MOUNT VERNON — Some people collect baseball cards. Some collect stamps. Lincoln County resident John Irvin collected Hammers.
For close to a decade, Irvin visited flea markets around central Kentucky, purchasing any hammers he found. Before his death in 1997, he had amassed a huge collection of hammers ranging from tiny to huge, plain to bizarre.
Hammers for breaking rocks to make gravel roads, hammers for shoeing horses, hammers for splitting wood, hammers used for digging and many others all found homes in Irvin's collection.
It was an impressive collection chronicled by the Lincoln County Ledger and WKYT Channel 27 in the early 90s.
Today, two owners and 15 years after Irvin died, his hammer collection lives on, in-tact and on display for the public to see just a short drive from Lincoln County at Renfro Valley's Bittersweet Cabins.
When Irvin's estate was being sold at auction, his wife, Doris, didn't want the collection split apart. She found a buyer, Eubank appliance salesman Ed Buis, who purchased the entire collection and assembled them in a display on a mobile trailer.
Doris Irvin, who still lives in Stanford, said she learned quite a bit about hammers thanks to her husband's hobby. She kept a few hammers from the collection that have sentimental value for her, including a small brass hammer with a handle that unscrews and turns into screwdrivers.
Doris still remembers the day her husband got it for her after he had noticed she had her eye on it.
"He went back and bought it for me and I always kept it in the house," she said.
According to old news stories about the collection, it started after John Irvin bought a few hammers for a friend. When the friend decided he didn't want the hammers, John Irvin kept them and began collecting.
Doris Irvin said her husband always had a penchant for construction, so hammers were a good fit.
"He had been building all his life," she said. "On the farm, he was always building something.
After maintaining John Irvin's collection for around 12 years, Buis has now donated it to the Mount Vernon/Rockcastle County Tourist Commission.
Mike Robdins, groundskeeper for Renfro Valley's Bittersweet Cabins, has set up the multiple hammer displays mounted on pegboard inside one of the historical cabin structures.
"When he first called, I thought, 'what am I going to do with 1,000 hammers?'" Robdins said. "When there's that many, it's kind of like, my god, where do you put them?"
The hammers take up nearly all the available space in one cabin, and several other large hammers will soon be displayed in Renfro Valley's general store area.
Robdins said the hammers make a good addition to the cabins' museum, which features a large variety of historical objects from "pioneer times" through the early 1900s.
Doris Irvin, who is now 83 years old, and her daughters said they plan on paying the hammer collection a visit at least once.