Eleanor Hasken-Wagner, Ph.D., is a history buff and relentless supporter of all things Frankfort. For the past six months, she has served as the city’s Museum & Historic Sites Supervisor. As much as she loves history, she enjoys a good time, and in Frankfort, she has found ample opportunity for both.
Q. Where is your favorite place to stop in for breakfast?
A. There are a lot of great places, so it depends on whether I want something savory or sweet. If it’s savory, I’m most likely to go to the newly opened Andy’s Bakery for a spinach and feta croissant.
If it’s the end of the week and I’m in a sweet mood, I’m off to B’s Bakery for one of her delicious and dangerous cream-filled long johns.
Q. Where is the best place to go on a date night?
A. If it’s just for drinks, I love going to Mortimer Bibb’s Public House or Capital Cellars. If I want food to go with my libation, I really like Mami Monchita’s and Buddy’s. Thankfully, Frankfort has a multitude of places that are perfect for date nights.
Q. Aside from the Capital City Museum, where is the best place to get a sense of Frankfort’s history?
A. Frankfort is lucky to have a wealth of places offering a connection to its rich history. I love walking through South Frankfort or Liberty Hall; going to Blanton’s Landing or Riverview Park; visiting Buffalo Trace, Leslie Morris Park, and Forest Hill.
I could go on, but I think the best way to connect with history is to spend time walking through Downtown and to visit some of the waterfront areas. Frankfort is a community historically dependent on the river and the connection to it is still palpable.
Q. Why should visitors to Frankfort come to the Capital City Museum?
A. At the Capital City Museum, you can feel connected to the spirit of Frankfort and Franklin County. Under one roof, we offer guests the opportunity to see exhibits touching on the famous and unique, as well as the ordinary and commonplace.
If they are interested in political intrigue, they can learn about the only assassination of a governor in U.S. history. If they love art, they can see several Paul Sawyier originals in the Russ Hatter Library and learn about the artist’s time living and painting in Frankfort.
If they are looking for gifts or mementos of their trip, our gift shop offers everything from regional candies to bourbon soaps.
Whether they have 20 minutes or an afternoon, the museum has something for everyone. And did I mention it’s free?
Q. Where is the one place you keep returning to over and over?
A. The second floor of Poor Richards, my favorite bookstore for 10 years. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t realize there was a second floor for a long time, but when I finally discovered it, it felt like I was walking into the pages of a novel myself.
Every time I go, I walk through shelf after shelf, only to return to the first shelf and find the book I didn’t know I was looking for. If you love to read, you absolutely must go to Poor Richard’s.
Q. Is there anywhere you want to go that you haven’t made it to yet?
A. Castle & Key Distillery. I have wanted to go for a while but have been putting it off until the weather mellowed. Now that the spring flowers are blooming, it’s time to make the trip. I’ve heard nothing but superlatives about it.
Q. What is it about Frankfort that most intrigues you?
A. The perfect size of the community that allows me to constantly learn something new and surprising, yet always discover there is a one or two degree separation from anyone I meet. I have so enjoyed getting to know the local landmarks and neighborhoods, but I’ve also loved getting to see the new development, along with a bevy of new ideas and enthusiasm. I can’t wait to see how Frankfort’s future is going to evolve.
Q. What is Frankfort’s best kept secret?
A. I think by far it has to be Leslie Morris Park at Fort Hill. It’s a beautiful place to spend the afternoon if you’re a nature lover – either walking on the trails or viewing in the bird blind. If you’re more into history, you can walk through two earthwork forts that date back to the Civil War, or walk up and down a military road, a switchback that was also constructed during the War. You can even see the reinterment of those who were discovered at the Forgotten Cemetery uncovered during construction of the state administrative buildings. We have an exhibit on the Forgotten Cemetery at the museum.
Finally, you can stand on the scenic overlook for a view of the Capitol and downtown. In the summer, you can take a tour or visit the Sullivan House Visitors’ Center. The park is a really special place – you will feel like you’ve stepped back in time, although you are just minutes from downtown.
Q. What is the thing no visitor to Frankfort should miss?
A. Without a doubt, the Capital City Museum. No matter what you are interested in, we have something that will appeal to you. Other than that, I would say Daniel Boone’s grave in the Frankfort Cemetery. It’s one of my “must” stops when I have visitors. You are treated to a very special piece of historical importance along with the most perfect view of the Kentucky River and Capitol.
Q. What would you like to see happen in Frankfort to boost tourism?
A. I would like to see more community and grassroots efforts to help make Frankfort some place residents want to visit. A big part of my research has been identifying small communities with successful tourist efforts. Being a place where residents want to spend time tends to create events and amenities that tourists appreciate as well. It gives locals a stake in their community and a bond with local businesses, restaurants and entertainment venues. I know Frankfort residents love their town and are its greatest advocates, so I would like to see more opportunities available for them to take advantage of that, especially during the evening hours.