No Destination: Athens

Leaving my home in Nicholasville, I traveled through eastern Jessamine County and southern Fayette County before arriving in the small community of Athens (pronounced with a long "A", AY-thənz). Located in rural Fayette County (but part of Lexington-Fayette due to the 1974 merger of city and county), Athens was first settled in 1786 and was chartered in 1826.

Originally known as "Cross Plains," it has been suggested that the name "Athens" is a reference to Lexington's old nickname, "The Athens of the West." The nickname was a statement of Lexington's educational and societal strength during the early- to mid-1800s.

The village was a manufacturing center until most of the town had burned by 1860 (according to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which listed the Athens historic district in 1979, a major fire occurred in 1853-54). Today, Athens is nothing more than a crossroads. The old Athens Elementary School was closed a few years ago and is now used as an antique mall.

What remains of the historic district sits at the crossroads: the Aubrey Inn (c. 1800) and the Marshall Tavern (c. 1840). These two brick structures have been well-cared for and are surprisingly imposing for this little hamlet; clear evidence of what once was.