Some really cool things are happening over at the Marion County Historical Society and its Heritage Center in downtown Lebanon, the Heart of Kentucky. The following excellent story is reprinted here with permission of The Lebanon Enterprise, where it originally appeared. The historical society’s efforts are great news for local tourism: historic cemetery tours are a great idea; and presenting Lebanon’s Soul Music and Rock and Roll history has huge potential.
By Gerard Flanagan
Nestled in downtown Lebanon is a building rich with history, yet often overlooked by the residents of Marion County.
The Marion County Historical Society and Heritage Center has seen approximately 90 years of Marion County history, and the history contained within those walls spans many more years.
A small group of dedicated individuals is working to keep that history alive for the public, and they’re devoting their time and energy to enhancing the visitor experience for current and future generations.
The Historical Society’s curator, Alecia Ford, revealed the many exciting plans she and her board of directors have for reviving the Historical Society into something the public can enjoy.
“Both the Heritage Center building and the Historical Society Museum present such wonderful opportunities,” Ford said. “Marion County’s history is so interesting – and people in Kentucky tell such great stories – the historical society is the perfect place to capture it all.”
Ford came to Marion County in the fall of 2019. That’s when her husband, Pat Ford, officially took over as the Marion County Industrial Foundation’s executive director.
The newcomers to this community have quickly found a home in Marion County, and Alecia Ford (and her husband, too) has immersed herself in the rich history of Marion County.
“Because there is so much great history in Marion County, it seems like new ideas for the Historical Society spring to life from every page, every family and every event,” Ford said.
The Historical Society’s relaunch was made possible by a considerable contribution from the estate of Mary Douglass Boldrick, which has allowed the Historical Center to hire staff and move forward on plans for the organization.
For Ford, the importance of knowing history cannot be understated.
“Our future depends on how well we know our history,” she said. “Our shared history, how we all came to be here in this moment in time, through family, economic and social connections, is what makes us a community. The more we can celebrate our history – the memories and experiences worth preserving – the more vibrant our community will be.”
The Historical Society Board of Directors are Vice-President Rose Graves, Secretary and Treasurer Joyce Ford and Board Member Linda Schmal. Ford began as the Historical Society’s curator in mid-May, and the board’s diligent work prior to her arrival has been a tremendous help.
“Most of my work to date has been going through files and documents,” Ford said, “and there again, the board has kept great records. Just looking through minutes and programs and files has already taught me so much about Marion County.”
Graves said there’s so much history about Marion County that can be shared and needs to be shared.
“You want to know where your roots are from,” Graves said. “I love the Marion County history. I want to keep it alive. There’s so much people don’t know. What else is out there we don’t know?”
The ability to pass down history to each generation is another draw for Graves.
“It’s important for young people to get involved, show them where they came from,” Graves said. “It’s very important it gets out there to young people. It’s important we share the ups and the downs with the young people about how our community came together.”
Marion Countians in the 1980s remember the lively and exciting nightclub scene, with places like Club Cherry, Club 68 and The Golden Horseshoe, to name a few, dominating the Lebanon landscape. That is one aspect of Marion County history Ford hopes to highlight with the Historical Society.
“People who aren’t from Kentucky associate the state with country and bluegrass music, so we are going to knock their socks off with our stories,” Ford said.
Marion County’s fine crafted history with bourbon will also be highlighted, Ford said.
“We also have an interesting economic story to tell in the form of the bourbon business and what prohibition meant to hard-working families here,” Ford said. “I think we can bring that to life in a way that feels very real because of the building itself. Did you know we have two rooms that are hidden beneath the structure that have only one way in and out? What a great place to hide a still – or at least to create an exhibit that looks like it.”
Ford also discussed the idea of cemetery tours.
“Volunteers for the Historical Society have done a lot of work in mapping the graveyards,” Ford said, “and I think there is a great opportunity for tours to be out in our communities and in our beautiful cemeteries, giving people a chance to see our beauty and experience our storytelling in person.”
When the public can see the fruits of the Historical Society’s work in full is uncertain during the coronavirus pandemic. But, that isn’t stopping Ford and her board from working to revamp and revive the hub of history in Marion County.
“The good news is that this time that we have is allowing my board to work on the building, the organization and the contents of our collections,” Ford said. “So all of the dreams I am building from the daily discoveries I make will be able to spring to life, I hope, almost as if by magic when we can all be together safely again.”
Ford is in the Heritage Center office Wednesday through Friday each week, and she is all ears for any suggestions and help.
“I would love to hear from anyone who has been involved to talk about the mission and vision of the Historical Society and am happy to meet with people,” Ford said. “Stop by and say hello. There is a number on the front door that goes straight to me.”
You can also reach out to Ford on Facebook or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Gerard Flanagan for the great article. We here at tourism encourage folks to subscribe to The Lebanon Enterprise to keep up with all the events and happenings in Lebanon and throughout the Heart of Kentucky. To subscribe, call Katie Jo at 270.692.6026. And you can go to www.lebanonenterprise.com.