Last weekend I had a chance to visit The Old Talbott Tavern or Old Stone Tavern in Bardstown, Kentucky. The tavern was built in 1779, and claims to be the oldest stagecoach stop in the west. There are even a few reports that the Talbott Tavern was once the site of the Salem Academy. Bardstown was originally called Salem when it was first settled before 1779. The tavern has also hosted some pretty famous visitors over the years, including Abraham Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe, exiled French King Louis Philippe, Andrew Jackson, Jesse James, and George Patton. As an art lover, Louis Philippe had his room at the tavern decorated with murals of birds, flowers, and trees. Louis Philippe must have loved the town as much as he loved art, because before he left he donated several works of art to the Basilica of St. Joseph in Bardstown. Jesse James later stayed in the same room, and for reasons that remain unknown, decided to use the murals for target practice. Some of those bullet holes are still visible today.
In addition to its famous guests, Talbott Tavern has reportedly had a number of supernatural visitors over the years. I walked up the creaky stairs to the second floor, hoping I would witness some of those visitors for myself, but it was not my lucky day. I didn’t see any spirits, but I did find a display titled “ghost stories told here.” The display houses a few written documents, but it is mostly a collection of old photographs. The photos capture mysterious orbs, shadows, white streaks, and even faces. Some say the bullet holes in the Jesse James’ room are not from target practice, but from James shooting at ghosts in the middle of the night! Other visitors say a mysterious woman roams the halls. In fact, two of George Talbott’s children died right in the tavern, one from falling down the stairs, and another from hanging herself over a lost love.
In March of 1998, a fire broke out in the kitchen and destroyed much of the second floor. Many of King Philippe’s murals in the Jesse James Room were damaged, and are still undergoing restoration. It is still possible however, to stay in one of the five restored rooms. Rooms start at $59 and visitors can take their pick from the Lincoln Suite, General’s Quarters Room, Anton Heinrich Room, Daniel Boone Room, or the Washington Irving Suite. Visitors report that the Daniel Boone Room is the most haunted. The tavern is still fully functional and serves lunch and dinner, with a weekend happy hour. Much of the original architecture is still visible downstairs, including an old stone fireplace, and the original exposed wooden roof beams. Talbott Tavern is located at 107 West Stephen Foster in Bardstown, KY 40004. In addition to the tavern, there are several historic sites in Bardstown. Some of those include the Civil War Museum, Old Jail, My Old Kentucky Home State Park, the 1790 home of Stephen Foster, several distilleries, and a trolley tour of the historic sites.