In a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders in 2002, homebuyers were asked to rank their preferences in buying a house. When asked about the importance of 18 community amenities, the highest ranking features were (with percent ranking as important or very important): highway access, 44 percent; jogging/bike trails, 36 percent; sidewalks, 28 percent; parks, 26 percent; playgrounds, 21 percent, and shops within walking area, 19 percent.
Distilling was a significant Lexington industry in the 19th century and continued to impact Lexington into the 20th century. In the Old Frankfort Pike area, distilleries operated at three different sites. The Pepper Distillery may be the one to focus on because one of its owners, James E. Pepper, was an important business and social figure in Lexington. He was the third generation of his family engaged in distilling in Kentucky. James E. Pepper managed a successful stable of thoroughbreds and he owned the land where the Meadowthorpe subdivision is located. The drink called the “Old Fashioned” was supposedly created for him in Louisville.
His grandfather, Elijah Culpepper, came from Culpepper County, Virginia to Kentucky when it was still a county of Virginia. Legend has it that some time around 1776, Elijah Culpepper settled at what came to be known as the “Old Pepper Spring” near Lexington on the Frankfort Pike. There he supposedly built a log cabin distillery about 1780. The story goes that Elijah Culpepper, finding his name “too long and too troublesome to write,” dropped the “Cul” and became Elijah Pepper.
Elijah Pepper’s son, Oscar Pepper, operated several distilleries in Kentucky including the current Labrot and Graham’s Old Oscar Pepper Distillery and another in Versailles. He hired James C. Crow as his master distiller. James Crow is known for using his knowledge of biochemistry to introduce scientific principles into the distilling process. Together the two men brought fame to the Old Crow and Old Pepper brands. Their whiskey became a big hit with men such as Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson, John Calhoun, Ulysess S. Grant, William Henry Harrison, and Daniel Webster. Labrot and Graham’s Old Oscar Pepper Distillery is named for Oscar Pepper.
In 1793, Edward West, a craftsman and inventor, successfully demonstrated a model steamboat on Town Fork before a large crowd. The Town Fork was dammed up near the Lexington and Frankfort freight depot to allow for the demonstration. It was reported that the boat swiftly moved through the water.
In an April 29, 1816, editorial in the Kentucky Gazette, a steamboat based on a plan by Edward West, successfully travelled against the current of the Kentucky River. The article mentions that after this trial the steamboat will travel down the Mississippi to New Orleans. The editor who wrote that article claims that because of West’s invention, “a hundred years from now, the little stream called the ‘Town Fork of Elkhorn’ will have become classic.
West received a patent in July 1802 for his steamboat invention. Robert Fulton’s better-known work with a larger model was done in 1803. West’s model for the steamboat was destroyed when the British burned Washington D.C. in 1814. Another model of the steamboat was kept in the museum at the lunatic asylum.
Kleber, John E. (ed.). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. 1992.
Ranck, George, W. History of Lexington, Kentucky. 1872
Original Name: “LL” branch of Louisville Southern (Lexington to Lawrenceburg)
Date Constructed: 1888-1889
Length: 24 miles
Location: The line runs through Fayette, Woodford, and Anderson counties.
Highlights: Starting behind Rupp Arena and the Newtown Pike Extension, beside Town Branch Creek and the James E. Pepper Distillery, travels through beautiful thoroughbred horse country, behind Keeneland Race Course, through the village of Pisgah, to Versailles, crossing the Kentucky River on a breathtaking1659 foot long, 280 foot high structure at Tyrone called Young’s High Bridge, passes beside the Wild Turkey Distillery and ends in Lawrenceburg.
Historic highlight: Hauled thoroughbred horses in specially equipped cars to Keeneland, Calumet, and King Ranch.
Current ownership and conditions: The western-most 3 miles were in service until recently for the Austin Nichols Distillery (Wild Turkey) from Lawrenceburg; Young’s High Bridge has been closed to train traffic since 1985; a 5.5 mile “middle stretch” from the bridge running to Versailles has been operated by the Bluegrass Railroad Museum since 1987. The eastern-most 15 miles from Versailles to Lexington is actively owned and operated by RJ Corman.
Below is a history created by Emmett Bell:
The Louisville Southern (LS) began construction of its new railroad in Louisville, and proceeded in a east-southeast direction through Jefferson, Shelby, and Anderson Counties, reaching Lawrenceburg in mid-1888. Late in the same year, surveyors began plotting out a tortuous route (compared to the rest of the railroad) from Lawrenceburg, eastward towards Lexington. The last 24 miles of the railroad would require two large bridges, including a 1659 foot long, 280 foot high structure over the Kentucky River at Tyrone, as well as numerous steep grades, cuts, and sharp curves. LS president Bennett Young hired the Union Bridge company of New York to build the Kentucky River bridge, which had required Congressional approval to construct, and to oversee the project personally. Young was a well known person during this time, and was a highly regarded hero from the Civil War. He had planned and led one of the northern most actions of the war, when his band of raiders robbed a bank in St. Albans Vermont. After the war, Young became active in Reform politics in Kentucky, and was named the president of the Louisville Southern because of his numerous successful business ventures and political actions.
As construction on the Kentucky River bridge (now named Young’s High Bridge) continued, track crews pushed the line steadily towards Versailles, and a connection with the Versailles And Midway (V&M), which built a line between those two cities, and a branch to Georgetown, in 1885. The LS Finally reached its goal in early August when it established a connection with the Cincinnati Southern (Cincinnati, New Orleans & Texas Pacific) in Lexington. On August 21st, 1889 a special train departed Louisville and made it’s way to the east end of Young’s High Bridge, where the ceremonial last spike was driven, and then proceeded to Lexington with Federal, State, and local officials on board. The Louisville Southern was finally a reality.
Shortly after completion, the LS acquired the V&M, and began making improvements on the hastily constructed mainline. Not unlike many of the new railroads of this era, the LS started to suffer from financial woes, and ended up in receivership in the fall of 1889. The line was leased to the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago (MONON) on October 14, 1889, and this would prove to be the first of several different reorganizations of the railroad. After a stockholders revolt, the line came under the control of the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad (ETV&G), which was later absorbed by the Southern Railway in Kentucky, and finally the Southern Railway System.
The line prospered, with several scheduled passenger trains a day, and an ever increasing amount of freight traffic. The Southern Railway took over operations of the CNO&TP between Cincinnati and Chattanooga, and began running regular passenger trains between St. Louis, Louisville, Lexington and points South.
As traffic increased, the portion of the railroad between Lawrenceburg and Lexington began to be a bottleneck, with its uneven topography and curves, and the Southern began construction of a upgraded line from Lawrenceburg, south through Harrodsburg, to a point north of Danville (SJ Tower) where it connected to the CNO&TP. All passenger traffic, and most of the freight traffic was routed via the new “Lawrenceburg cut off”, and the 24 miles from Lawrenceburg to Lexington became the “LL” branch. Traffic remained moderate over the line for the next several decades, with large amounts of coal being brought to the Kentucky Utilities steam plant at Tyrone, and other local traffic for online customers. Thoroughbred race horses were also handled across the line in specially equipped cars, being moved in and out of the Keenland race track, and from Calumet and other horse farms near the railroad. A special spur and loading ramp was constructed at Kings Ranch (MP 20.0LL), behind Calumet Farm to serve this business.
In the early 1980’s, coal traffic began to decline, and was suspended in 1984. The loss of the coal business, plus the ever worsening condition of Young’s high Bridge and the track in general, forced the closing of the “middle” 5 1/2 miles of the branch. The last train crossed the bridge in August of 1985, bringing to a close 117 years of continuous service on the old LS.
The western 3 miles of the line were left intact to allow service to the Austin Nichol’s distillery (makers of Wild Turkey Bourbon Whiskey), and the out of service portion between the east end of the Kentucky River bridge and MP 9.0LL was sold to the Bluegrass Railroad Museum in 1987 for tourist train operations. Norfolk Southern still retained the eastern 14 miles between Versailles and Lexington to serve several customers in Versailles. NS train K-21 and K-22 made the trip to Versailles 5 days a week until the traffic levels became too low for NS to justify operation. The line was sold to Gulf And Ohio Railways, and on May 11th, 1996, a newly formed G&O subsidiary, the Lexington & Ohio Railroad began operation of the line.
History compiled and written by Emmett Bell.
The Creative Class- trail is a vital asset for attracting and retaining the workforce of the new creative economy.
What is driving the growth of the nation’s most successful communities today?
According to Richard Florida, a Carnegie Mellon Economics Professor who recently participated in Lexington’s IdeaFestival, the driving force behind the nation’s dynamic growth is the role of creativity in our economy and society. No longer driven by traditional trade routes or smokestack industries, the U.S. economy is now being fueled by a constant process of invention and innovation. The ‘Information’ or ‘Knowledge’ based economy in which we now live and work is growing and changing constantly due to the dynamic influence of a category of people whom Florida calls the ‘Creative Class’. This creative sector of the population has grown dramatically over the last few decades to where it currently accounts for over 30% of the work force. Most important, however, it the fact that this category of creative professionals is now responsible for the vast majority of growth in the U.S. economy. The highly educated and highly skilled individuals whom Florida defines as the ‘Creative Class’ are professionals in core areas of Science, Engineering, Architecture, Design, Education, Arts, and Entertainment, and in the supporting fields of Business, Finance, Law, Health Care, and Management. It naturally follows that the places experiencing the greatest economic growth in the nation are communities with a high concentration of this ‘Creative Class’. What is surprising, however, is that this ‘Creative Class’ is not staying in the traditionally largest or most populous locations. It is migrating to areas of the country where the quality of life is highest. These are locations that have strong educational institutions, ample outdoor or recreational amenities, and vibrant arts and cultural venues. These are places that are open, diverse, and tolerant of a variety of religions, cultures, and ethnicities.
Why does this relate to Town Branch Trail?
Because the creative individuals that Lexington wants to attract and retain for its economic and cultural prosperity are people who use trails. Florida describes in his book, The Rise of the Creative Class, how over the last 40 years the demand for physical exercise has grown enormously for individuals who use their minds for a living. There is a close correlation between trail users and creative professionals. Data compiled by the Iowa Department of Transportation reflects that trail users are on average more educated and have higher incomes than average Americans. A brief survey of the most dynamic communities in the nation will show that greenway trails are an essential ingredient in making these new centers of prosperity attractive to the ‘Creative Class’ responsible for their success.
How does Lexington rate as a creative city?
For metropolitan areas of between 500,000 and 250,000 people, Lexington ranks #9 out of a listing of 63. For more information go to www.creativeclass.org and http://www.dot.state.ia.us/trails/.