The Old Talbott was built in 1779 and has been called the oldest western stagecoach stop in America. It was a haven of hospitality to those sturdy pioneers who carved an empire out of the threatening wilderness. From its simple, rough beginnings the tavern mellowed with the years, typifying the gracious living that burgeoned in the Old South.
The thick Flemish bond stone walls, the deep window casings, heavy ceiling timbers and built-in-cupboards strongly remind one of the Warwickshire Inns in England. The cooking was done in two fireplaces in the rear of the original section. Traces remain of the staircase to the loft where men were housed in one room of two rooms, and women in the other. The practice of giving individual rooms to guests was not introduced into the United States until about 1805.
The Tavern is located at the crossroads of the young west, where the Post roads, North, East, South, and West met, caused every stagecoach to stop at its door. Here the grateful passenger found cheer and warmth, while horses were changed for the long trip ahead.
Through the welcoming portals of the Old Tavern, there passed a long procession of statesmen, soldiers, adventurers, artists, and rulers. Andrew Jackson knew of the warmth of the hearth fire in the central room. There, Henry Harrison found cheer in its friendly atmosphere. General George Rodgers Clark used the tavern as a base; provisions and munitions were brought overland from Virginia and stored in the cellars of the tavern.
Legends say that during King Louis Phillippe’s exile, he, his two brothers, and other members, desiring to see the New World, arrived at Tavern on October 17, 1797. During their stay, one or more of the entourages is believed to have painted the murals which were uncovered in 1927. A dozen or more holes are found in the plaster in the room. Legend tells us that the bullet holes were left behind by Jesse James. Related to Donnie Pence, sheriff of the Nelson County, it’s reported that he had too many drinks in the Pub one evening then went upstairs to sleep it off. He “saw” birds moving in the murals and shot at them, leaving behind the bullet holes we see today.
Stephen Collins Foster, during his visit to Judge John Rowan at “Federal Hill “now my Old Kentucky Home, knew the charms of the inn. Abraham Lincoln, at the age 5, stayed at the Tavern with his parents while they were involved in a land dispute. The Lincolns lost the case and as a result moved to Indiana. John Fitch, inventor of the steamboat, spent many hours in this old tavern.
During the latter part of the 18th century, this tavern was the Western end of the stagecoach road from Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The western Herald, published in Bardstown on September 23, 1829, carried the following advertisement: “Chas. Holloway, having returned to the old stand formerly occupied by R. Head, west of the Court house, has one of the largest, best constructed, and the most convenient hotels in the place. The stable corresponds in size and convenience of patronage and to customers in the general to pledge himself to devote his whole attention to render their situation comfortable and agreeable.”
The eastern end of the building was first erected with its two-footed walls of solid stone. Later a western wing of brick, and the connecting wing with verandas, was added. This brick section was added sometime in the early 1800’s. It is in this portion of the building that Alexander Walters was born. Walters, one of the co-founders or the NAACP, was borne in the kitchen area to his mother, who was a slave. It has been said that she went right back to work after giving birth. The final addition of the building was done in the 1960’s, is the most western part of the property. It originally housed a drug store.
During the history, this ancient hotel has borne many different names. It was called the Hynes, Bardstown Hotel, Chapman’s House, Shady Bower Hotel, the Newman House, Old Stone Tavern, and today is recognized as the Talbott Tavern.
The Tavern suffered an electrical fire on March 7, 1998. The upstairs sustained the heaviest damage and the downstairs received mostly smoke and water damage. It reopened in November 1999. The Mural Room is now open for the public.
The Tavern today stands as one of the oldest buildings in Bardstown. Where automobiles go today, stagecoach drivers once cracked their whips.
The Old Talbott Tavern has always been known for the ghostly stories told by the locals and some guests. The most famous ghostly visitor is supposedly Jesse James. Another is the lady in white. They always appear as apparitions. The other stories include round balls of light (orbs) moving around the room in the middle of the night, or flashes of light without cameras.
More stories include movements of objects without any cause, such as forks and glasses on dining tables moving without anyone touching them, keys disappearing from the front desk and showing up down the hall on the floor later that day. Furniture has been known to start jumping up and down without any reason. Some have seen shadows walk out of dark corners into the light before disappearing.
The sounds that are most heard are music, clocks chiming out during late night hours, doors opening and closing when no one else is in the building, and lots of footsteps all hours of the day. Knocking at doors with no one there when you open to see who is knocking. An old piano that was heard playing by itself, and voices calling out from empty areas.
A former bookkeeper tells this story. One night while closing she started up the stairs to take the money to the safe and was frightened when she saw a man standing in a long coat walk across the top landing. About the same time the cook came long from the kitchen and saw the stranger. They both were surprised because no one else was supposed to be in the building. They went upstairs carefully to see if they could find the stranger and as they reached the top of the stairs a nearby door closed. They open this door to see if he was inside and just the back door to this room closed. They thought he had passed through this room and was leaving out back. They followed to the back door and when they open it, they again saw the strange man walking down the hall and he went out the fire escape door that was locked. When the bookkeeper and cook went close behind and open the door to see if he had gone down the fire escape he was standing on the landing. He turned around to face her and started a hideous laugh and then disappeared right in front of their eyes.
About three weeks later she was watching a special on TV and they showed a picture of Jesse James. She grabbed her husband’s arm and said “Oh my God! That is the same face I saw the other night when the man disappeared!” Since then they call him Jesse James.
Two other employees have claimed to have seen this man walking in the halls at different times. I’m not disputing her word, but I can’t figure out why Jesse James would haunt this old building. He did come to Bardstown to visit family and his cousin Donnie Pence, who was the
local sheriff at the time. Local lore has its Jesse stayed at the Tavern and he left bullet holes in the walls to prove his visit. These bullet holes did survive the fire. In 1886 George Talbott bought the Tavern (Known as the Newman House then). He soon married and moved in with his bride. While they lived there, they had twelve children. Only five was survived, and one or the five was a surviving twin. They were plagued with all types of childhood diseases, so they died at different ages. In 1912, George himself died at the Tavern. Shortly after his death, his wife Annie changed the name from Newman House to Talbott Hotel.
Several People, including myself, have seen the lady in white. On one Occasion a couple left in the middle of the night because of the terrifying experience with the lady. Later they called back to tell us why they left. They both woke up at the same time to see a lady in white hovering over them. She was looking down at them and then she turned and floated out the window beside the bed. That was enough for them.
During the day when I have been getting the dining room ready for the dinner hour, I have seen on three occasions a lady walks through the Audubon Dining Room. When I would go check to see who was there, I could never find her. She was always dressed the same. She was thin, long brown wavy hair, and had on a long white 1800’s dress on.
A few months before the Tavern burned, I was told that one of our guests was asking to speak to the manager. I was afraid I was going to hear a complaint. When I met with the guest, he asked me if our rooms are haunted. I asked him why. He told me that during the night, balls of light hovering over his bed and then bounced around the room awaken him. He said that some of them were different colors, like red, yellow, and white. At one point, he tried to get up but felt as if something was holding him down. He said it was like electricity was running through him without pain. I told him that he wasn’t the first person that happened to. More than one guest had complained about that room being haunted. Sometimes they told me the TV would come on and off all night and the heater was constantly turned up so hot they couldn’t sleep. They would get up and turn it down and then wake up again with it too hot to breathe.
He was so excited about it being haunted that he stayed another night, hoping to see more of the same the next night. Unfortunately, he was disappointed because nothing happened. Later his came by to view the room. She was a writer of some type and thought it would make a great story.
If you have an experience with our ghostly residents, please let us know so we can pass it down to those who follow.
The Lincoln Suite #1 Sitting room, bedroom and bath. (full size), Walk in shower.
Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) was born in a meager, one room cabin about 20 miles south of Bardstown in Hodgenville, Kentucky. It had a dirt floor, one window, and a stick clay chimney. Lincoln’s father, Tom, had paid $200 for the cabin and 300 acres of discouraging land. It wasn’t much, but it was a home and the young family’s only chance for a decent life. After four years of fighting mosquitoes, heat and hardscrabble land, the Lincolns had to pack up and leave. There was a defect in the title. A trial was held at the Courthouse in Bardstown around 1812. The family stayed here at the Tavern. Abraham was quoted as being clad in a “one-piece long linsey shirt.”
The General’s Quarters #2 Room has two Antique twin beds. Walk in shower.
The General’s Quarters is named for two well-known Generals who sought lodging here at the Old Talbott Tavern. General George Rogers Clark’s (1752 – 1818) contributions to the success of the American Revolution were second perhaps only to Washington’s. Clark stayed at the Talbott Tavern and still has a bill that was never paid. Suit was filed to collect it. General George S. Patton’s (1885 – 1945) ambition as a boy was to be a general, a hero and a warrior. History has proven that he succeeded magnificently at all three. While Commander at Fort Knox, Kentucky, General Patton was a visitor and stayed at the Talbott Tavern. He is considered by many as the greatest military commander in U.S. history.
The Jesse James #3 Room has Antique Full-size Bed. Private bathroom, with shower and tub.
Jesse Woodson James (1847 – 1882) Was a daring outlaw from Missouri. He became a legend in his own lifetime by committing crimes supposedly out of revenge for the poor treatment he, his family and other Southern sympathizers received from Union soldiers during the Civil War. Legend tells us that the bullet holes were left behind by Jesse James. Related to Donnie Pence, sheriff of Nelson County, it’s reported that he had too many drinks in the Pub one evening the went upstairs to sleep it off. He “saw” birds moving in the murals and shot at them, leaving behind the bullet holes we see today.
The Anton Heinrich #4 Room has a Queen size bed. Private bathroom, with shower and tub.
Anton Philip Heinrich (1781 – 1861) was a concert violinist of Bohemia. In about 1817, having lost his fortune to misadventure and his wife to illness, he settled in a log cabin outside Bardstown. Here, in 1818, at the request of some ladies, he made his first musical composition. Heinrich set to music an ode How Sleep the Brave for a memorial in honor of the Bardstown Company lost in the Battle of the River Raisin, near Detroit. This composition was played for the first time in a small concert held at the Talbott Tavern. He spent the next several years composing the Dawning of Music in Kentucky. Shortly before his death, Heinrich chaired the group that formed the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. On a trip to Europe, he was acclaimed “America’s Beethoven.”
The Daniel Boone #5 Room has an Antique Queen size bed. Private bathroom, with shower and tub.
Daniel Boone (1734 – 1820) was often a visitor to Bardstown. One visit documents Boone giving his deposition here at the Tavern in 1792. The land case involved his friend, Captain James Harrod. The Tavern was used because the courthouse was under construction. It has been written that Boone did as much as any man, if not more, to open the vast territory beyond the Appalachians to American settlement.
The Washington Irving Suite #6 Suite with sitting room, bedroom and bath. Bedroom features Antique Queen size bed. Bath has Shower and whirlpool tub for two.
Washington Irving (1783 – 1859) earned his reputation as a major author by creating the short story. Just inside our lobby door is the actual spot where, in 1802, “the kiss was stolen” – immortalized in Irving’s short story The Early Experiences of Ralph Ringwood. Irving had a way of combining folklore with romanticism in his literary works. He also wrote Rip Van Winkle & The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
1779 –Tavern’s temporary structure – 1781 Permanent stone completed
1782 – British and Indian Colonial Soldiers overrun Kincheloe Station about 6 miles northeast of the Tavern. Massacre most there and take the Pope Girls captive, later ransomed in Canada.
1784 – Tavern bonded to Patrick Henry, Governor of Virginia to operate a public house (Country Government established in Bardstown)
1792 – Daniel Boone subpoenaed to give deposition at Tavern (Court house under construction)
1797 – Tavern underwent major addition and change from dormitory to individual private rooms
1797 – Tavern entertains thoroughbred horse racing fans for meet at Kentucky’s first racetrack located 2 blocks south at Villa Lawn
1797 – Exiled King Louis Phillippe of France visits Tavern with two brothers, Princes de Montpensier and de Beaujolais.
1798 – John Fitch, the steamboat inventor and frequent patron of the Tavern, dies
1801 – Judge John Rowan kills Dr. Chambers in the second shooting of duel. Rowan became a U. S. Senator and was builder of My Old Kentucky Home. It was over an argument at the Pleiades debating Club that often met at the Tavern.
1802 – Actual occurrence of “Stolen kiss” immortalized in Washington Irving Tales of Ralph Ringwold
1806 – Dr. Brashear’s dinner interrupted to attend to injured boy brought to his office across the street – he performed the world’s first successful hip joint amputation
1808 – The Pope establishes 5 dioceses in the new world: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Bardstown.
1812 – Local militia leaves to participate in war, one company commanded by Samuel Kelley (great-great-great-grandfather of present Tavern owners)
1814 – Lincoln family stays at Tavern during last trial over land claims
1817 – Anton Phillippe Heinrich (hailed as America’s Beethoven) his first music composition played at the Tavern. He later founded the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (Lyrics by Peter Grayson, a young local attorney)
1830s – The Volunteers make their last goodbye at the tavern to assemble to go fight in the war of Texas Independence, called the Bardstown Mustangs all perish at Goliad, Texas except J.C. Duvall (said he didn’t stop until he got to Bardstown)
1830s – Peter Grayson, author of The Treaty of San Jacinto ending the Texas War of Independence, stops by the Tavern on his way to Washington as Secretary of State of Texas, killed by bandits on the way (lyricist with Heinrich above)
1850 – Stephen Foster dined at the Tavern waiting for the stagecoach to Pittsburg
1857 – Sally Roane, great granddaughter of Patrick Henry, was inadvertently sold as a slave on auction block across the street, but saved by taking up a hurried collection from friends at the Tavern
1862 – Tavern taken over by Confederate Troops for 2 weeks, 30,000 to 35, 000 Confederate Troops were here as staging area for bloody Battle of Perryville
1863 – Tavern taken over by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan with 2500 men skirmish at livery stable. He leaves Bardstown, crosses Ohio River and invades Indiana and Ohio.
1863 – Memorial for Confederate General Ben Hardin Helm, commander of Kentucky Brigade, at Battle of Chickamauga, He was a native of Bardstown and his wife was sister to Mary Todd Lincoln, the President’s wife. His wife went to White House to grieve husband.
1865 – Captain William Clark, also known as Quantrell, met with some local former members of his raiders, he left and was mortally wounded at a barn about 14 miles Northeast of the Tavern.
1871 – Jesse James was leaving the Tavern when he encountered U. S. Marshall George Hunter, seeing he was outnumbered Hunter let them pass.
1875 – Murrell boys, part of Jesse James gang, robbed John Talbott’s tailor shop (John Talbott is the great-great grandfather of present owners of the Tavern)
1885 – Alexander Walters, was born in the pantry of the Talbott Tavern, where his mother was a cook. Founder of the NAACP and First African American appointed as a foreign minister.
1916 – T.D Beam (Jim’s brother) purchased Tavern from The Talbotts
1926 – Tom Moore, distiller (now Barton) purchased the Tavern from Beam
1968 – Present owners John and Jim Kelley’s family acquired interest in the Tavern
The Bourbon bar was built by Brunswick. We purchased it in Champlain Illinois.
When visitors walk into the Old Talbott Tavern, there’s a feeling about the place. It’s well kept, but the passage of time is evident in a few creaking floorboards. There’s an air about the place that speaks of people who have come and gone, spending time in the pub and retiring to their rooms before an early morning departure.
The old stone reminder of Bardstown’s beginnings still welcomes visitors to the bustling downtown area. Since the late 1700s’, the Old Talbott Tavern on court square has provided shelter, food and drink to Kentucky travelers.
The Old Talbott Tavern is said to be the oldest western stagecoach stop in America as the westward expansion brought explorers from the east into Kentucky.
One of the most famous visitors of The Old Talbott Tavern was Daniel Boone. In April of 1792, he was subpoenaed to give his deposition at the stone Tavern on the court square. At this time, the courthouse was not used because it was under construction.
William Heaven hill, an early owner of the property on which Heaven Hill Distillery is located, was a frequent patron of the Tavern. “Mr. Ed “Shapero, who organized and started up Heaven Hill after prohibition, often had lunch at the Tavern. The father of the present owners of the Tavern was Mr. Ed’s paperboy just before WWII.
William Samuels and Leslie Samuels, who were a Master Distillers of Maker’s Mark, were good friends of the Talbott’s and valued customers of the Tavern. William Samuels and Leslie Samuels are father and grandfather of the current Marker’s Mark present, Bill Samuels.
A few families have owned the Old Talbott Tavern since it’s construction in the 1770s. T.D. Beam, brother of Jim Beam, purchased the Old Talbott Tavern from the Talbott’s in 1916. He continued to run the establishment until 1926. The Tom Moore family purchased the Tavern from T.D. Beam in 1926. They owned it until 1964.
On March 7, 1998 a new chapter was written in the Old Talbott Tavern’s history. The Tavern suffered from a devastating fire. An early morning blaze destroyed the roof and most of the second floor. The main floor suffered from smoke and water damage. The well-known murals suffered from heavy damage and have not been restored. The Tavern’s underwent a long period of rebuilding and finally reopened her doors in November of 1999.One of the present owners, Jim Kelley, was a friend and fishing buddy of the grandson of Jim Beam, Booker Noe.
Louis Phillippe’, then Duke of Orleans, heir to the French Throne, together with his two younger brothers, Count de Montpensier and Count de Beaujolais were exiled from France during the period of the French Revolution. They came to America, and in February of 1797, were entertained by George Washington who was then just retiring from the presidency. The royal visitors desired to see the American Frontier, so Washington prepared an itinerary for them, advising them that Bardstown was the American Western frontier.
The King and his two brothers came by horse back to Bardstown arriving May 19, 1797. Legend has it that while staying here at the Tavern, they painted the murals you see in this very room. His brother Count de Montpensier was known as the talented artist, King Louis was considered an amateur painter.
Prior to the fire two ladies form the Chicago Art Institute, examined the murals by using the pigment, and stated that the murals predated 1820.
Prince Michael of Greece, a direct descendant of the King, visited the Tavern in the spring of 2015 to see his ancestors work.
The painting on the west wall (to your right) depicts Cervantes Grand Opera character “Don Quixote” titling at the windmill with his squire, Sancho Panza, and his burro and dog.
The scene over the fireplace is the artist’s conception of the downfall of the French monarchy showing the cultural and scientific achievements being destroyed on the pyre and Lady Britanica representing France’s rival England.
The volcano is another image that the royal party viewed during their travels, leaving a great impact on them.
The next painting is that of a Cherokee Indian Chief headdress that they also saw on their travels.
The other painting on the east wall is a view of the royal garden as seen from the King’s bedroom in the palace at Orleans.
The last mural (destroyed in the fire of 1998) is a whimsical one, no doubt inspired by the arrival of the royal party into Bardstown. The Concierge had little time for them, a minstrel and circus were performing that evening at Bardstown. This event was later mentioned in King Louis Phillippe’s memoirs as was the volcano.
The Tavern has a rare collection of 1836 Indian Chief prints by Greenough.
Original Audubon Lithograph printed in 1835.