Old Barns and a Few Surprises

I’d been in Louisville two weeks and most of the time it had been slightly overcast and cool. Sometimes downright cold.

Then, there it was, a day comfortable enough to be outside, and there was actual sunshine off and on. We decided to hop in the car, wander around rural Kentucky, and search country roads for old barns for me to photograph.

Jeannie drove, and it was my job to look ahead for two things: interesting barns, and places we could pull off to the side of the road.

We and three of her children had taken a nice back-roads drive through gentle rolling hills up to Madison, Indiana, the previous week, the only other sunny day, and there were fabulous old barns but nowhere to pull off the highway and too much traffic to just edge over to the side. As a lover of old barns, I’d been horribly frustrated to not be able to take any photos.

So, on the next sunny day, coincidentally a day with few obligations, off we went!

We headed east about thirty miles to Shelbyville. My sister knew of an old barn there, and I was itching to see and photo it and whatever else we ran across.

Just outside of Shelbyville

From there we headed north on a few local roads through farmland with old homes and glorious old barns.

Near Eminence, Kentucky, just fifteen miles up the road from Shelbyville

And then the first surprise. We were pulling into the town of New Castle, less than an hour from my sister’s house (if we hadn’t made any stops). I spotted an old barn and Jeannie saw a parking lot.

After I took a quick photo, I noticed a log cabin just ahead, right in downtown, and there was a parking area immediately across from it. Yay!

As we climbed out of the car, I spotted the sign in front of the cabin: The Bookstore at Berry Center.

The cabin was built in 1790.

“Jean! It’s a bookstore! Wanna go in?”

“Of course.”

We climbed stone steps to the door, me thinking a bookstore called “Berry Center” would be about gardening. We were promptly greeted by a young woman whose name we later learned was Emma.

“Have you heard of the author Wendell Berry?”

“Sure! Love his work.”

It turns out the Berry Center was named for Wendell Berry who had once lived in this town and currently lived just up the road. We explored every nook and cranny, both floors, of the sweet little shop. The upstairs held mostly children’s books while those for adults filled the downstairs.

The children’s section upstairs

We chatted for some time with Emma behind the counter before we left.

A very welcoming store! This poster was from Mississippi but the Berry Center holds the same values.
Many signed and some first editions

Then on to searching for more barns

In New Castle. We didn’t stop in but loved the sign.

And then the second surprise. Rather, a group of surprises.

We decided the next stop would be La Grange, for a few reasons. One, my sister had heard there were good restaurants there. We were getting hungry and decided to stop for a late lunch. Second, we were raised in the community of La Grange, Illinois, and thought it would be fun to spend a little time in another La Grange.

The first surprise was right on Main Street. There were tracks running right down the middle of the street, and yes, up to thirty trains a day roll right through downtown. Locally the area is called Trains on Main.

Main Street, La Grange, Kentucky

No trains were coming as we turned onto Main Street and found a parking spot across from the restaurant we’d decided to eat in. Not eat in, actually, because I still won’t eat in a public place. Too many unmasked people too close together for me. So we were across the street from the restaurant from which we could get some takeout.

The restaurant, called One Nineteen West Main, had a great door.

And it had a fabulous menu that included fried green tomatoes and something called potato cupcake bites, mashed potatoes with cheeses and chopped ham rolled in crumbs of (we think, though it doesn’t say so on the restaurant description) potato chips then deep fried.

From the restaurant website
In the women’s bathroom

As we pulled out of town, we found another surprise: The county courthouse looked like it was being moved!

We later learned it wasn’t actually being moved. It had been lifted so a new foundation could be poured underneath it. The courthouse was built in 1854, making it nearly 150 years old.

And that was our last big event on our adventure. We headed back to Louisville, only half an hour away, no more barns to see but delighted with our day.

Published by Emilie

I'm a retired instructor from a community college where I taught Developmental English and Reading as well as English as a Second Language. I'm also now a published author of a bilingual children's book entitled. Luisa the Green Sea Turtle - Luisa la Tortuga Verde del Mar. It's available from me, through Amazon, and is in a few (more and more each day!) bookstores.

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  1. Emily! What a lovely road trip! Barns and more barns – something I rarely see down here.

    How great that you stumbled into that bookstore – Wendell Berry – of course and how comforting that you were in his stomping grounds.

    I chuckled while reading the poster – and it said that about people from Mississippi — and then saw that it was from Square Books – Oxford/Mississippi, home of the University of Mississippi.

    Seeing the courthouse was a surprise as well – I wondered, as most likely everyone has – how in the world could they do that without destroying the integrity of the bricks/mortar?

    I should be working on drawings and art student material for some tasks this next week, but it’s nice to have a detour through Sunday’s WordPress posts. So good to find you here – giving us a respite from world events that are not so pretty…

  2. imagine running into a Wendell Berry-inspired bookstore with those killer stone steps and stoops leading into, not to mention that cool welcome sign you posted along with a restaurant known for the giant fork on its door…so barn-on Ms. Vardaman, and give yr sister another hug for me!

  3. This is just exquisite! The whole thing! Photos and history and wonderful experiences, shared with family! I’m so happy you were able to do this! And grateful that you shared it with us! ♥️♥️♥️

  4. Ditto on all of the above comments! I love farmsteads and old barns, and there’s a lot of that around here, and, yep, hardly ever a place to pull over to park and take a picture because the sides of the roads are either gullies ditched out on both sides to direct the flood waters, or there are culverts (for the same reason), no place close by to park, or simply, no sides, just road. So frustrating, but there’s pleasure in seeing them, the barns, the goat farms, the horse ranches — and the cows in the pasture of our neighbor’s ranch right from our porch! (I’ve actually posted pictures of them on FB.) This was a lot of fun to read, Emilie. And I very much enjoyed the views and the commentary.

    1. Thanks, Carol!
      I know how we solve this problem. You and I will drive the back roads around your area together. Do you know what that means, right? Yup. It means I have to come visit you.
      The one driving will slow down, even pause, so the other can take a photo. We will just have to keep trading off, sometimes driving, sometimes photographing.
      By the way, I took all the shots for this with my cell phone. I didn’t even take my camera to Louisville on this visit.

  5. I love your eye for architecture. I knew someone who paid a fortune to panel his house with barn boards. Shame to move the barn inside. That giant white bookshelf unit is a edifice to behold, too. The bookstore is a treasure, and the Berry connection makes it a cultural landmark. Potato cupcake bites sound dangerously tempting. 30 trains a day. I guess you can get accustomed to anything. What a great day on the road you had.

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