Historical Society gives update on William Whitley House tourism

Published 12:14 pm Wednesday, November 22, 2023

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By Abigail Roberts


CRAB ORCHARD – Visitors to the William Whitley House this year came from 31 different Kentucky counties, 21 different states and four foreign countries, according to an annual tourism report.

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The annual report was presented to the Lincoln County Fiscal Court by Lincoln County Historical Society Secretary Martha Francis and President Jane Vanhook during the Nov. 14 meeting.

The WWH is open from April 28 through Oct. 28 each year.

“The park is used a lot more than some of these figure are going to show because the park is open every day, year round and people come and they take a walk, they sit under a tree and read a book, they bring the kids out to play on the playground, they have a picnic lunch. So the grounds are used all the time,” Francis said.

While the number of visitors recorded are close to accurate, Francis said not everyone who visits signs the Guest Book.

Volunteers donated quite a bit of time to the WWH this year, Francis said. Lincoln County Judge-Executive Woods Adams asked those volunteers in the audience to stand.

“We really appreciate our volunteers, especially this year since I broke my leg in May and was out for two-and-a-half months,” she said.

Income from the WWH is generated from house tours, gift shop sales and shelter rentals.

Vanhook said the site has hired a new caretaker, as well as his son, and it has worked out very well.

“We did a photo shoot in July that was part of our tourism out there and that was a grant written by Peggy Denham,” Vanhook said. “Also, in Aug. Wayne Carmichael repaired and reconstructed the split-rail fence and got it done before the tractor ride, which was awesome, because it was not looking good. He also did the woven fence near the playground and we appreciate your all’s help, fiscal court, for making sure that got done,” she said. “He also has protected the septic tank.”

The WWH has had visitors from the Kentucky Derby Museum who were very excited to be there, Vanhook said.

“They’ve invited us to the Kentucky Derby Museum and they want that communication to continue,” she said.

Lincoln County Judge-Executive Woods Adams said the Lincoln County Senior Citizens Center also recently visited the site.

“If you all haven’t been to the William Whitley House in a while, I encourage you to go out there,” Adams said. “You all do a great job keeping it up, being the caretakers.”

Francis said the WWH brings in people from all over the country.

“I don’t know if local people realize what a tourist attraction the Whitley House is and how many people it draws into the county and what economic affect that has on the county. I’m sure you all on the court do, but I’m not sure that the general public realizes that,” Francis said.

Vanhook said it surprised her how many people visit the site when she started in 2019.

Other highlights from the report include:

• The WWH hosted public schools this year. A total of 800 students participated in 2023;

• Almost 500 signatures were recorded in the visitors’ Guest Book;

• 20 Heart of Kentucky United Way volunteers worked at the park on the Day of Action in September;

• 9 Whitley House descendants and 1 Shriver descendant visited the site this year;

• The WWH hosted several events this year including the Cedar Creek Quail Club and the United Federation of Bird Dog Trials in Feb., the Wilderness Road Jeep Club in late April, the Kentucky Chapter of the River Raisin, War of 1812 in June, the Kentucky Material Culture Collectors in Sept., and Lincoln County Relay for Life Tractor Ride in Sept.;

• There were 44 shelter rentals. According to the report most of the rentals were for school groups, family reunions, church groups and birthday parties. The shelter also hosted prom pictures for LCHS seniors in May;

• 15 volunteers donated a total of 182.25 hours of their time and talent to help with events at the park;

• The WWH Endowment, Inc. has been established as a non-profit 501c3. The purpose of the endowment is the preservation of the WWH and Sportsman’s Hill historic sites. The initial goal of $25,000 has been achieved. The Endowment Board hosted a Derby Party fundraiser on May 6 at the Ballroom in Stanford. It was well attended and another fundraiser has been scheduled for May 4, 2024; and

• The annual Christmas Open house will be held at the WWH on Dec. 16 and 17 from 1 to 4 p.m.  each day. Volunteers will be in period clothing and everyone is invited.