Bardstown: Hospitality, History, and Bourbon
The small town of Bardstown, Kentucky was once an uninhabited wilderness, but 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.
Years of Influence 18001840
Before During and After the Civil War 18401870 57
Beginning of the Twentieth Century 19001920
Economic Shutdown 19201940