By Gary Flanagan
Reciting the 50 capitals in elementary school,I always had to pause when it came to Kentucky. It was one of the easiest to remember because of the association with hot dogs. Until I had to spell Frankfort. I always lost a half a point on that one. Years later, while researching this article, I would discover how this small city came to be the capital of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
Pioneer Stephen Frank was killed while making salt at a ford in the Kentucky River around 1780. Frank’s Ford became the place and over time the name was shortened to Frankfort. After Kentucky became the 15th state, Frankfort won a competition among a number of communities to be the capital. A log house to use as the first Capitol, building supplies and $3000 in Gold helped sway the decision in Frankfort’s favor.In 1900, Governor-elect William Goebel was assassinated at the Old Capitol, while walking to his inauguration.
By 1910, the new and current Capitol was built across the river and up the hill in South Frankfort. Around it is a mostly residential area. The center of commerce and community still lies in the downtown area. Three original churches built in 1833, 1835, and 1850 surround Capital plaza. South Frankfort Presbyterian church was built in 1904 and became the closest to the new Capitol.
Fast forward to 2012 when a new church neighbor appears just two blocks from the Capitol steps. St. Peter’s Anglican church was established as a renewal effort for Frankfort-area folks from the St. Andrew’s Anglican church in Versailles, KY. As I explored our 50 state Capitols and their closest churches in 2013, St. Peter’s Anglican was the only Anglican church that I found. 35 other State Capitols had an abundance of Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian , and Baptist churches surrounding their location. For this church separation, Frankfort, Kentucky stands alone.
Distinct in history, name, and church separation, Frankfort was a fascinating study for this 50 state student. Maybe I can get the half point added back to my grade now. My travels continue on in the Kentucky rain, to three states that begin with the letter I.