Renovations near completion of Lincoln Knob Creek property

Renovations near completion on the Knob Creek Tavern at the site of Abraham Lincoln’s family farm at Knob Creek in Hodgenville. Lincoln lived on the farm from the time he was 2 years old to 7. The tavern will serve as a visitor center for the National Parks Service attraction.

It’s been more than 20 years in the making, but the National Parks Service soon will complete another Lincoln property to showcase in LaRue County.

Although the Abraham Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek and the Knob Creek Tavern have been in the park service’s possession since 2001 and has been open at times to the public, it has undergone major renovations in phases to breathe new life into the historic property, said Stacy Humphreys, chief of interpretation and resource management for the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville.

“When visitors are able to go in, they’re going to see a newly rehabilitated tavern,” she said. “We have preserved the tavern but we had to replace some things.”

Humphreys said the tavern has been updated to include replacing rotted logs, flooring and chinking and now displays brand new interpretive museum exhibits of Abraham Lincoln’s time at the Knob Creek farm.

“It’s been very painstaking,” she said of the renovations. “The rehabilitation on the building started this time last year …, however, planning has been going on for about 20 years.”

The property was acquired when the previous owners, the Howard Family who built the tavern wanted to sell the farm. A grassroots organization formed and Hodgenville community members raised the money for the purchase. The farm was donated to the National Parks Service in 2001, Humphreys said.

“It actually extends back beyond us because, of course, the Howard Family is the ones that built the tavern and ran it as a tourist destination, kind of like a roadhouse, for many years,” she said. “When the tavern reopens this fall in October, that will be a project 20 years in the making. It’s been a long time coming for this.”

The 16th president’s attachment to the Knob Creek property started in 1811, when his family was forced from the Sinking Spring Farm, home now to the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Park, in Hodgenville, Humphreys said.

“Due to a land dispute, basically multiple people claiming the same piece of property that Thomas Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s father, paid money for in good faith thinking that it would be his own, Thomas got very aggravated and decided to move his family 10 miles away to the Knob Creek farm,” she said.

There the Lincolns leased 30 of the 228-acre property for the next five years, until Lincoln was 7-years-old, when another land dispute drove them from Knob Creek and to Indiana, Humphreys said.

“We know the family while living there attended an anti-slavery Baptist church,” she said. “A lot of these very formative experiences that Lincoln had there would come to fruition later in life as he was a man but also became president and, of course, led the nation through the Civil War.”

The property, just off present day Bardstown Road in Hodgenville, was on a busy thoroughfare in Lincoln’s Day, Humphreys said.

“That was the main interstate of the day,” she said. “Lincoln would have seen all kinds of people traveling up and down that road literally going by his front door. It’s very possible, we surmise, that he would have seen enslaved people possibly chained together being marched to the deeper South slave markets. He also could have seen soldiers returning from the War of 1812.”

Apart from the tavern at the farm, a historic cabin also will be on the property for visitors to view, Humphreys said.

“The cabin at Knob Creek dates from the 1860s, so it is historic. It’s not a replica,” she said.

The cabin was moved there by the Howard family, Humphreys said.

Humphreys said the grand reopening will be preceded with nightly events that will “bookend” Lincoln Days the weekend prior.

“Every night the week of Oct. 4-8, we’re going to have an event in the evening that we’re going to be able to invite people to come to,”

Events kick off Sept. 18 with Paint and Sip, where registrants can produce art to enter in special Knob Creek art category at Lincoln Days.

Following Lincoln Days, nightly events start Oct. 4 and continue until the grand reopening from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 9. The event includes programs and tours, living history demonstrations and a special grand reopening ceremony.

Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1418 or gclear@thenewsenterprise.com.

Gina Clear can be reached at 270-505-1418 or gclear@thenewsenterprise.com.

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