Back in the Day… Hotels and Opera Houses

Click photo to enlarge.

At the peak of bourbon production, Lawrenceburg was at its height as a very rich and influential community. During this time, Main Street was the place to be. Although Lexington was not far away, the journey there was long because you had to cross the Kentucky River by ferry. Main Street was filled with many stores to shop in, restaurants to eat at and many hotels. There was even two opera houses here in town.

Back in 1830, Lawrenceburg only had 320 residents and had three taverns. One of them was owned by the man who Lawrenceburg was named after, William Lawrence. His tavern was the first to be built in Lawrenceburg and was located at the corner of Woodford and Main Street, where the city hall now is. The tavern was sold to Matthew Galt in 1830. A two story hotel was added and was named the Galt House. The Galt House had many famous guests including Henry Clay. In 1909, the Galt a House burned down and in 1910 the post office was built there.

Another hotel was also on Main Street. Back in 1892, two men of Lawrenceburg, W. J. Waterfill and W. A. Bottom, had built the Warbott Hotel (lower right photo). The hotel was named after these two men by combining the first few letters of their last names. This hotel and opera house was built next to the Court House on the corner of Main Street and Ollie J Bowen Street. This opera house was quite large having 560 seats on the main floor and 300 more in the gallery with a stage that was 58 feet by 28 feet. The opera house was considered a model theater and the hotel was appointed the best in the state. Unfortunately the hotel and opera house burned down in 1898 and was never rebuilt.

The Lawrenceburg Hotel (upper left photo) was located on Court Street across from where the train depot was. This building was built in 1902 by C. E. Bond and it burned down in 1905. A new hotel along with an added opera house was was built in 1908. Being near the train depot, this hotel became very popular for travelers coming into town. The Lawrenceburg Hotel also had a restaurant which was a welcome addition to the hungry traveler.

As time passed, prohibition hit and Lawrenceburg suffered tremendously. No longer were people traveling into our community and soon the need for hotels and opera houses diminished. The old Lawrenceburg Hotel building still remains but the opera house, which became a furniture store, was torn down in the late 80’s/early 90’s because of structural problems. The hotel building has had very little done to it since its early days. Even the original sign is on the door windows. It is a true testament of Lawrenceburg’s past.

Photos: Images of America Lawrenceburg, McAnly Collection & History and Families Anderson County

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