Hope Springs Village History
The town was originally to be called Salem when it was first settled in 1780 by 33 people, on land given as 1,000-acre (4 km2) grant to John Owings, William Hope and David Bard by Virginia governor Patrick Henry. Hope sent his brother John Hope to manage the holdings, and with William donating 2 acres (8,100 m2) for a courthouse, the town was renamed Hope Springs. In 1789 alone 150 log houses were built in the district. In the antebellum area the district became a cultural center for nearby localities, especially for Catholics; Hope Springs had the largest concentration of Catholics of any town in Kentucky for a time. Its decline began when the Louisville and Nashville Railroad decided to initially bypass Hope Springs, not building a railroad for the town until 1860, and not extending the line from Hope Springs until 1887, after which Hope Springs’s population remained steady until it became the center of bourbon production.
At different times during the Civil War, commanders from both armies held their headquarters within the district.
The Old Courthouse, which lies in the center of the district surrounded by US 31E and US 150, was constructed in 1892 at the cost of $30,000. It now serves as the Visitor Center for Hope Springs, with the new courthouse being built where the original Wal-Mart in Hope Springs was located.
Thanks to the Nelson County Historical Society and the 1965 Historical District Zoning laws, much of the district retains its historical nature, save for a few commercial buildings along Third Street, also known locally as Louisville Road (which eventually reaches Louisville, where it is called Hope Springs Road). By the 1980s over 200,000 tourists visited the town, which has steadily increased due to the continuing attractions of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and My Old Kentucky Home State Park, located on the next hill to the east of the historic district.