Hall’s on the River - a well known eating establishment and a place on the map steeped in rich Kentucky history and folklore.
HALL'S ON THE RIVER
Tracing its roots back to 1781, Hall’s on the River is the home to unique local favorites served up with a big side of history. Hall’s story begins with Captain John Holder and Holders Tavern. Captain John Holder, Daniel Boone’s contemporary, was a defender during the siege of Fort Boonesborough, which took place one mile up-river from Hall’s current location. On this property, Captain Holder established a boatyard, a station, and Holders Tavern. Here, visitors would gather to enjoy downtime in a simple, yet relaxing environment. From Captain John holder, to Johnny Allman, Carl Johnson, George and Gertrude Hall, Steve hall, and the current ownership, this location and these owners have inspired many great times and unique food recipes, such as fried banana peppers and our own Hall’s Snappy Beer Cheese™. Hall’s on the River has stood in the same location from 1781 and on. However, the structure sometimes finds itself “in” the river. For years, the restaurant has dealt with a great deal of devastating floods, damaging the structure in and out. But it still stands, peering out over the Kentucky River, enclosed in historic land.
The owner of Allman’s Restaurant, Johnny Allman, assisted in the creation of the very first beer cheese. This beer cheese made its appearance at the Driftwood Inn, owned by Allman, during the 1930s. Throughout the years, Allman continuously moved his restaurant to different locations and wherever he moved, the beer cheese’s popularity followed. Allman's beer cheese set the course for the creation of Halls Snappy Beer Cheese.
On July 14th, 1776 (just 1500 yards up the river bank from Hall's) a kidnapping occurred on the murky waters of the Kentucky river which historian Harry Enoch called “one of the most legendary events on the frontier.” The daughter of Daniel Boone, Jemima, along with Fanny and Betsey, the daughters of another famous frontiersman Richard Callaway, decided to spend the day canoeing down the river. However, they were met by an unexpected fate. As they canoed too close to unknown territory, five Native Americans seized the girls and they were held captive in a remote camp deep in the Kentucky wilderness. Both Boone and Callaway led rescue parties to find the girls and after two days of tracking, Boone’s party of eight located the encampment. It only took the firing of a few shots in the air for the captors to flee and the girls were rescued unharmed. Fanny Callaway ended up marrying Captain John Holder, who was a member of the rescue party. Captain Holder established Holders Tavern at the site where Hall's on the River stands today.
As you wind your way down Highway 418, toward Hall's on the River, you can look out your car window just before the Lower Howard Creek Bridge and catch a glimpse of the sternwheeler Brooklyn lying half submerged just offshore in the Kentucky River. The Brooklyn met a crushing fate back in 1977 when a rock ledge punched holes in her hull during a drought, and she sank where she was moored. Originally named the Helen H., it journeyed from its original birthplace of Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1930 to rivers such as the Ohio, Cumberland, and Mississippi. The ship took on many names during its lifetime, the final being the Brooklyn, which was the name given to the boat by Captain John Donaldson in 1960. The boat was last used as a marina and beer depot by Linville Puckett near Boonesborough. She experienced a failed attempt to refloat her in 1986.
Just about a mile upstream from Hall’s on the River Restaurant and Tavern, Daniel Boone and his men founded Fort Boonesborough after crossing the Kentucky River on April 1, 1775. It was one of the very first settlements in what is now Kentucky. Today, The Fort is a National Historic Landmark and is one of the best-preserved archaeological sites of colonial westward expansion for that period.
Just down the river from Hall's, near the mouth of Boone Creek, sits the site of an old shot factory where ammunition was formed for muskets, shotguns and cannons. At a particular precipice on these towering cliffs, the process of “drop shot” took place. Shot was formed by allowing molten lead to seep through a sieve and fall from a very high point (usually a man-made tower) - but in this rare case, it was from a cliff on the palisades of the Kentucky River. These liquid drops of lead would land into vats of cold water drawn from the adjoining creek. Once cooled, the shot held the shape of small spheres, which varied in size and sold as lead shot to hunters and others. References from the shot factory date from 1806 to 1853.
Back in 1926, a Bluegrass delicacy known as the Hot Brown made its debut in Louisville, Kentucky. Chef Fred K. Schmidt created this dish in hopes of appealing to the more than 1,200 late-night ballroom dancing guests at the Brown Hotel. When the band took their break, all the patrons were seated for a bite to eat - with a limited menu of ham and eggs or club sandwiches. Chef Schmidt wanted to offer the famished hoofers something new and unique to the hotel. He crafted an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and Mornay sauce, topped with pimientos, then baked it bubbly brown under the broiler. According to an executive chef at the Brown Hotel, the original Hot Brown was served with peaches! Be sure to check out Hall’s on the River’s take on the original, with the addition of salty country ham, cheddar cheese, and a slice of red ripe tomato.
One of the earliest roads in Kentucky led from Fort Boonesborough to a prime hunting location known as the Lower Blue Licks, or the Lower Salt Spring where Hall's on the River Restaurant and Tavern is located today? Salt licks attracted buffalo in large numbers and were favored spots for hunters. Licks also provided a valuable source of salt that was critical for preserving meat. In 1775, Kentucky's settlement year, the hunters at Boonesborough discovered the Lower Blue Licks by following a series of connected buffalo traces. The path crossed the river near Boonesborough and went up Lower Howard's Creek in present-day Clark County. There, where Hall's is today, it traverses the Lower Howard's Creek Nature & Heritage Preserve. You can learn more about the history and geography of the Salt Spring Trace, as well as other early roads in the Preserve at the links below.