Images of America: Bardstown
By: Dixie Hibbs
The small town of Bardstown Kentucky was once an uninhabited wilderness, built in 1780, William Bard lured fellow Pennsylvanians, traveling along the Ohio River, to join him and freely settle his brother’s untamed land. He offered rent-free opportunity for the duration of the American Revolution, drawing 33 settlers to clear the region and create a crude brush village called Bardstown. The people of this forested region just south of Louisville would face controversy, population decline, the turmoil of war, and the threat of Prohibition, while upholding a strong pioneer ethic and fostering ties to their unique history.
Recognized as one of the best small towns in the United States, as well as the “Bourbon Capital of the World,” this community has some big city renown. During the early part of the nineteenth century, Bardstown excelled in state issues, including politics, religion, education, and business. The Civil War would bring significant tensions and a decline in the town’s population, but through industrial growth and the development of the lucrative distilling industry, Bardstown gained much fame. Although
Prohibition proved economically devastating to many residents, Bardstown survived and grew, enjoying a strong tourist trade today with its almost 300 historic structures and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival each fall.
In Bardstown: Hospitality, History, and Bourbon, author Dixie Hibbs has compiled an enthralling account of a battered, but resilient town. Hibbs is president of the Nelson County Historical Society, retired chairman for the Spalding Hall Committee, which operates the local history museum, and has published two pictorials histories of the county and town in the popular Images of America series. With over 100 photographs and illustrations, this compelling new volume depicts the city’s willingness to overcome adversity and flourish. Bardstown exemplifies an unending ability to excel and thrive, while still maintaining its small-town charm.