Get to Know Mary Todd
Lincoln, of course, eventually reconciled with and married Todd, who was raised in a wealthy Lexington family. The 207-year-old Mary Todd Lincoln House in downtown Lexington, which preserves her childhood home, was the first museum in the country honoring a first lady.
“She moved here when she was 13 and lived here until she was 21,” said Gwen Thompson, the director of the house. “It was the house she brought Lincoln back to after they were married.
“They came back to Lexington at least three times. They stayed three and a half weeks in 1847. That was his most significant time in the house.”
Although there are only a few pieces of Todd family furnishings and the items that belonged to Mary Todd Lincoln were from her adulthood, the house is furnished in authentic period pieces.
Sally Field visited the house while researching her role as Mary Todd Lincoln in the movie “Lincoln.” “I think she mainly wanted to get a sense of place,” said Thompson.
Journey to the other end of Main Street in Lexington for a sense of the city’s place in the heart of Kentucky’s horse country. The 2.75-acre Thoroughbred Park pays homage to the racing industry with walkways, a statue of the legendary 19th-century sire Lexington, 44 plaques honoring people who made a significant impact on the racing industry and “a horse race frozen in time” — life-sized statues of seven hall of fame jockeys aboard thoroughbreds thundering toward the finish line.
“There is a lot of symbolism in the park,” said Alan Upton, a guide for Lexington-based Blue Grass Tours. “A limestone wall represents the grandstand, a round hedge the winner’s circle and the statue of a foal the future of the horse industry in Lexington.
“The Bluegrass Region of central Kentucky includes 16 counties. It is the heart of horse country. There are some 450 horse farms in the region, most in the five-county region around Lexington.
“And there are a few in the Louisville area, which has the most famous horse race in the world, the Kentucky Derby.”
From Farm to Paddock
Blue Grass Tours is one of several companies that run regular tours of the horse farms around Lexington. The company has arrangements with some 75 farms for various types of tours, from extensive explanations of a farm operation to just a drive-through.
“This is the quintessential Kentucky: gentle rolling hills,” said Upton as we passed stone fences and black plank fences along Old Frankfort Pike.
We stopped at Darby Dan Farm, which owned Kentucky Derby winners Chateaugay in 1963 and Proud Clarion in 1967.
Darby Dan is now a commercial farm, breeding, boarding and training horses for others. The stallion manager meets groups, explains how the farm operates, shows the oak-paneled breeding shed and brings out one of the stallions housed there.
The tour also takes groups to Keeneland Race Course, with its tree-lined grounds and stone-faced grandstand. Groups can arrange to watch morning training sessions, eat breakfast in the track kitchen with jockeys and trainers, and attend races in the spring and fall where the horses are saddled beneath large trees in the paddock.
Blue Grass Tours also offers what it calls a Horses, Hooch and History Tour that combines visits to horse farms and Keeneland with a distillery tour.
In Louisville, groups can get a comprehensive history of the Run for the Roses at the Kentucky Derby Museum, which is filled with informative and fun interactive exhibits.
A visit can also include a tour of historic Churchill Downs, where the museum is located. Groups can also stay for races during the track’s meets.
Whether a group wants to sample America’s native spirit, trace history, enjoy bucolic scenery or experience the excitement of a thrilling drive to the finish line, central Kentucky offers a wealth of choices.