawn vehicles. The corner storefront was used by George Alexander Bank, a small, private financial institution. A fraternal hall and offices were once located on the upper floors.
W.E. Simms Building at 302 Main Street was constructed in 1885 in the Queen Anne architectural style. It featured EAstlake-inspired ornamentation.
The gap to the right was home to Sam Cummins Chevrolet, a 1960s flat-roofed commercial structure. It was replaced with the Bourbon County Judicial Center.
: The Deposit Bank of Paris block at Main and East 4th streets was constructed in 1884 in the High Victorian architectural style for $20,000. The original cast-iron storefronts were replaced around 1912 by the present Beaux Arts Classical limestone facade. In 1914, the bank acquired People's Bank and became known as the People's Deposit Bank.
: The design of the Agricultural Bank Building, 335-39 Main Street, was inspired by northern European architecture. Constructed in 1899 for the Agricultural Bank of Paris, the structure was faced with golden-brown pressed Roman brick, ornamented with golden sandstone and terra-cotta plaques. The first story was altered in the early 1980s with a Neo-Colonial facade, although this was later removed.
: The 400 block of Main Street.
: The Bourbon Bank Building at Main and 5th streets was constructed in 1898 in the Romanesque Revival architectural style. The structure featured press brick and ornamented with rock faces and carved sandstone. The bank was organized only two years prior and remained at the corner until it merged with the Agricultural Bank in 1915.
: The 500 block of Main Street. Varden's Bistro was originally a late-19th century commercial structure that was badly damaged in a fire in 1987. The upper stories were removed and the lower level was modernized. The Varden Building to the left, at 509 Main Street, was constructed in 1891 for druggist George A. Varden and was home to his pharmacy for 60 years. Its upper floors served as an annex to the adjacent Fordham Hotel (now demolished) and to the Masons as a lodge hall.
: The Baldwin Hotel, at 519 Main Street, was constructed in the 1930s in the Art Moderne style and replaced the Windsor Hotel that was destroyed by a fire. During the late 19th century, the Fordham Hotel occupied the site.
: The Hinton Block, constructed at the corner of Main and 6th streets, was constructed in 1891 to house the furniture business of J.T. Hinton. After Hinton's retirement, the business remained in the family until 1945. It was later home to several other furniture stores. The Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival-styled building had some unfortunate alterations, such as the removal of the turret, but has most of the press brick, rock-faced sandstone and carved terra cotta remained intact.
: A view down the 600 block of Main Street. The J. J. Newberry Store, at 627 Main Street, was constructed in the 1920s. The southern half of the store burned in the 1940s and was subsequently rebuilt.
: The most interesting building in this frame is the former J. C. Penny store at 610 Main Street. Completed in 1920 for a local department store, it became a J. C. Penny Store in 1926. The one-story structure was faced with polychrome glazed tile and a molded terra cotta cornice with an Art Deco press tin ceiling inside.
: A view of the 700 block of Main Street.
<i>Below</i>: The 800 block of Main Street is a bit more devoid of activity, but still contains historic stock.
The <a title="Bourbon County Courthouse" href="http://urbanup.net/cities/kentucky/paris-kentucky/bourbon-county-courthouse/">Bourbon County Courthouse</a> is ringed by Main, High and Bank Row streets and Ardery Place. The first courts were held in various residences from 1786 until a permanent, wood-framed structure was completed in October 1787. A larger building was ordered in February 1797 and was completed in 1799, and was described as a building that "rivaled the great stone temple of justice in Lexington." The stone foundation was finished by Thomas Metcalf, a stone mason who later became the tenth governor of the state. His older brother, John Metcalf, built the superstructure. The box cupola was removed in 1816 and replaced with a steel spire forged by Aquilla Talbott with a bell that was purchased by Hugh Brent, Esq. for $50 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The bell was formerly used on a ship and bore the date of 1730.
The courthouse burned in 1873 and almost immediately was replaced with one designed by A. C. Nash of Cincinnati, Ohio. The brick used in the building was produced in the county and the stone came from a quarry in Cane Ridge. After burning, the fourth courthouse was built from 1902 to 1905 and despite two fires, its court records have remained intact.
Stay tuned for a trip to Maysville!