The Campbell House: The New Old-Fashioned
There’s a Facebook page called “You Know You’re From Lexington If…”, a place for people to reminisce over great memories of growing up in Lexington, Kentucky. I am certain that if you posed the question, “Do you have a memory of The Campbell House?”, you would have numerous responses. People would tell you about having their wedding reception there, staying overnight when their family came in from Eastern Kentucky to attend basketball games at Rupp Arena, booking a night just so you and your siblings could swim in their indoor pool (only if you were well-to-do, mind you), or attending a class reunion in its ballroom. It’s true that the hotel located on the corner of South Broadway and Mason Headley Road is an icon in this town, especially among the “horsey” people, but what’s also true is it fell on hard times. Fortunately, this hotel was brought under the Hilton Curio umbrella and after undergoing a massive renovation, it has been returned to its former glory, a beautiful place that pays homage to its equestrian heritage, while encompassing the state’s love of bourbon and true Southern hospitality.
Driving onto the property, you immediately notice the large horse statue located front and center before the antebellum two-story front entrance. It makes sense not only because this is Kentucky and we are known as the Horse Capital of the World, but the property that The Campbell House sits on used to be a horse farm. In 1949, ground was broken for the main building and it opened in 1951 with 99 guestrooms. Over the years, there were additions and remodels due to fire and storm damage. It was briefly operated by Crowne Plaza, but was purchased by a horseman and a group of breeders out of receivership with the intention of bringing it back to its 1950’s glory. Ownership traded hands again in 2015 and the new owners brought in Musselman Hotels out of Louisville to manage it, and these people really know how to run a hotel! After all, they’re in the business of taking care of people. They make sure that your stay is not only comfortable, but that you are treated like honored guests.
The newly remodeled interiors of The Campbell House are what I like to call “quintessential Kentucky”. Think tooled leather wall coverings, equine art, a color palette of grays and blues, warm woods, and even a huge chandelier in the lobby composed of horseshoes. Behind massive barn doors on rails and where the pool used to be is now a gorgeous event space that would be the perfect setting for any wedding, conference or other celebration. Giant circular chandeliers hang beneath skylights that infuse the space with beautiful light both during the day and at night. In addition to the large room, there are several smaller meeting rooms that are adaptable to any need. I personally would love to have a small, intimate birthday party dinner in the room just off the bar. One entire wall is a lit-up display of assorted bourbon bottles. Talk about pure Kentucky!
And speaking of the bar area, that is in what’s now called the Rackhouse Tavern, a gorgeous barn-like space that offers delicious Kentucky-inspired entrees for lunch and dinner, and over 300 bourbons and local brews on tap. Their bourbon selection alone is worthy of a visit as they carry all the well-known and hard-to-find brands like Weller and Pappy. In January 2020, they had the honor of becoming a sponsor of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. With warmer weather on its way, you can be sure to find me on the airy, curtain-flanked, covered front porch or sipping an Old-Fashioned on their paved patio watching a beautiful Kentucky sunset and being thankful that I live in such a darling town.
Be sure to make plans to visit The Campbell House and see this amazing renovation for yourself. Come sit a spell in front of the fireplace, sip a bourbon or craft beer, and enjoy an iconic landmark that once again signals to the world that there is no place quite like Kentucky.
Check out our video below and listen to us talk about it on our radio show last week on KISS96.9FM.