Living history in Princeton, KY
Last Friday afternoon, I captured Isaac and took him on an excursion to Princeton, KY. Princeton is the county seat of Caldwell County, about 30 miles northwest of Hopkinsville. Our destination was the Adsmore Museum, a few blocks east of the Caldwell Courthouse square in Princeton.
It was our first visit to the Adsmore, and we didn't research the museum beforehand. On the drive over, we speculated that we might see an exhibit about the Night Riders and the Black Patch tobacco wars. We were wrong.
The Adsmore house, we soon learned, is a living history museum. It recreates a specific time and place in history. Currently, Adsmore is celebrating Easter and little Katharine Garrett's 6th birthday. Inside the house, the year is 1907, and everything is ready for the holiday and for a birthday party. The museum staff is dressed in costumes of the period.
History of Adsmore
The oldest part of the house was built just before the Civil War. John Parker Smith and wife Nancy Kevil Smith purchased the house around 1900, updated it, and added the front part of the home, including the large columns.
Daughter Mayme Smith Garrett and husband Robert Garrett shared the large house with Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Katharine Garrett was Mayme and Robert's only child. Adsmore was Katharine's lifelong home, and upon her death in 1984, she left the house, its contents, and an endowment to the Caldwell County Library District. Her directive was that the house should become a museum.
Our tour group had just four people -- Isaac, me, and two other ladies -- so we were able to ask our tour guide lots of questions. We weren't allowed to take any photos inside the house or to touch anything except the banister on the stairway.
The one exception to the no-touching rule was the grand piano in the parlor. Our guide explained that the piano needs to be played regularly. She asked if anyone in the group played, and I quickly volunteered. It was great fun to sit down and play a stanza of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" . (It's an easy hymn to play on the spur of the moment without music. I think it has three chords.)
Other treasures on display include clocks, toys, prints, paintings, and hundreds of everyday objects of the Victorian period. The chandeliers and the window cornices are lavishly ornate. The antique Persian rugs on the floors were collected by members of the Smith's extended family on their trips around the world.
Everything in the house is arranged to seem as if the family has stepped out for a moment and might return at any time. The guides speak of the family members and the birthday party in present tense.
Katharine Garrett's careful plans
As Miss Katharine grew older, she made careful plans for the future of Adsmore. She investigated many possibilities before ultimately deciding to leave her home in local hands. She felt it was best to avoid federal or state ownership of the property.
Miss Katharine carefully labeled and wrapped in tissue many family garments, mementos, linens, photos, papers, etc. These were packed into trunks and put in the attic. In each trunk, she included a few tobacco leaves, a natural moth repellent. Her careful documentation has been invaluable to the museum staff.
The museum is self-sustaining. It is a non-profit organization that operates without government funding. Different events of the Smith-Garrett family history are celebrated at different times of the year. The schedule is posted on the museum's official website. If Isaac and I want to learn about Princeton's part in the Black Patch Wars, we'll have to visit again between August 10 and September 26.
On the web:
KET has an 8-minute video of the Adsmore.