Some of the most inventive people in the world are cooks—at least in my opinion—and they aren’t always chefs in upscale eating places either.
My travels through the heartland of the United States have taken me to some quirky spots to find extraordinary meals in some unexpected places.
I’m going to start this series of blog posts with the #5 place on my list!
#5 – Hurst Drugstore Soda Fountain – Bardstown, Kentucky
My only experiences with drugstore soda fountains come from episodes of Happy Days on television and my mother’s stories.
However, these iconic places from America’s past have always held a special appeal for me.
So on a trip to one of Kentucky’s first settlements, Bardstown, one of my favorite stops was at Hurst Drugstore, where the original soda fountain still operates on a daily basis.
History of Drugstore Soda Fountains
- A soda fountain is a machine that combines flavored syrups with carbon dioxide and purified water to make fountain drinks.
- Henry Thompson received the first British patent in 1807 for a method of putting carbon dioxide into water to copy natural mineral waters found bubbling up out of the ground.
- Simons and Rundell of Charleston, South Carolina, patented imitation mineral waters in 1810 in the U.S., and began selling it.
- Samuel Fahnestock patented the first soda fountain in 1819.
- Robert Green is credited with creating the first ice cream soda in October of 1874.
- Soda fountains were popular in drugstores, small stores and eating establishments in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century.
- Soda fountains gradually disappeared when bottled pop, fast foods, and commercial ice cream all became readily available.
The Hurst Discount Drugs building is part of the nationally registered Bardstown Historic District that consists of 26 blocks with 279 properties.
In this picturesque downtown over one-third of the buildings were built between 1780 to 1850, using the Federal or Georgian architectural style.
I found it an intriguing place and spent a whole day wandering in and out of the many businesses, even being lucky enough to stay across the street from the drugstore at the Jailer’s Inn, where the local jail had operated for 168 years.
When I entered through the drugstore’s soda fountain door, I found exactly what I had hoped for: large black and white square floor tiles, red-covered stools, and shiny silver dispensing equipment.
I could almost imagine The Fonz was one of the two seniors seated at the counter.
It was easy to decide what I wanted—ice cream, of course—with pecans, Georgia’s state nut.
To top off my sundae, the waitress, her ponytail pulled back ‘50s style, recommended the pineapple sauce. My first spoonful confirmed it was the right choice.
Quirky and delicious!
Food, however, is just one of the great reasons to visit Bardstown. It was named the most beautiful small town in America by Rand McNally, in collaboration with USA Today in 2012.
This YouTube video takes you on a virtual tour until you can visit it yourself.
Visit Hurst Drugstore Soda Fountain
102 N. Third St.