Leestown

Historical Marker #103 in Franklin County notes the location of Leestown, an early pioneer Kentucky River village just north of Frankfort. This site eventually became the location of a distillery complex.

Two early Kentucky surveyors, brothers Hancock and Willis Lee, who came from Virginia in 1775, became the namesakes for the small community of Leestown. The area had previously been used as a hunting camp by early explorers due to the abundance of game and the large Buffalo herds that forded the Kentucky River there. Although Native American incursions forced the first residents to abandon Leestown, by the time statehood was granted in 1792 a small population was well established.

Its location on the Kentucky River afforded Leestown the opportunity to become a center for shipping to locations on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Industry soon followed. In 1857, the first distillery was established at Leestown. A ready water supply was provided by a local spring. Furthermore, corn from central Kentucky counties supplied the main ingredients for the whiskies distilled there. This distillery changed ownership a number of times before coming into the hands of Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr., in 1870. Taylor named his distillery O. F. C., which stood for Old Fire Copper. In the late 1870s, Taylor sold O. F. C. Distillery to George T. Stagg, who continued to make improvements that Taylor had started, including climate-controlled warehousing.

Like a number of other distilleries in Kentucky the Leestown operation was allowed to continue production during Prohibition. Albert Blanton took over the distillery's operations after Prohibition and developed innovative commercial ideas such as marketing single-barrel bourbon.

Despite natural disasters (including the flood of 1937), changes in federal law, and a fluctuating liquor market, the distillery at Leestown managed to survive and continued to produce bourbon whiskey through the end of the twentieth century. In 1999, the distillery was renamed Buffalo Trace. Today, Buffalo Trace offers a range of bourbon and it products have received numerous awards.

Images

O. F. C. Distillery

O. F. C. Distillery

This photograph shows the O. F. C. Distillery at Leestown. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cases of Bourbon

Cases of Bourbon

Workers are shown here pulling a wagon load of boxed bottles at O. F. C. Distillery at Leestown. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

O. F. C. Distillery

O. F. C. Distillery

The O. F. C. Distillery water towers and smokestacks are shown in this photograph. The distillery is now known as Buffalo Trace. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

O. F. C. Distillery

O. F. C. Distillery

This photograph show barrels of bourbon being filled from the distillery tanks. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Buffalo Trace

Buffalo Trace

The distilleries at Leestown are now known as Buffalo Trace Distillery. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Tim Talbott, “Leestown,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed July 27, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/423.
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