Work is underway to make the Sandford Duncan Inn on U.S. 31-W, just south of the I-65 interchange, a tourist attraction and a site for future festivals.
The site hosted public tours during live racing at Kentucky Downs in September and remains open for tours Thursdays and Fridays through October from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. There currently is no charge to take a tour.
“This has just been a delight to get to work with the Sandford Duncan Inn, which if you don’t know is a house that was built in the early 1800s. It was actually a tavern and a place where people could spend the night, so it was an inn, a hotel kind of place, Simpson County Tourism Director Amy Ellis said. “It was known for the stagecoaches that would stop there and you could grab a bite to eat or have a drink. Upstairs was the inn part of it where you could pay a small price and spend the night. The inn is still there. Over the years they built a house around it. At some point there was a grant that was given to the county and they renovated it and put it back like it was originally.”
In November 2020 Nicky Hughes, of Franklin, asked Ellis what the plans were for the Sandford Duncan Inn and said he would like to do something there, and have some kind of presence there.
A Sept. 2 story about the Inn in the Franklin Favorite said Hughes worked for over 30 years with the Kentucky Historical Society
Ellis said Hughes brought her a proposal and she talked with the county about making it a tourist attraction.
The Sandford Duncan Inn is owned by Simpson County Fiscal Court and operated by the Simpson County Tourism office.
“The story behind the Sandford Duncan Inn is, that is where the duels were fought in Simpson County,” Ellis said.
Ellis also said she was not taught that in schools and credited her time working at the Franklin Favorite for learning about the history of the site.
“The fact that it is still standing is amazing and it’s a big part of Simpson County’s history and its unique to us in Simpson County,” she said.
Ellis talked with Marc Dottore, owner of Dueling Grounds Distillery in Franklin, about trying to get the Inn back up and operating as a partnership with the distillery.
The bourbon produced at Dueling Ground Distillery is named “Linkumpinch,” which was the name of the farm where the Sandford Duncan Inn is located.
It was decided to open for tours during the six live racing dates at Kentucky Downs in September due to the crowds.
Dueling Grounds Distillery hosted a pop-up shop inside the Inn during the tours that provided information about the distillery, which is on the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Tour.
“We jumped into action pretty quickly, we have some new items there,” Ellis said. “Nicky (Hughes) bought some pieces of furniture. We swapped some things around out there to make it very authentic. Nicky did a lot of research so that he is able to give the tours. We did a little renovation on the rock house behind it as far as cleaning it out and making it a little more tour friendly.”
There is no electricity and heat at the Inn and due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, tours will temporarily end after October.
Ellis said preparations are being made for a grand opening in April 2022 when tours will resume.
Volunteers are needed to give regular tours at the site.
“Ultimately the goal is to have that as a solid attraction for history buffs to come and we are looking forward to possibly doing some festivals attached to that site where we can actually have a living history type festival where they can re enact the duel,” Ellis said. “I would like to see school kids, maybe we can get some field trips out there during that festival time with people making candles, blacksmiths, that type of thing. We’re really looking forward to that for next year. We’ll have a few fundraisers for that site, that kind of thing. General Sam Houston was one of the people who fought a dual out there. We’ve talked about actually doing a festival around Sept. 22 (Sam Houston Day).”
Ellis added that the Franklin Garden Club has said they would like to plant native Kentucky plants at the site, which also includes a cemetery.
“The cemetery on site there is where Sandford Duncan is buried and some of his children and his wife,” Ellis said. “Some of the tombstones are fallen over and need a little attention. Lou Ann Ferguson (who works with a local cemetery group) has volunteered to come and work on the cemetery.”
Ellis talked more about what is needed to get the Inn ready as a tourist attraction.
“If anybody has a love for the Sandford Duncan Inn, or history and is interested, what we really are going to need are some hands, some volunteers, ideas, anything, we won’t turn you away we need all the help we can get,” she said. “We’re not there to make lots of money, so any kind of admission we plan to do (beginning in April) will be minimal because our big thing is we want people to see the Inn and to learn about that part of history in Simpson County that is really, really cool and pretty unique.”