Engine House Coffee resides in a two-story brick building dating back to the 19th century and has quite a remarkable history. It was Frankfort’s firehouse for nearly a century before being auctioned by the city in 1958 and serving at different times as a radio station, photo studio, and the County Clerk’s Office. Its history was as diverse as the many coffee flavors now served inside.
From the start, Engine House was a hit with Frankfort residents who clearly subscribed to the old saying that “a bad day with coffee is better than a good day without it.”
Inside the building with its double arches and starburst chandeliers, Jesse and Haleigh Best preside over a coffee bar offering everything from “cowboy coffee” – strong and black – to Macchiato Latte – milky and frothy with a shot of espresso.
The list doesn’t stop there. Customers can order a cappuccino or a frappe (iced or chilled to a slushy consistency.) They can opt for a Con Panna (an espresso with a dallop of cream) or a Cubano (a sweetened espresso originating in Cuba) – or one of the other 10 versions offered on the menu.
Engine House sources its coffee beans, which are organic and fair trade, from City Roasters in Georgetown. All coffees can be accompanied by croissants, muffins and various pastries provided daily by Poppy’s Bakery.
Jesse is especially fond of the “cronuts” which come in raspberry, vanilla and cinnamon.
“They’re a big greasy mess of deliciousness,” he says with a laugh.
For now, the Bests are taking turns at brewing the coffee, but Jesse says the goal is to hire a full- time barista. They are taking their time, as Jesse admits that the learning curve “is pretty big”.
“We take a very serious approach to making our coffee,” he continues. “There’s a real chemistry to it. We have five different scales that we’ll use to get the right ratios.”
Engine House offers coffee for every taste, from a cold brew with a shot of espresso for those who want their java to be high octane to a caramel frappe with extra syrup and extra drizzle for those who want it to taste like candy.
However, the two best sellers, according to Best, are the iced vanilla latte and perhaps surprisingly, the cold brew drip, which takes a minimum of 24 hours to brew.
“Sometimes we sell as much as 60 cups a day of the cold brew,” he says.
One of Engine House’s most fascinating design touches is the collage of newspaper clippings on one wall which came from the scrapbook of Edmund Hobbs Taylor, known as “Hickory” Taylor during his 15-year rise from pipe man to Frankfort’s fire chief.
The clips cover events in Frankfort history from major fires to the assassination of Governor William Goebel in 1900.
Engine House Coffee stands as a testament to Frankfort’s enduring history, with a building that has witnessed the city’s evolution over time.
For more than two decades, Bill Cull, president of the Grand Theatre, would look out his office window at the structure directly across from the theater and contemplate the possibility of turning it into something more.
The two-story brick building had iron columns and a slate roof, and was separated into two rooms, one used for the fire engines, and the other designed for rental, either as a store or probably more to the liking of the firefighters, a saloon. Atop the building stood a tower, which boasted both a fire alarm bell and a fine view of the city.
Cull, who has won awards for his preservation efforts, had had enough of looking and not acting. In 2019, he joined with a business partner to purchase the property, and the two began an ambitious multi-year renovation effort to make the venerable building structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing.
It took two years to get the building up to standards for the coffee house that was planned to open in the space.
“We got that idea because we felt Frankfort was ready for another independent coffee house,” says Cull.
It took another two years for Cull to find the right operators for his new business venture. He finally found them in Jesse and Haleigh Best, who had previously managed the Leestown Coffee House in Lexington. All the pieces were finally in place, and on May 31st of this year, Engine House Coffee opened its doors.
If you are looking for a great cup of coffee with a shot of Frankfort history, the Engine House more than fills the bill.