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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • LV Times columnist: Whitehaven a must visit while on the road

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  • Now that schools have begun again just about everywhere, summer trips to favorite places have ended. But, the memories will linger for a long time for most of us.
    I had a pleasant re-encounter with a place I’d visited many times in my travels back east.  It had been so long since the last time I passed its way I didn’t know if it was still serving weary travelers or not.
    It is.
    It has to be the most classy highway “pit stop” in the nation. It is so classy, you can actually pay to become a patron of it.  “It” is Whitehaven, and it has to be the only pit stop in the nation with a name, much less an organization, you can join.
    And, it is likely the only pit stop on the highways that has its own brochure, complete with its history, for travelers’ scrapbooks. One final accolade: It is surely the only pit stop anywhere that is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, which it was in 1984.
    So, where is it, in case a reader out there is a fan of unusual pit  stops? It is on I-24 at the  outskirts of Paducah, Ky. It is on the most direct way from here to Fort Campbell, Ky., and Nashville.  
    The brochure calls it “a majestic landmark cherished by the people of Paducah and the surrounding area.” It is a former two-story home, built in the 1860s, although the brochure doesn’t give a year, so one doesn’t know if it is antebellum or not. That is a fancy word that means built before the Civil War.
    The brochure lists a lot of names and who owned the mansion, but since none have a Leavenworth connection, I’ll skip them. It is about the size of Leavenworth’s Carroll Mansion, and was a private home until 1968, when the family living there learned that I-24 would be built right by it, and assumed it would be torn down.
    Since an interstate was coming, state officials decided a rest stop should be nearby.
    A community college owned the building then, and rather than having it torn down and a new rest stop built, everyone concerned agreed to use the money to restore the building and make it a pit stop.
    It was named Whitehaven, and a private association was formed as a non-profit corporation to supervise the decorations, furnishings, and use of the building as a welcome center.
    Today it is a fully functioning welcome center, the only one I know of that has a museum inside. My guess is not a lot of tourists visit the second floor museum as they are likely ready to continue on their way after a short break.
    Page 2 of 2 - The first floor is the functioning rest stop with several give away racks filled with things tourists like to take with them about attractions in the area or wherever the tourist is headed.  When I visit such places, Friend Wife’s admonition always rings in my ears: “And don’t bring a dozen of each brochure back to the car with you.”
    So, trying to please her, I am careful to get only 11 and sometimes 13 of the brochures I think friends in Leavenworth might want.
    There is easy access to Whitehaven no matter whether going east or west. And, I’m not sure there is such a thing as a connoisseur of pit stops, but for anyone desiring such a title, you most certainly must travel east from here and get on I-24 headed toward Fort Campbell.

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