History of Duncan Tavern Historic Center

In the year 1788, four years before Kentucky received her statehood when still a part of Virginia, Major Joseph Duncan built his imposing inn on what is now the public square, Paris, Kentucky.  An old suit filed in Bourbon County to establish a military land grant to Walter Stewart for service in the French and Indian War states that “in the year 1776 Colonel John Floyd marked a tree which stood immediately in front of where Major Duncan’s stone house stands which was the first surveyor’s mark on land where Paris stands today.”

Built of rock with twenty rooms and standing three stories high, Duncan Tavern is an ORIGNIAL example of the use of limestone which was quarried by primitive methods in the earliest settlement of the Western Wilderness, gateway to all the Northwest Territory.  When Major Duncan erected his stone inn all the surrounding buildings including the Bourbon County Court House were constructed of logs.  It is therefore no wonder it was referred to in John Porter’s advertisement appearing in the Kentucky Gazette of December 15, 1803, as “The large and elegant stone building in Paris which belonged to Major Duncan and occupied by him as a tavern, and since his death by Mrs. Duncan, at the sign of The Goddess of Liberty.” 



The rich timber resources of that early day made possible the use of the finest hard woods of the forests.  At Duncan Tavern oak and ash girders, beams and joists have given lasting support and ribbing to the structure; huge sleepers, after 222 years, retain their original bark and are as sound as the day they were lifted into place; the laths are hand-split hickory; the blue ash floors show their antiquity but are still in good condition.  The heavy doors have original antique locks of great interest, both English and early American.  There are hand-carved mantels and stone fireplaces where heroes of long ago gathered to recount their services for the cause of liberty or lament the massacre at Blue Licks, last battle of the Revolution, which was suffered only six years earlier on the famous old Limestone (Buffalo) Road.

About 1800 Major Duncan died leaving a young widow, Anne, and six small children.  At first Mrs. Duncan attempted to operate the inn but in 1803 she leased it to John Porter of Virginia.  Between these dates she built a home flush against her tavern wall.  This house was made of log construction and clapboarded but years later the façade was replaced with stone.  Here she reared her children and diligently saved for their education.  As it was not until 1815 when a final settlement of the estate of Joseph Duncan was recorded, we know most of the children were born in Duncan Tavern and grew up in this home, went out to serve as officers in the War of 1812 and became distinguished citizens in the building of the young Republic. 

Duncan Tavern Historic Center 323 High Street Paris, KY 40361 (859) 987- 1788