A Walk Through Falmouth, Kentucky
Falmouth is an historic American river community. Located at the confluence of the Licking and South Licking Rivers, it was a perfect settlement site for the colonial pioneers. Inhabited as early as 1776 by Virginians who named the town after Falmouth, Virginia, it was officially chartered in 1792. The State legislature created Pendleton County in 1798, the 28th county formed in the state, and Falmouth was designated county seat. The advent of the railroad in the 1850’s saw the town grow from an isolated rural hamlet to a booming commercial center.
The architecture of the town – employing diverse styles from Federal to Victorian – evidences artistry and craftsmanship. Man examples remain as a testimony of an earlier, more elegant era.
For over 200 years Falmouth has survived. Whether it be attacks by the English during the American revolution, skirmishes between the North and South during the Civil War, or lusty barroom brawls, the enemy was confronted and subdued. Natural disasters – such as floods, tornados, and droughts – have tested the strength and endurance of Falmouth’s people. But they didn’t waiver. The undampened pioneer spirit was entrenched in her people. In Falmouth’s past lies the strength to meet the future.
1. The Point, at the confluence of the Licking and South Licking Rivers, can always be located on the earliest maps of Kentucky. It was near this site that the earliest settles decided to build a settlement. Falmouth is the fruit of their labor.
2. Murphy’s Island was the site of much social activity in the late 1800’s. It was a picnic spot used for political rallies, had balloon ascensions, food booths, and a pavilion for dancing.
3. The Johnson Minor House dates about 1815 and is an example of Federal architecture. Johnson Minor, a cabinet maker, only lived here a short time. He became exposed to the weather trying to salvage a load of logs that overturned in the river, and he died of pneumonia.
4. The Oldham Plantation was once a 1000 acre tract that was purchased by Tyree Oldham and Samuel Hayden in 1816 from Henry Clay and James Hughes for $2,000. In 1817 Oldham bought Hayden’s part of the land. Tyree Oldham, the son of Jesse, an early inhabitant of Boonesborough, brought his family to Falmouth about 1814. Oldham built the stately brick home across the river about 1825. The construction was superb. The Flemish and common bond brickwork it contains are reminiscent of Virginia Manor homes. When the suspension bridge, one of the first in Kentucky, was erected, the Oldham Ferry was closed. Tyree Oldham’s son, Thomas Jefferson Oldham, who later owned the plantation, built a number of structures in the town and surrounding area – The Falmouth Christian church and The Doctor’s Building are among them.
5. Court House Square was formed from land given by John Waller and other founding fathers. The original courthouse, made of stone, stood on the same site as the current building. In 1818, the public land on the Court House Square was divided into 12 parcels and sold to the highest bidders. It is alleged that when “old John Waller” got wind of this division, he rode into town with his pistols “to shoot up the place.” He was arrested and put in jail to “cool off.” In 1848, the current building was constructed – remodeled in 1884 with additions to the clerk’s office, and bell and clock tower. Early in this century, the brick were painted white. It was sandblasted in 1975 and a rear addition added.
6. Ed Reddy’s Saloon was one of the most colorful establishments to be found in this building. According to local legend, Reddy, from Kilkenny, Ireland, had a saloon in front, cards in the back, and women upstairs. Several old-timers contend that as late as the 1920’s, women came to town on Court Day and hung over the balcony and invited men to “come on up.” This building is composed of three sections – the back portion built by Thomas J. Oldham about 1860 and the front section that served as a store. They were later connected.
7. The Bishop Hotel was originally known as the Glenn Hotel. Built in the early 1900’s, the hotel had access from a rear courtyard; stairs led up to individuals rooms. The building had a lobby on the lower level.
8. The Assembly Building was constructed by Gus Schubert in 1892 to serve three purposes. A drug store was housed in one section fronting Shelby Street, and an Assembly Hall and family residences were upstairs. The First National Bank building was established here in 1922 – a supporting vault is still in the basement. Over the years, it has been a pool hall, a saloon, a speakeasy, a theatre, and various merchandise establishments. In the large room upstairs, various social events were held – recitals, operas, and even high school graduations.
9. The Kennett Tavern was built about 1810 in Federal architecture. It is the oldest commercial structure in Falmouth – originally two buildings built about the same time and later joined together. During the Civil War, both Union and Confederate Soldiers were quartered in this tavern. The tavern was owned by Balzer Beaugrand during the late 1890’s/early 1900’s. During his ownership, the Beaugrands lived in the building and ran a confectionary-ice cream parlor.
10. The Phoenix Hotel was built by James and Caroline Clark around 1884 and first called the Clark Hotel (James and Caroline were the parents of Dr. Hendry Clay Clark, an early historian of Falmouth). Sometime around 1890 the name was changed to the Phoenix Hotel. George Ross became the owner in 1902 and under his guidance and the custodianship of his heirs, Misses Emma and Margaret Ross, the hotel became well known throughout the state. The Ross sisters were noted for their impeccable dining room, starched linen table covers and napkins, and a dinner beyond compare. The rooms were small but immaculate, with one bathroom on the first floor.
11. The Mary Wilson House was built around 1825 as a store in the first floor area and a dance hall upstairs with a back outside entrance. Though always associated with the Wilson family, it was built by Enos Daniels, an early sheriff of Pendleton County, to use as a store and possibly a stagecoach stop for delivering the mail. Daniels failed to pay for it and the property reverted back to James Wilson, Sr., a Revolutionary War soldier and one of the first settlers of Falmouth. It was converted into a residence about 1850. Later it was the home of James Madison Wilson, a captain in the Union Army, and remained in the family until the death of his youngest child, Mary C. Wilson, in 1983.
12. The McBride House was built by Melvin McBrice in 1907. This Victorian Gothic home is a good example of an early 20th century catalog house. It was a stock plan purchased from a company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Some of the indoor elements were ordered from Sears. It contains many of the original furnishings.
13. The Lee-Wilson House was a one-story brick built about 1827 by Willis Duncan. It was later acquired by the Lee family. Miss Fannie Lee heired the home from her parents. She married Dr. J. E. Wilson, a practicing attorney in Falmouth as early as 1888. Dr. Wilson, from one of Falmouth’s pioneer families, served as Mayor for 40 years. The house has had many additions through the years but retains much of its original charm.
14. The LLL Building was probably built by Samuel Hauser in the 1850’s. It has been a hotel, boarding house, saloon, grocery, restaurant, bus depot, and served for a time as the County Public Library. Among its tenants were Miss Jessie Morgan’s Millinery Shop, H. N. Newman’s General Store, and Willis & Wright Clothing Shop. The Guide, one of the city’s first newspapers, was printed upstairs.
15. The Western Auto Store contains two sections that were in use during the commercial boom of the 1850’s. The small white portion with gabled roof and red trim housed Falmouth’s first “motion picture” show – the Wonderland Theatre, run by Elmer Woodhead. Many other businesses – probably Parker’s Variety Store is the best remembered – have conducted shop in this building.
16. The Barbour House is one of the few remaining 19th century residences in the business district. It was built by Dr. J. H. Barbour who used the two front rooms as an office with his residence in the rear. A two story gallery extends the entire length of the side with an attractive courtyard in back. Dr. Barbour, who had a book of poetry published, was also a delegate to the 1880 Republican National Convention. He was one of four Kentuckians who broke the “unit rule” [Wikipedia] thus defeating the nomination of U. S. Grant to the third term.
17. The Citizens Bank Building was erected about 1902. The bank closed in 1923; reopened I the late 1920’w next door and sold out to the Falmouth Deposit Bank in 1932. The coin medallions on the buildings façade are noteworthy.
18. Masonic Building was constructed in 1873. The building is the best example of the Italianate architecture to be found on a commercial structure in Falmouth. In 1873, the Orion Lodge 222 sold capital stock to add the third story to this building in progress. The Masons used the third floor for lodge meetings. The KKK ad the Odd Fellows have met here also on different occasions. The remainder of the building was used for offices and shops. In 1932, the Masons purchased the Presbyterian Church building and moved their lodge to that location.
19. The Carton Block was named for William Carton, railroader and real estate investor. This building’s construction coincided with the 1850’s boom period. The structure has served the community since. Part of the building is the 1792 home of Dr. Jeremiah Monroe, Falmouth’s first physician.
20. The Pendleton County Jail was built in the 1850’s. The arched doors and windows are very distinctive. It has been in continuous use since its completion on the public square. It supplanted an earlier jail at the corner of Second Street and Maple Avenue.
21. The Alvin Mountjoy Log Cabin is the oldest house still remaining in Falmouth. The cabin was built around 1792 by Alvin Mountjoy, one of Falmouth’s first settlers. It is believed that in this cabin, the peace officers, magistrates and commissioners met by appointment on July 4, 1799 to draw up the city charter.
22. The R. B. McDonald House is an elegant Victorian Gothic home built in 1890. R. B. McDonald, an early distiller and extensive landowner, was its original inhabitant.
23. St. Paul’s Lutheran Church was built around 1871. During WWI, this church was used as city hall while the current City building was being constructed. Currently the building houses the Church of the Nazarene.
24. The St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church was built between 1877-1880 of Romanesque Revival architecture. It has undergone several renovations. The educational buildings and rectory were added in 1961. The organ, installed in 1965 was saved from demolition of the Villa Madonna Academy in Covington.
25. The Pendleton Woolen Mills was located on this site. Joshua Woodhead, who established the Woolen Mill, came to Falmouth from England via Massachusetts with his wife and three sons. He obtained machinery from a similar establishment in Lowell, Mass. From 1866 to the early 1900’s, the Pendleton Woolen Mills made blankets, skirts, jeans, etc. and shipped them worldwide. Many local citizens own some of the famous blankets.
26. The Walker Woodhead Home was built about 1885 with two rooms on the first floor and two rooms on the second. It was constructed of local brick laid by E. E. Redmon.
27. The McDonald-Holt Distillery was located on the river. Parts of the original distillery are contained within the current mill. Later the structure was sold and became the Tub Fowler Distillery. When Prohibition became law in 1919, the distillery closed. The buildings were then converted to a grain mill. Also, local honey was bottled here and shipped all over the United States. The little yellow cottage near the mill was originally known as the “jigger room,” where prospective buyers sampled the whisky for sale.
28. The Charity Southgate House was built in an area of early Black settlement which came to be known as “Happy Hollow.” Charity, born into slavery about 1806, built the house after obtaining her freedom because she was half white. She was the Matriarch of many Black families that have lived in and around Falmouth. [We've received an email from Keith Adkins that had these interesting corrections about this Charity Southgate information.]
29. The Sarah Miller House, a three story brick, was built in the late 1870’s according to a local legend, as a “house of ill repute.” Sarah Miller, from Cincinnati, acquired the lot in 1877. The house was then constructed and was financed by a “prominent Falmouth citizen.” Located near the railroad, near the main part of town and facing the town livery, the house did a thriving business until it was sold in 1889.
30. The E. F. Bradford Home was built in 1890 by E. F. Bradford, a local businessman. Bradford ran a general merchandise store. He was county school superintendent, worked at the Falmouth Deposit Bank, and was Mayor of Falmouth.
31. The Methodist Church or Mary’s chapel is the oldest church still in use in Falmouth. It was built by Augustus Robbins, the first miller in town, in 1854 in memory of his beloved wife, Mary. Robbins also maintained a pork packing plant near the Court house and shipped pork by flat-boat to New Orleans. He made a large sum of money with his shrewd dealings in the pork business and felt the need to share his good fortune. Hence, the church was built. The first structure was one story; the second floor and balcony were added later.
32. The Conrad Hardware Building was erected in the late 1800’s to serve the community as Applegate Hardware. Later additions were built as the business expanded. The Falmouth Post Office was located at one time in an upstairs portion
33. The Bradford Home, which is in the Queen Anne Style architecture, was built by Henry Bullock in 1892 for a reported price of $8,000. It was designed by T. Heinemen and modeled after the finest homes in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. There are six rooms upstairs and six down with a full attic and basement. The woodwork is in original condition and the stained glass windows are breathtaking. The home has remained in the same family since erected with many of the original furnishings intact.
34. The Christian Church was built in 1873 under the direction of Thomas Jefferson Oldham. The edifice is of the Gothic Revival style with magnificent stained glass windows added after 1900.
35. The Carriage House next to the Christian Church was built about 1891 by Theodore Bradford as a playhouse for his daughter Bess.
36. The Kellum Building was built in 1873 by the sons of Abdelah Watson against the opposition of their widowed mother. She brought suit against them and the building had to be sold. A “Grange Store” was here in 1876 – one of the first farmers’ organization in the country. Later it was a grocery store run by the Kellum family.
37. The Watson Hotel, first called the Pendleton House, was built to accommodate the rail travel. Abdelah Watson built it around 1857 as a hotel and tavern. The building contained a ballroom where many festive parties were held. Legend tells us that slaves were housed in the basement as one of the stops on the Underground Railway – slaves fleeing to freedom. Both Union and Confederate soldiers were housed upstairs at different times.
38. The Kentucky Central Railroad was completed in 1854. Among its laborers were Irish laborers, many of whom remained in Falmouth and Pendleton County. The coming of the railroad was probably the most significant factor in Falmouth’s mid-19th century growth. Collins’ History of Kentucky states that 32 houses were erected in Falmouth in 1869. It was a boom period with many new industries established as well. Near the railroad were several tobacco warehouses, hotels and boarding houses, the stockyards and a flour mill.
39. The Jameson House was built in 1868 by George W. Jameson, a dealer in tobacco. The home is the only example of Gothic Revival architecture to be found in Falmouth.
40. The Falmouth Baptist Church is among the oldest Baptist congregations in Kentucky. Sixteen members of the Bryan’s Station Church in Fayette County met in 1792 and formed the church. Alexander Monroe was the minister. The first building was near the Main Licking River in 1801. A brick building was constructed in 1830 on Main Street. It was replaced in 1854 by a church at the corner of Fourth and Chapel Streets.
41. The Leslie Applegate House was built by attorney Applegate in 1884. It is an example of Victorian Shingle style dwelling. Leslie Applegate later moved his family to Covington where he was prominent in judicial circles. He was elected a Circuit Judge and served the public admirably in this position for many years.
42. The Tannery was located on this site in the early 1800’s. Harmon Deglow was one of the people to maintain such an establishment here. When the present dwelling was remodeled, old salt vats that had been used in tanning the hides were discovered.
43. The Bishop House was a frame building constructed about 1880 and used by Bernard Piening, a contractor. It was converted to a residence in 1886 and purchased by John H. Barker. Mr. Barker was County Attorney and later County Judge. The house is owned by a granddaughter of Mr. Barker.
44. The Presbyterian Church had its groundbreaking September 14, 1872. D. E. Redmon, local bricklayer was awarded the contract and built the structure. Prior to this, the Presbyterians, who had a congregation as early as 1829, met in the homes of church members. The church disbanded in 1932 and sold the building to the Masons (Orion Lodge) for $1,500. It has been their lodge ever since.
Compiled by Terry England.