Historic Mammoth Cave hotels in Kentucky unveiled


BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) – As Mammoth Cave became a national tourist attraction in the 19th century, it soon became necessary to find accommodation nearby.

Several lodges, hotels and inns have followed one another in what is today a national park. Mammoth Cave’s first grand hotel opened in the early 1800s and used existing structures that had been used to house those involved in extracting saltpetre – used to make gunpowder – from the cave . The large wooden building became the site of many events and gatherings before being burned down in 1916.

A new hotel opened in 1925 and was once again a popular tourist destination. A 1942 brochure notes that rooms with bathtubs were available for $ 3 a night; rooms without a private bathroom cost $ 1.50. By the 1970s, the hotel building had become obsolete and was demolished.

While the hotels remain only memories, photos and written stories, what remained of the buildings has been brought to light again in recent weeks when a team of archaeologists and volunteers excavated the site of the buildings.


Edward Jakaitis, cultural resources manager at Mammoth Cave, led the excavation.

He said the dig, funded by a grant from the Great American Outdoors Act, is necessary because of planned changes to the park.

Although still years from the start, plans call for the construction of a new access road to the park and the conversion of the parking lot adjacent to the current park pavilion into a green space.

The former hotel sites, currently green spaces, would then be converted into parking areas.

As the park is federal property, there is a legal obligation to carry out archaeological excavations on the site before any construction.

“We have to take into account and protect our natural and cultural resources,” Jakaitis said.

The second hotel, which opened in 1925, was the main focus of the excavations, but since the previous two hotels were on roughly the same footprint, the team searched for remains of this building as well.

“We searched for parts of” the old hotel, he said. “We are looking further back in time than in 1925.”

There were some intriguing finds during the excavation, which began in July and ended on Saturday.

Among the finds were an 1890 dime, a mother-of-pearl button, hand-forged nails and various pieces of glass.

But the most intriguing find was a pair of large Delco “Farm Light” batteries dating from the 1920s which may have provided electrical power in the beginning to light up parts of the cave.

“We were really intrigued by this,” Jakaitis said, adding that while they cannot be sure the batteries were used for the specific purpose of lighting the cave, finding them “was a pleasure for us. “.

Once the archaeological excavations were completed, the site was again covered with earth pending further development.


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