By Mary Ann Buckner

The first road in Kentucky was known as the “Wilderness Road,” aptly named since the area was largely unsettled country back in 1769. Inhabited by only about 70,000 settlers at the time, these woodsmen with rifles and axes made their way through the Cumberland Mountains to what is now known as the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

For roadside fans, Kentucky doesn’t have a Route 66 or the gleaming silver diners of the Northeast. The state does, however, have plenty of backroads, where on any given day, a commercial archaeologist will undoubtedly see something worthy of a stop.

1: The Kentucky Liquor Store

Kentucky Liquor Store sign, Louisville

In a residential neighborhood of Louisville, Kentucky, the Kentucky Liquor Store was founded in the 1940’s by Mike Schreck. Mike’s grandson said that his grandfather designed the sign and that he obtained the first liquor license in Kentucky. The sign, in the shape of the state of Kentucky with an old-fashioned looking Southern gentleman (probably a colonel), lets travelers know they are in the Bluegrass State so named for bluegrass found in its fertile soils.

2: The Whirlaway Inn (Beer Depot)

Whirlaway Inn ghost sign, Louisville

Whirlaway Tavern signThe Whirlaway Inn, whose ghost sign proudly boasts “Whiskey by the Drink,” is located in Louisville, Kentucky. The Inn is not far from the historic Churchill Downs racetrack, where Whirlaway won the Kentucky Derby in 1941. The Triple Crown-winning horse, bred nearby at Calumet Farm in Lexington, became so popular that Rolling Rock Beer used him in their advertising. The Whirlaway opened in 1946, and I presume that’s also the year the sign was created. The ghost sign is in excellent condition and is one of the best-pedigreed advertising displays in town.

To read the rest of this article, members are invited to log in. Not a member? We invite you to join. This article originally appeared inSCA Road Notes, Spring 2017, Vol. 25, No. 1. SCA Road Notes, informally known as SCA News, is a quarterly publication and a member benefit of the Society for Commercial Archeology. Back issues are available for download.

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