Skip to main navigation Skip to main content
The Ruins of the Incomplete Stone Tavern.

Bell's Tavern

Site ID: 15Bn109

Kentucky Archaeological Survey
Unless specified, we cannot provide site location information.


​​​​​​In the late 1990s, archaeologists investigated the remains of an early to mid-nineteenth-century tavern operated by William Bell in Park City.  Intact architectural remains and artifacts indicated that the original wood frame tavern was built around 1820 and that a domestic outbuilding, such as a kitchen or slave house, stood behind it. Given its location near Mammoth Cave, Bell’s Tavern was a very popular stop along the main stagecoach route between Louisville and Nashville. Many celebrities, including Henry Clay and Charles Dickens, stayed there.  The tavern burned down in the late 1850s not long after Bell died. Bell’s widow, Maria, and her new husband, George Proctor, began construction on a new and larger tavern in 1860, but it was never completed. The ruins of the new tavern remain unfinished to this day. 

Stone rubble from the tavern’s outbuildings.


Archaeological remains consisted of foundations and trash pits associated with the original tavern and domestic outbuildings. These remains indicated that the original tavern had a brick foundation. Many of the recovered artifacts, such as nails, revealed that the original tavern was made of wood framing. Most of the nails were burned, confirming that the tavern had indeed burned down.

​​Investigators recovered a large number of unburned post-1850s artifacts: dish fragments, bottle glass, personal items, and animal bone. These items showed that people continued to live at the site long after the fire. It is likely that the kitchen and slave houses did not burn and that Maria and George Proctor​ lived in them as the new tavern was being built. When Maria died in 1865, the new tavern was still incomplete. George Proctor continued to operate a tavern until the late 1870s, but he never completed the stone building.  

A portion of the tavern's brick foundation.

What's Cool?

​​T​avern Construction

​​Artifacts from the original tavern - particularly the over 5,000 nails and the bricks - provided a great deal of information about how the tavern was constructed. 

Researchers sorted the nails by size. ​Most were relatively short, which suggested that the building had a wooden shake roof. The large number of medium-sized nails indicated that the building had a wood floor and siding. Few large nails were recovered. This indicated that large timbers held together with mortise and tenon (tab and slot) joints, a common early 1800s building technique, constituted the building's framing.  

​​The tavern's foundation bricks had a slight “frog” or indention on one side. They are identical to the bricks used in buildings along Center Street in Bowling Green, which is located about 30 miles to the south. Perhaps bricks used in Bell's Tavern were made in Bowling Green, and then brought to the tavern site.

Handmade bricks found at the Bell’s Tavern site, showing a slight "frog."

Keep the Search Alive!