Thanks for the Great Times, Maysville KY!!

September 2015 — It’s been well over a month since we left Maysville, Kentucky, but our travels there were so special that we have a few more tales to tell and photos to share in one last blog post here. For starters, Mark got up early one morning and caught the town’s classic suspension bridge lit up in the mist just before dawn. What a beautiful sight!

Misty Lights Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge Maysville Kentucky

Lights in the mist at the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge in Maysville Kentucky

During our stay in Maysville we happily became regulars at O’Rourke’s Neighborhood Pub. Every afternoon we joined a special group of newfound friends for a pint. We ended up meeting lots of people and got caught up in conversation whenever we stopped in.

One particularly hot and sultry afternoon, as we were relaxing over a pint on the patio, Mark noticed that his buddy sitting next to him, Jeff, was all suited up for a running race. “When’s the race?” Mark asked him. “In about an hour!” Jeff said, grinning, “You should do it!”

O'Rourke's Pub Maysville Kentucky

In two short weeks, we became regulars here at O’Rourke’s Neighborhood Pub

To my complete astonishment, after Mark polished off his Guinness, he got up from the table and took off to put on his running gear too. I felt like a total bump on a log, but I was glued to my chair and couldn’t possibly imagine doing a 5k run at race pace right about now!

In no time, Mark returned in his running shorts and shoes and headed down the street to the registration table at Limestone Landing. It’s a good thing he had all that hydration in him, even though it was beer, as this particular afternoon was truly sweltering with 95 degrees heat and 95% humidity to boot! I was dripping with sweat just sitting in a chair in the shade!

As I followed him to the starting line, I saw a whole slew of young kids lined up for a photo op. How fun! The heat wasn’t fazing them one bit. They were raring to go!

5k running kids Maysville Kentucky

Kids pose before the start of the 5k race

Suddenly, the race started and they were off. A whole pack of people of all ages ran past me and vanished down the road.

The finish line was in front of the bar (perfect!), so, with nothing to do while they were gone, all of us bumps-on-logs went back to enjoying our beers and chatting on the back porch of the pub. I felt a little guilty for not doing the race too, but not that guilty!!

After a while we saw some heads bobbing in the distance, and along they came.

Finishing the 5k race in Maysville Kentucky

From bar stool to finish line in record time

Mark sprinted over the finish line looking much too fresh for all that exertion, but he admitted he was pretty pooped. The kids, however, were just getting started. As a band played in the streets, they jumped up on the picnic tables and began to boogie, to everyone’s delight!

Kids dancing on the table Maysville Kentucky

The running race sure didn’t wear out these kids…they were dancing on the tables and ready for more!

Parties in the streets, dancing on the tables, and live music all seemed like such a natural part of day-to-day life here in cute and historic Maysville. If there wasn’t an event going on outside on the brick streets, then there was usually something going on inside somewhere.

Historic alley Maysville Kentucky

No dancing in the street right now, but just wait!

We took in a terrific photography exhibit at the Cox Building one afternoon. Photographer Rad Drew had taken most of the photos with a DSLR camera, but they had all been processed on an iPhone using iPhone apps. The results were gorgeous!

Maysville has its own Opera House which has recently been renovated from top to bottom. This wonderful theater hosts all kinds of performances throughout the year, and we were lucky to catch a fabulous show there.

Maysville Kentucky Opera House

The Washington Opera House in Maysville

We had seen posters around town for a free Elton John tribute concert at the Opera House, and as we sat in the seats of this beautifully restored building, we were transported to a different time and place as performer Lee Alverson channeled the rock star on stage.

Besides his great renditions of old favorites, what amazed us was when an announcer hopped up on stage and listed all the upcoming performances at the Opera House. Not only did the theatrical group the Maysville Players have a major production planned for every other month during the winter, but a medalist in the International Franz Liszt Piano Competition was on tap to perform a few days after we left. This is one busy stage!

Elton John Concert Maysville Kentucky Opera House

Elton John comes to life on stage at the Opera House

There were other kinds of free music being played around town too, and we enjoyed listening to a band at the St. Patrick’s Fall Festival at the historic St. Patrick’s Church in town .

St Patrick's Fall Festival Maysville Kentucky

Playing great tunes at the St. Patrick’s Fall Festival

Just outside of town we found even more things to do. Before Maysville came into being, the village of Washington was settled just a few miles away. The area was first explored by Simon Kenton, and when the town was later formed, one of the trustees was Daniel Boone.

A mural on the flood wall in Maysville shows how the earliest travelers came down the Ohio River on flat boats in the 1700’s. When they built their homes, they dismantled the flat boats and used the boards to build their houses.

Maysville Kentucky floodwall mural early settlement

The Maysville flood wall tells the history of the area, including the arrival of settlers in flat boats on the Ohio River

One such house in Old Washington was built by George Mefford. Those early settlers were made of some pretty tough stock. He lived here with his wfe and thirteen children!!

Washington Kentucky 1790's Settlement near Maysville_

Cozy living: a family of fifteen lived under this roof. Wow!

Another fun building in town is the old post office. Established in 1789, it was the first post office west of the Appalachian Mountains, and it served settlers all the way out to Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Washington Kentucky Post Office near Maysville

The historic post office in Old Washington

The town was also the site of a slave auction that was witnessed by Harriet Beacher Stowe when she was visiting a friend there. That scene later played an important part in her famous book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

We were surprised to learn that during the Civil War, Kentucky did not side strongly with either the North or the South, instead finding itself split in its allegiance. Ironically, the little village of Washington was the birthplace of two Civil War generals, one who fought for the Union and one who fought for the Confederacy.

Kentucky was so torn by the war that, at times, the merchants in Maysville were unsure which currency to use to pay their laborers, knowing that if they paid them in the wrong currency it would have no value when the war was over.

One afternoon, we watched a World War II ship sail down the Ohio River. Like so many unexpected events we stumbled into, this one spread by word of mouth around town, and by the time the ship floated past, the banks were full of spectators cheering as the crew yelled out, “Hello Kentucky!” (They yelled “Hello Ohio” to the crowd on the other side!)

US Navy WWII Ship Maysville Kentucky

Sailors on a US Navy ship from WWII shout “Hello Kentucky” as they float by on the Ohio River

Just a few miles away in the town of Augusta, the Augusta Ferry is a really fun way to get out on the Ohio River. The ride is free for foot traffic and is $5 per car. It takes just a few minutes to cross the river, and it goes back and forth all day long.

“What’s on the other side?” I asked the boatman as I took a spot by the rail.


Oh gosh, ask a silly question, get a silly answer! There’s no town on the other side, just a ramp and a dock, so we didn’t get off. But it was fun to see how the cabin compartment of the ferry swiveled around the barge as it turned to go back towards Kentucky.

Augusta Ferry Ohio River Kentucky

The Augusta Ferry offers a free ride to Ohio

We happened to be in Augusta for Augusta Heritage Days, a fall festival featuring a truly awesome car show. Antique cars were driving all over this tiny little village, and they lined up in the grass on the banks of the Ohio.

Augusta Heritage Days car show Kentucky

An antique truck parks on the main drag in Augusta

A trolley shuttled people between Augusta’s main drag and the big park where the cars were on display.

Trolley ride Augusta Kentucky Heritage Days

We hopped on a trolley to go between the town’s main street and the car show at the riverfront park

Mark was in seventh heaven talking to all the car owners, peering under hoods, and admiring glistening paint jobs on sporty cars from every era. As we drove back to Maysville, we found ourselves behind a really cute little yellow convertible. That’s the way to go!

Antique Car Augusta Kentucky

Now, THIS is the way to enjoy the riverside drive between Maysville and Augusta

Maysville is steeped in history, and I just loved a photo we saw of Market Street filled with antique cars back when they were the hip new thing to own. We had been in Maysville long enough that I could now recognize not only Market Street but also the buildings that were still standing and the few that were no longer there.

Market Street Maysville Kentucky early 1900's

Antique cars — when they weren’t antique — on Market Street in Maysville

As our happy days in town began to wind down, we ran around getting final shots of the lovely downtown area. We had fun giving them an artsy look.

Maysville Kentucky Historic Town

Historic buildings downtown offer an antique flair in modern times.

Pretty buildings and beautiful renovations aside, it is the people that ultimately make Maysville special. The warmth, hospitality and friendship we found in this small river town will forever touch our hearts, and we can’t say thank you enough to everyone for letting us feel like locals for a while.

Thank you City of Maysville Kentucky

Like the sign on the Russell Theater says… Thanks!

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We were deeply saddened to learn about a devastating fire in a Maysville apartment building last week that took the lives of a family and their neighbor. Our hearts go out to everyone, and we hope these glimpses of our special days in town last month bring a smile.

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Maysville Kentucky – Tobacco, Freemasons, Miniatures & Clooneys!

September 2015 – We stayed in Maysville Kentucky for two weeks, and every day was filled with fun things to do. Some of our favorites were various tours we took around town.

Dawn Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge Maysville Kentucky

Dawn in Maysville, Kentucky

Kentucky is tobacco country, and Maysville once flourished as the heart of the burley tobacco industry. Burley tobacco leaves are what give cigarettes their flavor, and the climate and landscape here is ideal for growing this kind of tobacco.

Tobacco fields mural Maysville Kentucky

A mural on the Maysville floodwall shows the view of a tobacco field during the harvest
as seen from inside a barn where the cut leaves have been hung for drying

This is a very labor intensive industry, and it seemed that all the guys we talked to had worked in the tobacco fields at some point when they were younger. It almost seemed as if it was a rite of passage to spend some teenage years making money out in the hot sundrenched tobacco fields or climbing high up in the barns where the leaves are carefully hung to dry.

Tobacco drying in a barn Mason County Kentucky

Tobacco leaves drying

Our friend Norbert wanted to be sure we experienced this unique aspect of Maysville life, and he took us out to some fields to see the harvesting in action. We’d never seen tobacco fields before, but in no time we could recognize the broad, yellowing leaves from a distance. We wandered in and out of a few barns utterly wide-eyed at the painstaking effort it takes to cut and dry a tobacco plant’s precious leaves.

Tobacco leaves hanging in a barn Maysville Kentucky

Burley tobacco, which gives cigarettes their flavor, is the leaf that is grown here

Apparently, farm machinery has been developed to take some of the back breaking effort out of the cutting process, but it doesn’t do the job nearly as well as human hands. As sweat poured down our brows in the sweltering Kentucky sun, we watched a bunch of strapping young men bounding on and off of tractors, cutting the leaves, loading them up on trucks and driving them off to the barn.

Cutting tobacco leaves Maysville Kentucky

Cutting tobacco is very labor intensive work.

As we followed a truck to one of the barns, we noticed other trucks loaded with tobacco leaves on the roads too. This was cutting season, and now that the plants were ready to be harvested, it was all hands on deck to get it done.

Cutting burley tobacco leaves Maysville Kentucky

Harvesting tobacco

In the barns, we watched in amazement as these young men leaped up into the rafters effortlessly. They were nimble, strong and quick on their feet. Sidestepping out along the beams, they each took a wide stance facing the racks of leaves, and then the bucket brigade began.

Guys on the ground unloaded the leaves from the truck and passed them up to waiting hands in the rafters that, in turn, passed them higher. And so it went, up and up and up until the guys at the top placed the leaves on the racks to dry.

Burley tobacco leaves drying in a barn Mason County Kentucky

Young men climbed high in the rafters and passed the tobacco leaves up from hand to hand

The tobacco industry has all but disappeared today, but the elegant buildings of downtown Maysville are testament to a time when the local industry thrived. One particularly beautiful building is the Cox Building

When we first arrived, everyone kept sending us to the Cox Building. Afterall, not only is it home to the College Cafe, with its yummy desserts and inexpensive gourmet Friday lunches, but it also houses the visitors center on the second floor.

And everyone kept telling us, “Make sure you take a tour of the Cox Building too!”

When we poked our heads inside the door of the visitors center, we saw an enormous corner office with a big desk and huge windows overlooking the town.

Cox Building Maysville Kentucky

The elegant Cox Building.

Suddenly we heard a perky, welcoming voice greeting us, and we quickly got caught up in a rapid fire conversation with a petite and vivacious gal named Suzie. As she talked to us about how much she loved living in Maysville, we were struck that she didn’t have even a hint of that leisurely, drawn out Kentucky drawl we’d been hearing around town. She spoke with a British accent!

She was talking so fast about the history of Maysville and the history of Kentucky that I was still scratching my head to figure out out how a Brit came to be the visitors center’s hostess of this very cool and quintessentially American town as we found her leading us up the stairs on a tour that would soon reveal the many hidden secrets of the stately yet mysterious Cox Building. But how unique and special it is that a small town filled with people who grew up together welcomes not just tourists but new residents with such open arms!

Cox Building Maysville Kentucky

You’d never guess what lies inside this building!

It turns out that the Cox Building is a Masonic Temple and that the Freemasons of the York Rite Knights Templar built it to their very unusual specifications over a century ago. In the last few years, the building has been lovingly restored, and by some stroke of luck, what might have been a very superficial makeover was given a chance to become a very detailed restoration.

Masonic Temple stained glass window Cox Building Maysville Kentucky

A beautiful stained glass window in the Cox Building.

Back in 2010, the Cox Building suffered a terrible fire caused by the heat of a workman’s light igniting the tinder dry interior wood. The whole town watched in horror as flames shot out of the turrets (there are heart wrenching photos of the fire on the first floor of the building).

That fire could easily have been the end of this magnificent building. However, a wise insurance agent had insisted that the town guard against disaster and insure the building for its true value. So, when this disaster struck, they were financially prepared.

But of course! This is, after all, a town that has been trained to prepare for disaster by the Mighty (and unpredictable) Ohio River!

The insurance claim allowed the town to attend to every detail in the building’s reconstruction, and what details there are. The frescoes on the walls and ceilings are exquisite!

Masonic Lodge Cox Building Maysville Kentucky

The Asylum is an enormous room that is decorated with fabulous frescoes on the walls and ceiling

I won’t give away all the secrets of the Cox Building here, because the mysteries of the building and its Masonic origins are best experienced in person. The unusual architecture, bizarre staircases, and obscure symbols etched on everything from interior door hinges to exterior stonework all left us reeling.

So, we’ll join the chorus: When you visit Maysville, take a tour of the Cox Building!

Maysville Kentucky Cox Building Masonic Lodge Knights Templar

Unusual symbolism of the York Rite Knights Templar

Another special tour we enjoyed was through the Kentucky Gateway Museum. The entire history of Maysville is written out and shown with pictures in great detail, from the arrival of Simon Kenton and Daniel Boone, who settled the area, through the rise of industry, to the rise of the Ohio River floodwaters. (By the way, the Boone family tavern was down by the river and you can see headstones of the Boone relatives buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in town).

Our favorite part, however, was the miniatures exhibit. The Kathleen Savage Miniatures collection is a stunning display of building replicas done in exact one twelfth scale, that is, where one inch equals one foot.

Jewelry store Miniature collection Kentucky Gateway Museum Maysville KY

Photos of the miniature replicas belie their size because the scale is perfect unto itself.
This jewelry store is just inches tall.

There are living room interiors and dining room interiors complete with furniture and table place settings (imagine a fork or spoon in perfect 1/12 dimensions!). One of our favorites was the jewelry store. Peeking into the well lit store through the windows and door, you can see jewelry on display. Every piece is crafted with real gem stones!

The centerpiece of the whole exhibit is a replica of Princess Diana’s ancestral home.

London Spencer House Lady Diana Ancestral Home Miniature Collection Kentucky Gateway Museum Maysville

The extraordinary London Spencer House,
Princess Diana’s ancestral home

The exterior of this building is extremely grand, and I found that while I was peering at the enormous dining room and luxurious bedrooms I could almost imagine what life would be like inside such a home. Being served at the long dining room table or relaxing in the library almost seemed possible!

All of the miniatures have paintings on the walls along with candles and vases and all the other decorations that go with an elegant home. The surprise in Spencer House was seeing miniature portraits of Diana herself!

Miniature Display Kentucky Gateway Museum Maysville Kentucky

The table settings and wall decorations are all exquisitely made.

Maysville boasts another wonderfully skilled craftsman who brings antiques to life, but in full, lifesize scale. Joe Brannen replicates antique furniture in a wonderful workshop at the end of the main drag in town. We stopped by to visit and were instantly enveloped in the deliciously pungent smell of wood.

Joe Brannen Antique Furniture Reproductions Maysville KY

Joe Brannen showed us his fine furniture reproductions workshop

Joe has every woodworking tool imaginable, and there are pieces of wood on the workbenches that are in every stage of transformation from raw wood to fine works of art. Out front we saw the finished products: beautiful pieces of museum quality furniture.

Joe Brannen Antique Furniture Reproductions Maysville Kentucky

Each piece is expertly made, bringing 1790’s furniture to life today.

Maysville boasts its own homegrown Hollywood celebrity family fame too. Singer Rosemary Clooney was born in Maysville in 1928, and her nephew, George Clooney grew up in the area.

Rosemary Clooney Flood Wall Mural Painting Maysville KY

A mural on the Maysville floodwall honors hometown sweetheart Rosemary Clooney

Celebrity sightings are fairly common in Maysville, and when we had dinner overlooking the river at Caproni’s, we admired a huge display of dinner plates signed by all kinds of dignitaries that have eaten there. Front and center, of course, was a plate signed by George Clooney!

George Clooney Plate Caproni's On The River Maysville KY

Rosemary’s nephew, George Clooney, ate at Caproni’s too!

We thoroughly enjoyed Maysville, Kentucky, but what really surprised us during our stay was how many events there were going on. It seemed that every day there was some kind of special gathering, and in no time our usually empty Day Planner was full to overflowing with activities. We just had to stick around!

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NOTE: The timing of this post is really unfortunate. I discovered after publishing it that in the same moments that I was writing about the Cox Building fire above, another horrific blaze was burning in a group of row houses in downtown Maysville. These were buildings we knew well from our runs and walks in town. Tragically, five people died in the fire, a mother, her three young children and a neighbor. Words can’t express the grief we feel for our special friends in this beautiful and vibrant town as they rally together once again in the face of unspeakable loss.

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Here’s a little more info about some of these special spots in Maysville:

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A Sweet Life on the Ohio River – Maysville, Kentucky

September 2015 – We knew as soon as we got to Maysville, Kentucky, that this was a unique town and that something special was going on here. But what makes one town stand out from all the rest?

Simon Kenton Bridge Maysville Kentucky Rooftops

A bird’s eye view of Maysville Kentucky

For one thing, there are some great bakeries that make this town very sweet!

On our first morning in town, we discovered the Parc Café where we found delicious lattés and yummy croissants and muffins in a really pretty setting. During our stay we kept coming back for more, and we found that there were different kinds of goodies coming out of the oven every time we stopped in.

Parc Cafe coffee shop Maysville Kentucky

The Parc Cafe is a great spot for a leisurely cuppa joe

Even more unusual is The College Cafe. This little corner bakery is where the students from the Maysville Institute of Culinary Arts show off what they have learned in class. And all I can say is that whoever is teaching down there really knows their stuff.

We dove into sinfully delicious brownies and cookies, and stocked up our RV pantry for later too, and all for pennies on the dollar, because they sell their wares at prices that just cover their costs!

Maysville College Cafe Maysville Institute of Culinary Arts

Students from the Maysville Institute of Culinary Arts strut their stuff here – yum!

But man doesn’t live by bread alone. There was something else here in Maysville that drew the town together, made the friendships so strong, and gave us a sense that neighbor helps neighbor and rich and poor rub shoulders without prejudice.

City Park flowers Maysville Kentucky

Pretty flowers in a city park

As we walked down to the river, we found that Maysville is actually a walled city. Unlike European walled cities, it isn’t walled against human invaders. Instead, it is walled against a much more powerful and brutal adversary: the Ohio River.

Maysville Kentucky Ohio River Flood Wall

Maysville is protected from the menacing Ohio River by an enormous floodwall.

This towering concrete wall protects the town from the river’s floodwaters that have a nasty habit of rising to alarming heights with frightening regularity. The back side of the floodwall, facing into town, is decorated with beautiful and enormous murals that stand two dozen or so feet high. Each one depicts a period of Maysville’s history, starting with the Shawnee Indian buffalo hunters who stalked their prey in the area in the 1600’s.

Maysville Kentucky Flood Wall Mural Bufallo Hunt

The first floodwall mural in the series shows the Shawnee Indian buffalo hunts of the 1600’s

Another mural depicts a later period in the 1800’s when paddle boats cruised up and down the Ohio River, connecting Maysville to distant towns and giving birth to a thriving economy as goods and people traveled up and downstream.

Maysville Kentucky Flood Wall Mural Paddleboat on the River 2

The Ohio River gave Maysville a highway to the world

A few decades later, the town’s buildings had become much taller and the paddle boats had been replaced by huge barges. Maysville had become a very important port, and industry was booming.

Maysville Kentucky Flood Wall Mural River Barges

By the late 1800’s Maysville was a truly happening place with big riverfront buildings and huge barges
delivering and shipping goods

But then the Ohio River flooded the town, first in 1884 and then again in 1937. Spring rains and snowmelt rushed downriver from the north, and the water in the city streets rose higher and higher until the buildings were immersed.

Maysville Kentucky 1884 Flood

The Ohio River asserts its authority by flooding the town in 1884

The 1937 flood was such a doozy that it wiped out many of the buildings on Front Street right along the river. Rather than giving up in despair, however, the townspeople responded by banding together and erecting an enormous floodwall to protect their town from the river in the future.

Flood Wall Gate Maysville Kentucky_

The floodwall gate at Limestone Landing

At Limestone Landing there is a huge floodwall gate. As we walked through, we wondered how the city closed the gate when floodwaters came. A city worker named Terry showed us the brick partitions that are stored right next to the gate. Would there really be time to get all those things in place? I asked him. Oh yes, he said, you usually get a few days’ notice!

Bricks to close floodwall gate Maysville Kentucky

The gate is closed by inserting these partitions
into the slots in the edges of the gate

I looked out at the placid and seemingly harmless water. The Ohio River sure didn’t look like an enemy, and it certainly wasn’t an enemy that used ambush tactics. Instead, it is a much more sinister foe that gives you plenty of advance warning before it attacks, and then relentlessly advances, inch by frightening inch!

It was hard to imagine those floodwaters rising so. Terry described standing on the railroad tracks alongside the river and watching a house float by in the terrifying flood of 1997.

Yet the river is very beautiful and placid 99% of the time. Down at the river’s edge the town has built a wonderful zig-zag boardwalk where we watched barges pushing cargo up and down the river under the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge.

Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge and riverfront boardwalk Maysville Kentucky

There is a wonderful boardwalk along the river at Limestone Landing

One day a school class came down to the river to watch an old World War II ship sail past, and we listened from a distance as they were given a little lesson about the geography of the states of Ohio and Kentucky and the river that runs between them.

School class on the Ohio River bank Maysville Kentucky

School kids learn the history of their town
and the importance of the Ohio River

In the distance we could see a power plant that also relies on the river for its operations.

Maysville Kentucky RIverwalk and power plant

The Ohio River is at the foundation of the area’s economy

The Ohio River plays an important part in many aspects of day to day life here. And just as the barges carry goods up and down the river day in and day out, trains have done the same thing right next to the river for a century.

Train tracks Maysville Kentucky

Trains parallel the barges next to the river.

Maysville is a waterfront town, and Limestone Landing is a great place to enjoy the beauty of the river. From the floodwall gate a tunnel goes underneath the train tracks to the river, and hundreds of clay tiles line the tunnel walls, each one imprinted with a child’s hand. This very cool riverside artwork was a school project in the mid 1990’s.

Children's hand imprints in flood wall gate tunnel

Touching artwork decorates the walls of the tunnel under the train tracks,
courtesy of the local high school kids in the mid 1990’s

We’d never spent much time in a river town before, and as the days passed we began to realize just how deeply the Ohio River is integrated into Maysville’s soul. It’s not just that the river gave rise to the town’s early settlement and burgeoning economy two centuries ago. It is simpler and yet also more subtle than that.

The Ohio River put Maysville on the map, but in return, it has reminded the town, in startling 50-60 year intervals ever since, that it also has the ability to take it off the map!

The oldest folks in town remember the horrific devastation of the flood of 1937. Most everyone else remembers the flood of 1997 when the river crested just shy of the top of the flood wall.

Barge on the Ohio River

As this barge floats past Maysville, it’s hard to imagine how devastating an Ohio River flood can be.

But Maysville gets plenty of small reminders of what the river can do in between those mammoth floods. Last year’s heavy snows and rains brought the river almost to the base of the floodwall in the spring, covering the zig-zag boardwalk by many feet and rising through the clay tile decorated tunnel and going right up the staircase that leads to the floodwall gate. It did the same thing a few years earlier.

Without a doubt, living with a neighbor — and benefactor — just over the wall that is as temperamental as the Mighty Ohio River will shape a town’s personality.

Perhaps it has united the community in ways that other towns never experience. Keeping the river at bay must be a special source of pride, and certainly everyone we met expressed a genuine affection for Maysville that is far deeper than most people feel for their hometown.

Simon Kenton Bridge and St Patrick's Cathedral Maysville KY

The historic Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge

And perhaps the bakeries in Maysville are so good because people in town understand the importance of living by this credo:

Life is short and uncertain — eat dessert first!

High up on 6th Street we got an awesome bird’s eye view of the town and the river as we looked across the rooftops at the two suspension bridges, the older Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge and the very modern William Harsha suspension bridge in the distance.

William Harsha Bridge and Maysville Kentucky church steeples

Maysville is flanked by two beautiful suspension bridges.
The William Harsha bridge in the distance has a wonderfully sleek and modern design.

In the days that followed, we learned that there was another equally important sculptor, besides the Ohio River, that played a role in forming Maysville’s unique spirit: the tobacco fields. And we were very fortunate to be given a special view of this labor intensive industry up close…


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Maysville, Kentucky – Come for the History, Stay for the People!

September 2015 – After a delightful two weeks in the New York Finger Lakes, our RV travels took us south through Pennsylvania and Ohio until we found ourselves on the shores of the Ohio River, staring at a very cute town on the opposite river bank in Kentucky. There were church steeples and old brick buildings, and it looked very appealing. What was this place?

Maysville Kentucky seen from Aberdeen Ohio on the Ohio River

Looking across the Ohio River from Aberdeen. The town on the other side sure looks cute!

As night fell, the town on the other side became even more alluring. The suspension bridge that spanned the Ohio River was lit up, and the city lights from the town across the way were reflected in the water.

Maysville Kentucky on the Ohio River at Night


Maysville Kentucky at Night Ohio River reflections

That town over there sure is cool, day or night!

The next morning we just had to go check this place out, so we headed across the bridge.

Driving over the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge Maysville KY


We had looked the place up on the map and found out it was Maysville, Kentucky, a town loaded with history. As we looked out over it now the town seemed to sparkle in the morning sun.

Maysville Kentucky sparkles in the morning sun


We hopped out of the truck and were soon prowling around town down by the river. We came across a huge sign painted on a towering concrete wall welcoming us to Maysville. This wasn’t just any old ordinary “Welcome to Town” sign. For one thing, it was enormous. For another, it had an orange butterfly in the corner. We would soon discover that this cheerful little guy was much like the spirit of Maysville.

Welcome to Maysville

What a warm welcome.

As we walked back up into town and looked around we were charmed. We seemed to have landed in the heart of the historic district of Maysville, and everywhere we turned the buildings were all different colors.

Streets of Maysville Kentucky and Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge

Multi-colored buildings stand against the ever-present backdrop of the Simon Kenton Memorial Bridge.

We wandered up Market Street where there was a fountain bubbling in the middle of the street.

Maysville Kentucky Market Street

The center of Market Street boasts a pretty fountain.

Down at our feet we found cool wavy patterns of brick.

Brick streets Maysville Kentucky

The streets are brick — how fun!

The buildings around us were downright jaunty. No two were alike. Tall, short, wide, skinny, they all stood together, wonderfully mismatched yet cozy and congenial.

Historic buildings Market Street Maysville KY

The pretty buildings are all different colors AND all different sizes!

Looking more closely at one building, we noticed that even the windows were free spirited and jovial. None of the lines were square and each window stood at an angle.

Angled windows

The angles of the windows make quizzical expressions!

There had to be stories behind these wonderful buildings, we thought. Fun stories and unusual stories. If only those old storefronts and upstairs apartments could talk!

Market Street Maysville Kentucky

Ornate buildings on Market Street.

We wandered up and down the streets, marveling at the elaborate detail on the building fronts. One building had a fabulous rounded turret with a peaked top worthy of Rapunzel.

Turret building Maysville Kentucky

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair!

Wrought iron and fancy carved woodwork adorned another, and next door to it the sun peaked through a wrought iron gate.

Historic Market Street Buildings Maysville Kentucky

Morning sun shines through a wrought iron gate and windows.

Roses were blooming in front of a series of white houses, and a handsome church steeple pierced the sky. We later found out these row houses date back to 1816 and are called “Mechanics Row.”

Row houses Maysville Kentucky


This place was just plain cool!

Picnic area

Come sit for a spell…

The town was very quiet during the morning hours, and we almost felt like we had the place to ourselves.

Doorway Maysville Kentucky


But what we were soon to discover is that these buildings are home to one of the liveliest, warmest and friendliest communities of people we’ve ever met anywhere.

Historic downtown Maysville Kentucky

The architecture is wonderful,
but the people here are even better!

It’s not the buildings that make a place lovable. As delightful as the architecture is in the town of Maysville — and some of the most appealing buildings in town are the seven adorable red brick “days of the week” row houses that run up a hill bearing names from Sunday to Saturday — it is the people that make a community come alive.

Row houses days of the week Maysville Kentucky

These row houses are named after the days of the week!

On our first night in town we stopped in at O’Rourke’s Neighborhood Pub and soon found ourselves swept up in energetic conversation, laughter, and rapidly growing friendships, immersed in the local scene as if we had lived in Maysville all our lives. It felt as if we had suddenly taken off our jackets that had the word “Tourists” emblazoned on them and had put on the Maysville team jersey instead.

O'Rourke's Pub Maysville Kentucky

O’Rourke’s Neighborhood Pub
“Where everyone knows your name,” even if you’re from out of town!

This little pub was the kind of place where everyone knew who the out-of-town folks were, but rather than keeping the outsiders at a distance, they asked us to pull up a chair and join their big groups at the tables.

On the next night, the bar owner, Norbert, sat with us, and between telling us tales of the town’s history, he introduced us to one person after another as they came in. From local attorneys to workers in the nearby limestone mine and power plant, we met one new friend after another, and they all openly shared tidbits of their lives and stories with us.

Fiery sky over church steeple

We enjoyed Maysville so much we stayed
for nearly two weeks!

What’s more, they all had wonderful recommendations of things we really must see and do during our stay in town. Suddenly, we couldn’t leave. There was just too much to do here! How blessed we felt to have the time to be able stay and relish this precious place.

In our travels we’ve found it is really rare to be able to visit somewhere and truly become an integral part of it and enjoy it from the inside rather that remaining on the outside looking in. Our days in Maysville will forever stand out in our memories because the people we met let us bridge that gap and become locals for a while.

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OMG – We Made The Front Page!

We went out for a walk this morning around the very cool town of Maysville, Kentucky, where we’ve spent the glorious past few days, and what a shock it was to see our faces peeking out from the front page of the paper inside the newspaper box.

Maysville Kentucky Ledger independent Newspaper

Hey… That’s our picture on the front page!

No, we’re not wanted. At least, not yet.

We’re just having a blast! And we’ve gotten swept up in the happy vibe that fills the air of this small town.

Maysville Kentucky Ledger Independent Newspaper

Mark beams as I get a mug shot of him early this morning
in front of the Maysville Kentucky Ledger Independent newspaper building

Where exactly are we? We’re in Maysville, Kentucky, a little town on the banks of the Ohio River, right on the northern border of Kentucky. We’re in the heart of tobacco country on one of early America’s most important shipping routes that shaped our country’s history.

You can see the location here on Google Maps (you can zoom in and out on the map for directions).

And what makes Maysville so special? Well, first of all, it’s so darned cute!

Maysville Kentucky Flood Wall Mural Art

The way Maysville looked years ago — painted on a huge mural on the town’s flood wall!

There is loads of history in this town, and the downtown streets have been renovated to show off the utterly charming architecture of a precious but long gone era.

To protect themselves from the Mighty Ohio River, this spirited town built an enormous flood wall. And rather than leave the concrete on the city side of the wall drab and dreary, they decided to paint a series of wonderful murals that depict the history of the area!

Maysville Kentucky Flood Wall Mural History

Marquis de LaFayette arrives in town in 1825

But more than the architecture, the fun murals, and the wonderfully walkable streets that are amazingly free of traffic, it is the warm and friendly spirit of this place that has totally captivated us.

Beginning with a city worker who took time out of his day to explain to us the workings of the flood wall that protects the town and to describe the major floods of the 1880’s, 1937 and 1997 that were truly frightening in their proportion, everyone in town has welcomed with open arms.

Maysville Kentucky Flood Wall

Terry shows us just how high the flood waters have reached.

This is a town that has roots going way back, and almost everyone, it seems, has lived here their whole lives. It’s a tight knit community, and one that you’d expect to be hard to penetrate.

Brick streets historic architecture Maysville Kentucky

Historic architecture lines the pretty brick streets
in downtown Maysville, Kentucky

Yet, as simple tourists off the street, we have found ourselves not only shaking hands with the mayor at the local neighborhood pub, but sitting in his car as he took us on a personal tour of the sights around town!

How many places can boast friendliness like that?

Charming architecture Maysville Kentucky

This place oozes charm and is filled with pretty buildings.

“It’s just southern hospitality,” Mary Kearns told us when she dropped by our trailer to interview us for the local paper last night.

It’s a lot more than that. When the town turned out for a 5k run on Saturday afternoon, the city streets naturally shut down and turned into a huge block party. A mobile DJ played great tunes well into the night, and the town kids suddenly jumped up on a picnic table to give the crowd an impromptu dance show.

Maysville Kentucky kids dance on a picnic table

After the 5k run, some kids burned off their excess energy dancing on a picnic table in the town streets!

Unlike many small towns we’ve visited, however, where the visitors centers are right out front and center, loading folks up with tourist literature and tourist activities, we had to go hunting to find the visitors center here!

It’s up on the second floor of the incredible Cox Building! And rather than filling our arms with reading material, the town’s very enthusiastic Director of Tourism, Suzie, took us on an in-depth guided tour of the building, revealing some astonishing secrets and mysteries that her dogged sleuthing had uncovered during the building’s renovation a few years ago.

Maysville Kentucky Cox Building and Masonic Lodge

The Maysville Visitors Center is in the 2nd floor of the Cox Building. But far more interesting than any tourist lit could ever be was the tour Suzie gave us of this mysterious building itself!

Lovely and fascinating as the beautiful buildings of this town are, however, the heart of any community lies with its people, and that is true in Maysville more-so than in any town we’ve ever visited.

The hub of downtown is inside O’Rourke’s Neighborhood Pub and in the flurry of action that always spills out around it. The owner, Norbert, took us under his wing on our first day in town, and drove us on an all day tour into the hinterlands where a few remaining fields of tobacco are just now being cut and harvested.

Those gently waving leaves of tobacco gave this area a magic carpet ride for a long time, but that ride has ended. The miracle to us is that even though the rug was pulled out from under this community, something that would have left many other towns devastated forever, this town has decided to have none of that and is thriving today with a spirit and joy that is hard to find anywhere.

O'Rourke's Neighborhood Pub Maysville Kentucky

O’Rourke’s Neighborhood Pub is where everyone gathers in Maysville to spend time with friends and catch up on the local news. Many nights the party spills out into the streets!

Does it sound like we’ve been given the keys to this city? We sure have! And not for any reason other than we rolled into town and started talking to the friendly people on the streets.

We’ll be telling the rest of our tales from Maysville soon, but for right now, we want to get back out on the streets of town to enjoy all it has to offer!

The newspaper story about us is online HERE

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