The quaint town of Princeton is the county seat of Caldwell County. It’s conveniently situated right off I-69 and not far from Barkley Lake and The Land Between the Lands recreational paradise. Princeton’s residential streets appear as though they leapt from a Southern novel, as they are canopied with green in summertime, vivid color in autumn, and the streets are lined with large porches that grace many of the homes. It has a neighborly atmosphere that really lights up in the holiday season. Full of history, this charming town is an easy turn just off the interstate.
The fact that its history has been well preserved is something many of the locals are proud of, and it’s something that appeals to newcomers. Listed on the National Registry of Historical Places, downtown Princeton is the place to be if you want to get the feeling of going back to the “good ole days” — a time when life was a little slower and people a little friendlier. A perfect example of this is Newsom’s Old Mill Store, opened in 1917, and is located in a building constructed in 1850! This family owned establishment is an old fashioned general store that carries all the charm of the early twentieth century, while providing essentials still used in this one. They stock local sorghum, jams and jellies, and old fashioned candies sold in large barrels, as one would hope to find. Pick up seed for gardening and local produce that they sell all summer long! When you walk into the store, immediately the robust aroma of smoked ham greets you at the door. Widely known for their award winning smoked ham, Newsom’s happens to be the most sought after place to get ham in town for your Easter gathering. You may have already heard of their ham, as it was discovered by the late internationally-known chef and author, James Beard, and since has been in prestigious publications such as The New York Times and Food and Wine magazine. It was served at the Kentucky Ball at the 2008 Presidential Inauguration, as well. You can order their delicious ham at their deli counter, where you can get made-to-order sandwiches with a variety of meat and cheese choices for a hearty sandwich you’ll be coming back for. It makes the perfect picnic lunch and locals know just where to enjoy it! A short walk behind their building is Big Springs Park, in the heart of Princeton. A beautifully shady park with a large natural spring bubbling through it that flows from a cave. There’s so much history surrounding Big Spring, that goes as far back as the Native Americans and then Civil War soldiers who all used this spot as a resting place on their journeys. Nowadays, the park has picnic tables to enjoy a meal in nature’s serenity of a flowing brook, right in the middle of town.
Another authentic historical experience, The Adsmore Museum, is Princeton’s most distinct house! This grand Victorian mansion has been restored to look just like it would have in its hey-day, and most of the items inside have been preserved from the original family who resided there. Known as a “living history museum” —the only one in Kentucky— you can take a tour of the house and grounds, and discover what it would have been like in the nineteenth century’s “Golden Era” when the Smith-Garrett family lived there! The house is transformed throughout the year into 7 different occasions that were actually celebrated inside this mansion, and since the Christmas tour is the most beloved, it’s something you have to plan in advance due to it’s popularity. After one of these Victorian-era tours, you may leave feeling as though you lived part of an experience with this family, and will want to meet up for their next celebration!
While Princeton has much reason to look back at its past, its modern day life is full of exciting things! The town shines during the Black Patch Festival every September! This fun began almost 50 years ago in celebration of the tobacco crop that Princeton was known for. Today, it’s not that Princeton’s residents just love tobacco, they celebrate the farmers! The festivities kick off with a parade the first evening, and continues the following day with a pancake breakfast. Some years this festival has brought in as many as 65 booths of games, fair food, arts and crafts, and more! There’s also a petting zoo, Art in the Park, a Cruise-In car show, and a square dance! Black Patch is a time the whole town comes together and invites surrounding communities to join.
The Christmas season is celebrated big in this little town. Thanks to some recent private donations, the courthouse gets a festive makeover at the holidays and is decked out in lights! The holiday open houses every November are another wonderful tradition. Not only does this help businesses, it also encourages community. Princeton boasts several local shops and boutiques, and during the open house weekend, these businesses shine in their holiday best. Because it’s a small town, you can park your car and walk to most of the stores to browse their holiday offerings — make sure to enjoy a Christmas cookie and cup of cider as you shop. Newsom’s at Christmastime is like stepping back to the day when peppermints and oranges were delicacies. The inherent nostalgia inside makes it one you can’t miss. The Tin Roof is a very popular home décor and clothing boutique that not only serves the area, but ships all over the country. The ladies working there are so friendly and fun! Inside this store, you’ll find rooms filled with items to decorate your home and porch in the Southern farmhouse style, deliciously scented candles, and perhaps discover that clothing piece for your wardrobe that nobody else has yet! They also carry hand bags and jewelry. It’s a must stop at the Christmas season, as it’s literally decked out floor to ceiling with holiday décor! For entertainment year-round, go see one of the latest movies at Capitol Theaters! This historic theater was build in 1939 and is one of the only “Art Deco” style theaters still in use. They keep three movies on at a time and have reasonable prices for their tasty concessions.
Get some delicious food at one of the many stand-out restaurants around town. The Black Patch Grille on the court square is a local favorite. Serving authentic Irish style pub food, this place has delicious fish ‘n chips and Guinness stew. They also reign in town as having the best all-American favorite, the grilled hamburger. They’ve been known to get creative with the toppings for their juicy burgers, and patrons love them for it! Pagliai’s is a cozy pizzeria serving hand tossed pizza in Princeton since 1989. They top their pizzas with only the most quality cheese and toppings, and they also serve hot sandwiches and fresh salads. For a unique dining experience, take a short drive into the country to Adam’s Breezy Hill Farm, “where the sweet tea is always free”! Enjoy a delicious, al fresco lunch on their wrap-around porch with sweeping farmland views in sight, or cozy up inside by their massive stone fireplace. Either way, the food will taste just as wonderful. They’re known for juicy rib-eye steak dinners complete with large baked potatoes, chewy rolls with honey butter and a fresh salad. Another favorite is their thin crust, brick-fired pizzas! Before you leave, try some of “Pops” homemade ice cream, that comes in many tasty flavors, or a piece of cake for dessert. This restaurant recently expanded their dining room and added a mercantile gift shop to browse, although it didn’t lose the intimate quality for which it’s known.
Princeton is a beautiful little town that’s rich in history and charm. Even as the town grows with new establishments and traditions, the ere of nostalgia is something this community values. Its residents know how to preserve the best about their past while always look toward enriching the future!