It is a pleasure to visit the Harrodsburg Historical Society in Morgan Row. These buildings were renovated and preserved beginning in the 1960’s. I’m so grateful that the citizens at that time decided they were worth keeping! So much history has passed through these rooms.
If you are in Mercer County researching those elusive ancestors, the Harrodsburg Historical Society is a must stop!
Sunday, July 15, 1979
It’s Kentucky’s oldest row
Harrodsburg – By 1807 Kentucky’s large game had all but disappeared. Forts were becoming towns. Trails were being made into roads, and farms began to dot the once wooded land.
At Fort Harrod settlers were moving out of the fort and starting to build the town of Harrodsburg. It was a busy community with hordes of strangers passing through, and many spent a night at Harrodsburg’s finest hostelry – Morgan Row.
Facing the courthouse square on the street called Chiles, in the center of Harrodsburg, Morgan Row played its part in the economic, political and social life of Harrodsburg.
Built by Squire Joseph Morgan in 1807, its architectural plan was actually four houses side by side, connected by shared sidewalls. Although such houses were fairly common in the eastern colonies, they were unusual this far west.
Much of the local activity revolved around the gala balls held at Morgan Row. They were attended by some of the most handsome beaux and most beautiful belles in the county.
Stories of its gambling room, its grog shop, and even its barber shop; of political meetings and horse races as late as the Civil War days tell much of the colorful history of the tavern and the town.
Morgan built the row house fire walls of timber from the Harrodsburg area and home-burned brick. They separated the units in the sturdy two story building and extended above the roof.
The street in front of the row house bears the name of Morgan’s son-in-law, John G. Chiles, who ran the tavern and operated stagecoach and U.S. mail routes from the hostelry. Chiles Tavern, or Chiles Hotel as it was sometimes called, flourished until 1845. (Chiles then sold his property and moved to Lexington to manage the Phoenix Hotel.)
Morgan Row today, a part of Harrodsburg for 172 years [now 211 years], houses several businesses and the Harrodsburg Historical Society Museum.
The historical society has restored the north end of the row to serve as a community cultural center as well as a museum. Portraits by Kentucky artists are on display as well as early glass and silver, pioneer tools and household utensils and many documents pertaining to Kentucky history.