This tavern is located halfway between Lexington and Frankfort on the Old Frankfort Pike and U.S. Highway 62, between Versailles and Midway in Woodford County, Kentucky. This location during the early pioneer days was listed on maps as LEESBURG until about 1870.
The tavern is composed of two structures; a four-room log cabin and a two-store brick addition. Historians from the National Heritage Commission have placed this residence on the National Register of Famous Historical Places and believe the Tavern to be the oldest existing log building in Kentucky. (They say it is unique, fascinating and also puzzling.)
Additional log rooms were added between 1787 and 1789, prior to the brick. The brick room was added in 1799 by Maj. John Lee to increase its use as an Inn. It later became the first stagecoach stopover inn west of the Alleghenies.
In the log structure, the doors are walnut, board and batten, with hand-wrought hinges and locks. All rooms have random width wood floors of ash, except the first log section, which has a poplar floor. Most rooms have delicately hand-planed chair rails. The window frames are made of black locust wood, mortared and pegged. The windows have very thin supports and contain nearly all the original glass panes, plaster was applied above the chair rail, below are 28 to 30 inch wide poplar boards. The north end has as double-hipped brick chimney with two fire places, one below and the other in the above room; with original mantels and brick hearths. At the back of the log entrance is a door leading into a large room, originally used as a bar room. It has four equal spaced 4x4 pane windows with an outside door and a large stone fireplace. This room is well suited for a dining room.
The brick structure contains similar molding and floors. The chimney is flush with the outside wall. Inside, the fireplace has the original hand carved mantels with built-in poplar closets on each side. The entrance door is walnut with cross and bible paneling.
The main log entrance room has an interesting winding stairway with cherry rails and ash tread steps, which lead to the upper rooms. To the right of the stairway is a unique space, which was used for a pay room. The opening has a sliding door that looks into the dinning area. Here were kept the daily receipts, wine and liquors. To the left of the stairway was a closet. When uncovered many years later, it had forty or more layers of wallpaper covering up the entrance and inside it contained old guns, a pair of leather boots with the appearance that they had never been worn. Inside one boot had the name Zerelda Cole written on a piece of leather like material, old button-up shoes and clothing, a door and steps that led to a dugout basement.
Traveling up the winding stairway, a narrow hall leads to a bedroom with a fireplace. Halfway down the hall, a double batten door with a heavy chain and lock. It opens into a 5 x 8 room containing an unusual enclosed alcove sleeping quarters for special quest, or celebrities. This alcove has a heavy oak bed frame suspended by chains from each corner. The frame is strung with ropes to support heavy bedding. Beneath the frame is a similar one with a wooden bottom and on casters so it could be pulled out for storage of extra bed clothing, or extra sleeping facilities. Within the alcove room and next to the bed near the top, heavy wool-like blanket was rolled up on a shaft, when unrolled it could be used for privacy or warmth. Inside the alcove were many pegs where clothes or guns and other proper things could be hung and retrieved quickly. At the end of the alcove is a small window that opens to the outside; too small for anyone to enter or leave by.
The brick addition originally built in 1799 and attached to the log structure had no passageway to the log living quarters. However, in 1939 a passage was cut through to make it more suitable for residential purposes. The main entrance has a six-foot wide hall, with a stairway constructed of ash wood steps and cherry wood rail. At the top of the stairs a large room has a heavy wood swinging partition, which can be swung to the ceiling and fastened to form a ballroom. This partition has three large rat-tail hand wrought hinges to support it. (No other swinging partition in an old Inn is known to exist today.) The upper floor has 2 inch thick wood, the joist are two by ten inches; twelve inches apart, supposedly to support ballroom dancing. Early historians claim this partition had a pulley system to raise or lower it. However, during restoration, no signs of a pulley system could be found, only large loops of medal piercing the partition and held up by placing a piece of wood or medal through it. This partition, when not in use for dancing could be lowered to make a bedroom.
The large brick room below, where Zerelda Cole was born in 1826, has two windows on the east and west sides, with 6 over 9 panes of glass to each window. This style existed between 1750 to a little after 1820. This room has a fireplace with its original mantle and brick hearth. A large poplar wood closet is to the right side of the fireplace. The chair rails and entrance door are walnut.
The two-story log structure is covered with beaded cherry weatherboarding, of which 70% of the original remains. On the north side, stands a double-hipped chimney similar to those built in Virginia around 1750. 'Thus far, only a few double-hipped chimneys are found in Kentucky, but none similar to this one. The west end of the log structure has a stone chimney outside; inside the room is a beautiful stone fireplace. This log room was the first part of the house to be built in 1774.
The other log rooms were added later in 1881, and the stone chimney restored to simulate the old chimney, during restoration in the 1980's.
Surrounding the tavern were other buildings; a blacksmith shop, an eight stall log bam, a carriage house, log servant quarters; a two story 42x58 log residence and a two story 12x12- foot log kitchen, with a 9 foot wide fireplace for cooking. Parts of the rock foundation and walkways exist today just a few inches under the grass. During restoration these old walkways and foundations were found and measured along with their location relative to the tavern. Just a few yards to the west of the tavern, a 9-meter square was laid out and checked by archaeologists. They found over 2000 artifacts, many prehistoric, and these artifacts may be found at the University Of Kentucky Archaeologist Department. Hopefully, someday all of the old surrounding buildings will be replaced along with the many artifacts, and this historic place will be given a new life for historians, the general public, and tourists to enjoy.
The earliest document recorded concerning this log cabin has it referred to as a station camp. It was mentioned by John Ashby in his day diary, quote: we came upon a large mound in which a large buffalo road running east and west and another crossing it running north and south, and a large amount of trees felled by someone before us, possibly the French. With a group of 47 surveyors we built a log building for storing surveying equipment. This place was surveyed for Hancock Taylor. Later he was wounded and died by an Indian attack. Hancock Taylor died July 23, 1774 while surveying for the Ohio Land Company. It became the property of Zachary Taylor and later John Lee and to his son, Maj. John Lee, who moved to Kentucky in 1781 with his new wife and a son by a previous marriage, Willis Atwell Lee. John and his son repaired and built additional log portions to the old log structure, previously used as a survey headquarters.
Old records, recorded in the Woodford County Courthouse; document two buildings being erected in 1799. A two-story brick building was added to the old log cabin, and a new two story log dwelling, 42 x 58 feet. The remains of a stone foundation with the same dimensions are located about 100 feet southwest of the tavern. This location has been used for the past fifty years as a garden site. From the same location, over a period of years, unusual arrowheads and other Indian Artifacts, including Egyptian head figures that were identified by marks, at the University of Kentucky. An old lease to Kennedy and Daily shows the location of buildings where a large amount of rocks from a foundation existed, and where Maj. John Lee resided during the time he ran the Inn and at the time of his death in 1802.Back to Top