Gardens to Gables

Kentucky Country Stores

When I began researching my thesis (ages ago), which focused on two antebellum farms and their landscape, I realized that my Kentucky was a state with many souls, and personalities. Her landscape, I discovered, was one of “enormous geographic contradictions.” These disparate elements, from east to west, and nestled in the bluegrass basin that cradled me and the hours I spent communing with sky, soil and feeling on the farm – could be divisive and hard to reconcile. I felt claustrophobic among the hollows of Perry County, and struggled to understand how a friend from Floyd County felt naked and exposed on the gentle slopes of Mercer County. Political divisions – even just the isolation felt by those hundreds of miles from Frankfort – are another topic entirely.

Our buildings, though, connect us – whether they be root cellars, barns, or stores. Long before I became a professional in this field of cultural resources and architectural history, I kept my face glued to the window in the car, as communities would appear in the bend of the road and then slip away as we continued driving. Marked by a post office, maybe a garage, and almost always a small store, these vestiges of late-19th and early 20th century rural Kentucky promised a stream of togetherness, of stories with a familiar cadence, and a common need to belong to a place. Their notations on USGS topographic maps may be all that remains of these communities now – the drama, dreams, and desires of their residents left to float unheard and unseen along the wide spot in the road.

Figure 46

Section from the 1931 15-minute Eddyville quad map, showing Frances and Mexico, in Crittenden County, KY.



Store in Taylor County, KY


Store in Lawrence County, KY









Old store on dry laid stone foundation, Mercer County, KY


Store and house in Livingston County, KY









Fleming co

Store and service station, Fleming County, KY


Store, Cumberland County, KY










Stores in Crittenden County, Kentucky


Former store and blacksmith shop, Breckinridge County, KY

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2 Thoughts on “Kentucky Country Stores

  1. Janet Johnson on September 21, 2014 at 1:23 am said:

    I love Kentucky’s rural communities and love stopping in these country stores. Have you been to Penn’s Store in Gravel Switch?

    • JR Brother on September 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm said:

      Yes I have! And it is even more of a vestige, tucked away as it is in a flood plain and at the base of a hill. It is delightful place to stop.

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