In 1800, Paris had only 377 residents. Today it has over 8,500 who call it home. Serving as the county seat for Bourbon County, Kentucky, it is known for its gorgeous Bluegrass scenery, rich history, stout bourbon and Thoroughbred horses.
When Joseph Houston settled his station in the breathtakingly beautiful area way back in 1776, he probably had no idea the roots he was laying would turn into such a city as the Paris known today. He was forced to relocate because of prior land grants, however. Lawrence Protzman purchased the250 acre plot of land instead.
Protzman offered the land up for public buildings to be erected with the condition that the settlement become the seat of Bourbon County which had just been formed. It was formally established in 1789 as a town which was then called Hopewell after the New Jersey town. The following year it was renamed Paris in honor of the French who had assisted the region so heavily in the American Revolution.
The French had a revolution of their own. Many of the area’s settlers were refugees who had fled their own country to find solace in the rolling Bluegrass hills of Paris and the surrounding areas.
The post office in Paris has an interesting history. It was, for a short time, known as Bourbontown (also known as Bourbonton) in the early 19th century. It opened in 1794 and was renamed in 1815 with Paris being the elected official name. The courthouse was briefly called Bourbontown (or Bourbontown) too.
Main Street in Paris embraces and celebrates the past. Much time and effort has gone into preserving it. It also sports a sprinkling of new establishments that perfectly blend with the old to make the downtown area a mecca of entertainment and nostalgia as well.
The Paris Main Street Program began in 1992 with the goal of vamping up the downtown area. During the time between 2006 and 2008, there were a total of fifteen buildings that were renovated. Through grants and state funding, the vibrant Main Street enjoyed today was born. It features eating and drinking establishments, an art walk and many other attractions.
The Nannie Clay Wallis Arboretum is another beloved place in Paris that visitors and locals both frequent. It is home to the notorious Garden Club of Kentucky. A good number of the trees that are on the grounds date back to the 1850’s when they were planted at the time that the house was first built. After Nannie Clay Wallis’ father bought the house and land in 1900, she made sure to keep the tree planting tradition up. She also planted daylilies, roses and other flowers. The fruits of her labor are enjoyed on the premises today.
Duncan Tavern in the downtown area. It was built in 1788 and is a native limestone building with three stories housing twenty rooms. Joseph Duncan who was a Revolutionary War officer constructed the house that was turned into an inn and later made to be a tavern.
The historical Eades Tavern was built, in part, by Thomas Eades in or around 1795. Many travelers stopped to water their horses or to rest back in those days. Bacon, whiskey and Indian corn were among the refreshments offered. The tavern is enjoyed by many today as well.
The Hopewell Museum is located in Paris too. It houses artifacts from the past and is free for the public to visit and tour. It is closed the entire month of January, however.
Ripley’s Believe it or Not has listed the Shiner Building in Paris on their list as the world’s highest three-story structure. It was built in 1891 and is currently in use as the Paradise Café.
The Cane Ridge Meeting House is right down the road a piece, six miles to the east of the city. It was built in 1791 and is said to be the largest log structured one-room building in the entire country. It was the meeting place of the Great Revival of 1801. The Christian Church, Disciples of Christ and Churches of Christ were all formed due to the revival.
The county of Bourbon as well as the city of Paris are notoriously home to some of the finest thoroughbred farms in the entire world. Some of the best racing horses have come from the area. The county is called the Thoroughbred Capital of the World. Paris has some of the best horse farms in the land.
The Claiborne Farm is the birthplace for over seventy-five champion horses as well as twenty-two National Racing Museum’s Hall of Fame members. It has been around for more than one hundred years and was home of Secretariat, Blame and some of the most famous racing horses in the world. It was also the inspiration for the book, turned movie, “Big Red”. Tours are available where visitors can bask in the glory of the horse farm and enjoy the amenities thereof.
Stone Farm, Runnymede and Gainesway Farmare other farms that offer tours and other farm-themed attractions. All are special in their own ways. Visitors are sure to find at least one horse park or farm that suits their fancy.
For those who like to get out in the great outdoors, there are many things to do in Paris. Fishing, hiking and swimming are available on the Stoner River. Camping and kayaking are popular too.
Other spots where fishing and kayaking can be found are: Central Kentucky Kayaking, Paris Landing, Setter Ridge Kayaking and Fryman’s Boat Dock.
The annual Pumpkin Festival is an endeared event held within the town. Visitors come from all around the nation to experience the fun that is held at Legion Park. Vendors participate with refreshments and crafts can be found too. The festival is held for two days and the proceeds go to support a local non-profit organization.
There is a true sense of community in Paris. It is a fine blend where the days of the past collide with the present in a delightful way. It is a town that embraces new and old and welcomes new members of the community to do the same.