Kurt's Historic Sites

Frankfort, Kentucky Boone Capitol

Kentucky

Admission to the Union Sequence in Admission Sequence in Capitols I Have Visited
June 1, 1792 15th admitted 7th visited

Photographed April 21, 2010.

The dome of the Kentucky State Capitol peaks out from lush leaves in Frankfort.  The structure currently in use is the fourth building to serve as the Bluegrass State’s capitol. Ground broke on the statehouse in 1904, and it was dedicated in 1910. The construction, landscaping, and other facets of its completion cost a total of $1,820,000.

Kentucky is one of four U.S. states that are listed, well… not as states but as commonwealths. The other three are Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. There is no legal or governmental difference between a state and a commonwealth.

Photographed April 21, 2010.
Photographed April 21, 2010.

Kentucky was a border state during the Civil War — a state which continued to utilize the institution of slavery but did not secede from the United States. Kentuckians’ allegiances were split between the Union and the Confederacy. In response to recurrent attacks by CSA guerillas, the person in charge of Kentucky, Major General Stephen G. Burbridge, issued a controversial order in July 1864. General Order 59 commanded that for each unarmed Union citizen slain by Confederate guerillas, four CSA prisoners would be executed. For example, after Union supporter Robert Graham was killed in November, four Kentucky Confederates were shot. The website of the Kentucky Historical Society asserts that, with Burbridge’s order, “bad seeds had been sown between the Federal [G]overnment and many people in Kentucky, who were already upset over [President Abraham] Lincoln’s change in war aims [which had changed from just preserving the Union to also abolishing slavery]. A combination of these factors and others led many Kentuckians to embrace the Lost Cause during Reconstruction and the years beyond.” This marker, which uses language critical of the executions, was placed near the capitol in 1962.

Not all states provide official residences for their governors, but Kentucky is one that does. The current Governor’s Mansion has housed the commonwealth’s executives since 1914. At the time I took this photograph, the governor of Kentucky was Steve Beshear of the Democratic Party. The mansion was decorated for the annual Kentucky Derby, which was held at the Churchill Downs ten days later. The victor was Super Saver, ridden by jockey Calvin Borel.

Photographed April 21, 2010.
Photographed April 21, 2010.

I snapped this picture from the burial plot of settlers Rebecca and Daniel Boone, situated across the Kentucky River from the capitol building in Frankfort Cemetery. Former Vice President Richard M. Johnson is interred there as well. So are three of the four Confederates who were executed in response to Robert Graham’s death, as described above.


Sources Consulted

Commonwealth of Kentucky. “The People’s House.” Accessed February 8, 2022. https://governorsmansion.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx.

Commonwealth of Kentucky. “Welcome!” Accessed February 8, 2022. https://capitol.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx.

Talbott, Tim. “A Civil War Reprisal.” Kentucky Historical Society. Accessed February 8, 2022. https://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/498.

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