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River retreat

Westport offers visitors
quaint shopping experience

Antique store, gift shop, restaurant among the offerings

By Kathleen Adams
Contributing Writer

WESTPORT, Ky. (July 2005) – As a child, Breck Morgan grew up listening to the stories his great-grandparents told about their early lives in the city of Westport, Ky. As he listened to the tales, Morgan, who is a seventh-generation Oldham Countian, tried to envision what the houses and everyday items that inhabited his great-grandparents’ world looked like.

Westport Locator Map

“My mind has always worked that way,” Morgan said while seated inside the saltbox-style house at 1201 E. Hwy. 524 that used to belong to his paternal grandfather, but which is now home to Breck Morgan Antiques. “I’ve always liked old things.”
Now 36, Morgan says he is continually fascinated by the vast distances many of the items in his shop have traveled.
To illustrate his point, Morgan pointed to a piece of pottery he said was commonly found in Oldham County homes during the early 1880s.
“It would be like Tupperware is to us,” Morgan said. “Everyday average people had this. It came from England, and people in Westport had it. We always think of Kentucky as being this rough frontier place, and it was, but the people who came here had a sense of style.”
Early European settlers tended to select settlement sites that were located close to major transportation routes. With its proximity to the Ohio River, the land now known as Westport was viewed as a hot commodity in the late 1700s.
According to the “History & Families: Oldham County, Ky The First Century 1824-1924” (Turner Publishing), Harmon Bowmar and Joseph Dupy of Woodford County, Ky., were the first to realize the potential of the land. The pair purchased a 300-acre tract with the intent of platting the town of Westport in the late 1790s.
The book states: “The men placed newspaper advertisements in Kentucky newspapers announcing their plans to cultivate a town. The original name was to be Liberty. It was later replaced by Westport. Purchase price of the land from Elijah Craig and his wife, Frances, was 450 pounds.”

Breck Morgan Antiques

Photos by Don Ward

Breck Morgans' antique shop in Westport.
The store is located on Hwy. 524.

Two historical events acted as an economic stimulus on Westport. The first occurred in 1804, when President Thomas Jefferson authorized the purchase of land west of Kentucky. The second was the arrival of the steamboat.
Meanwhile, a third historical event – the construction of the railroad – beckoned the town’s economic decline.
Today, merchants such as Morgan are attempting to position Westport as a tourist destination. They are meeting with some success.
“I think people feel like they’ve discovered some kind of secret place when they come here,” Morgan said.
Indeed, they have.
Turn off Hwy. 42 and onto the narrow, hilly two-lane road that comprises Hwy. 524 and get ready to be greeted by wide open spaces and tranquility. Cell phones don’t work in Westport. There is also an absence of super-sized houses sitting atop one-acre plots of land. Dotted along the Ohio River are a few larger homes, but not enough to block roadside views of the river.
An unfettered view is one thing that attracted Will and Laura Crawford to Westport. Several years ago, the couple and their two young children, Wyatt, 10, and Flynn, 8, were looking to relocate to Oldham County. After a frustrating day of house-hunting, Will suggested they take a drive along Hwy. 524.

Lea Nachtman

Photo by Don Ward

Lea Nachtman’s Knock on Wood
specializes in handcrafted furniture.

“I looked over at Laura, and her whole face changed,” Crawford recalled.
The Crawfords were so enthralled with Westport that they eventually purchased a circa 1830s home in the city.
Later, they bought the building site of the former Westport General Store at 7008 Main St., restored the interior and re-opened the business in October 2003.
“We wanted a way to stay down in the valley,” Crawford said of the couple’s decision to own and operate the eatery.
Will Crawford’s mother was a caterer, and the 40-year-old has an extensive food service background that includes a stint at Louisville’s upscale Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant.
But Laura Crawford, 42, a writer and video producer, entered the venture with far less experience.
“It’s been a model of learn as we go,” Crawford said. “We know what a good evening for us is. We enjoy entertaining.”
On a recent Wednesday night, Crestwood, Ky., residents Steve and Dr. Cynthia Stafford dined on bison burgers and shared their impressions of the Westport General Store.
“It’s very unique,” Steve Stafford said. “It is away from everything.”
Cynthia Stafford added: “It’s fresh, well-seasoned food. Plus, you see Will everywhere, and that adds to the uniqueness.”
The fact that Westport is off the beaten path appears to both help and hinder the town’s businesses.
“We’re on the way to nowhere,” said Lea Nachtman, owner of Knock on Wood, a store that specializes in original, hand-crafted furniture. “I’ve talked to people who have never heard of Westport, and they live in La Grange. It’s (Westport) for the folks who take the road less traveled.”
Lea, 43, and her husband, Dave Nachtman, opened Knock on Wood at 7001 Main St. five years ago, shortly after moving to Oldham County from Virginia Beach, Va., with their two children Eli, 18, and Shelby, 13. The couple brought with them a trailer full of Lea’s craft work.
In addition to refinishing furniture, Lea recycles building supplies.

Westport General Store

Photo by Don Ward

Guests enjoy the unique food
and old-fashioned atmosphere
of the Westport General Store.

Seated in her workshop, Nachtman described how a customer once brought her door knobs and asked her to transform them into something practical and artful.
“She said, ‘Here’s door knobs from my parents home, and I have four daughters, and I don’t know what I want done with them, but I want to be able to pass them on down to my daughters.’ ”
Nachtman fashioned the door knobs into coat hangers.
“It’s kind of fun when somebody brings us something and says, ‘Here’s part of my past.’ And we give it a new life,” Nachtman said.
The Louisville native says she’s a self-taught artist and jokes that she started doing craft work because she was too cheap to buy gifts for family and friends.
“It’s heartfelt and it means more to me than going to the store and buying something anyone could get,” Nachtman said.
And while Nachtman’s storefront is filled with furniture that has a definite “country” feel to it, she is quick to point out that she’s no Martha Stewart.
“Oh, no,” Nachtman laughed. “I’m not that driven.”

• For more information about Westport or these businesses, call Breck Morgan Antiques at (502) 225-6705; Westport General Store at (502) 222-4626; or Knock on Wood at (502) 222-4200.

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