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Paducah, Kentucky

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United States



Local time
Monday 10:38 AM


c. 1821


25,018 (2013)

Paducah, Kentucky httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

21°C, Wind S at 14 km/h, 45% Humidity

Points of interest
National Quilt Museum, Bob Noble Park, William Clark Market H, Paducah Railroad Museum, Hotel Metropolitan

Paducah kentucky narrative tour

Paducah (/pəˈdkə/) is a home rule-class city in and the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, United States. The largest city in the Jackson Purchase region, it is located at the confluence of the Tennessee and the Ohio Rivers, halfway between St. Louis, Missouri, to the northwest and Nashville, Tennessee, to the southeast. The population was 24,864 in 2015, down from 25,024 during the 2010 U.S. Census. Twenty blocks of the city's downtown have been designated as a historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Map of Paducah, KY, USA

Paducah is the hub of its micropolitan area, which includes McCracken, Ballard and Livingston counties in Kentucky and Massac County in Illinois.

Early history

Paducah was first settled as Pekin by James and William Pore c. 1821. The community – favorably located at the confluence of several waterways – occupied a site previously noted as a Chickasaw trading center.

The town was laid out by William Clark (of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition) in 1827 and renamed Paducah. Although local lore long connected this to an eponymous Chickasaw chief "Paduke" and his tribe of "Paducahs," authorities on the Chickasaw have since made clear that there was never any chief or tribe of that name, or anything like it, nor any words like them in the Chickasaw tongue. Instead, it is probable that Clark named the town for the Comanches (known at the time as the Padoucas, from a Spanish transcription of the Kaw Pádoka or Omaha Pádoⁿka).

Incorporation, steamboats, and railroads

Paducah was formally established as a town in 1830 and incorporated as a city by the state legislature in 1838. By this time, steam boats traversed the river system and its port facilities were important to trade and transportation. In addition, railroads began to be developed that entered the region. A factory for making red bricks, and a foundry for making rail and locomotive components became the nucleus of a thriving "River and Rail" economy. It became the site of dry dock facilities for steamboats and towboats, and thus headquarters for many barge companies. Because of its proximity to coalfields further to the east in Kentucky and north in Illinois, Paducah also became an important railway hub for the Illinois Central Railroad. This was the primary north-south railway connecting the industrial cities of Chicago and East St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico at Gulfport, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana. The Illinois Central system also provided east-west links to the Burlington Northern and the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railways (which later merged to become the BNSF Railway).

The Illinois Central Railroad began construction of their largest locomotive workshop at Paducah in 1924. Over a period of 190 days, a large ravine between Washington and Jones Streets was filled with 44,560 carloads of dirt to enlarge the site to include 23 buildings. The eleven million dollar project was completed in 1927 as the fourth largest industrial plant in Kentucky. It became the largest employer in Paducah with 1,075 employees in 1938. The Paducah shops were converted to maintain diesel locomotives as steam locomotives were replaced through the 1940s and 1950s; and a nationally known rebuilding program for aging diesel locomotives from Illinois Central and other railroads began in 1967. The shops became part of the Paducah and Louisville Railway in 1986; and are operated by VMV Paducahbilt.

Civil War

At the outset of the Civil War, Kentucky attempted to take a neutral position. However, when a Confederate force occupied Columbus, a Union force under General Ulysses S. Grant responded by occupying Paducah. Throughout most of the war, Col. Stephen G. Hicks was in charge of Paducah, and the town served as a massive supply depot for Federal forces along the Ohio, Mississippi and Tennessee river systems.

On December 17, 1862, under the terms of General Order No. 11, US forces required thirty Jewish families to leave their long-established homes. Grant was trying to break up a black market in cotton, in which he suspected Jewish traders were involved. Cesar Kaskel, a prominent local Jewish businessman, dispatched a telegram of complaint to Pres. Lincoln and met with him; together with similar actions by other Jewish businessmen and loud complaints by Congress, he succeeded in seeing the order revoked within a few weeks.

On March 25, 1864, Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest raided Paducah as part of his campaign northward from Mississippi into Western Tennessee and Kentucky. He intended to re-supply the Confederate forces in the region with recruits, ammunition, medical supplies, horses and mules and especially to disrupt the Union domination of the regions south of the Ohio River. Known as the Battle of Paducah, the raid was successful in terms of the re-supply effort and in intimidating the Union, but Forrest returned south. According to his report, "I drove the enemy to their gunboats and fort; and held the city for ten hours, captured many stores and horses; burned sixty bales of cotton, one steamer, and a drydock, bringing out fifty prisoners." Much of the fighting took place around Fort Anderson on the city's west side, in the present-day Lower Town neighborhood; most buildings in the neighborhood postdate the war, as most of the neighborhood was demolished soon after the battle in order to deny any future raids the advantage of surprise that they had enjoyed during the battle. Among the few houses that were not destroyed is the David Yeiser House, a single-story Greek Revival structure.

Later having read in the newspapers that 140 fine horses had escaped the raid, Forrest sent Brigadier General Abraham Buford back to Paducah, to get the horses and to keep Union forces busy there while he attacked Fort Pillow in Tennessee. His forces were charged with a massacre of United States Colored Troops who they defeated at the fort. On April 14, 1864, Buford's men found the horses hidden in a Paducah foundry, as reported by the newspapers. Buford rejoined Forrest with the spoils, leaving the Union in control of Paducah until the end of the War.

1937 flood

On January 21, 1937, the Ohio River at Paducah rose above its 50-foot flood stage, cresting at 60.8 feet on February 2 and receding again to 50-feet on February 15. For nearly three weeks, 27,000 residents were forced to flee or to stay with friends and relatives in higher ground in McCracken or other counties. The American Red Cross and local churches provided some shelters. Buildings in downtown Paducah still bear plaques that define the high water marks.

Driven by 18 inches of rainfall in 16 days, along with sheets of swiftly moving ice, the '37 flood was the worst natural disaster in Paducah's history. The earthen levee was ineffective against this flood, and as a result, Congress authorized the United States Army Corps of Engineers to build the flood wall that now protects the city.

Atomic City

In 1950, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission selected Paducah as the site for a new uranium enrichment plant. Construction began in 1951 and the plant opened for operations in 1952. Originally operated by Union Carbide, the plant has changed hands several times. Martin Marietta, its successor company Lockheed-Martin, and now the United States Enrichment Corporation have operated the plant in turn. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), successor to the AEC, remains the owner.

Quilt City

On April 25, 1991, the National Quilt Museum opened in downtown Paducah. The museum is a cultural destination that annually attracts an international collection of more than 40,000 quilters and art enthusiasts to the Paducah area. The museum features professional quilt and fiber art exhibits that are rotated throughout the year. It is the largest single tourist attraction in the city.

For over 30 years, Paducah has been host to one of the largest Quilt Shows in North America, QuiltWeek Paducah. On November 21, 2013, UNESCO designated Paducah the world's seventh City of Crafts and Folk Art.


Paducah operates under a City Manager Plan form of government. The Paducah Board of Commissioners is made up of the Mayor and four Commissioners elected at large by the citizens on a non-partisan basis. The Mayor is elected for a four-year term and Commissioners for a two-year term. The Mayor and Council select and appoint a professional city manager to operate the city.


Paducah is located at 37°4′20″N 88°37′39″W (37.072226, −88.627436).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.0 square miles (52 km2), of which 19.9 square miles (52 km2) is land and 0.10 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.52%) is water.


Paducah has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) with four distinct seasons and is located in USDA hardiness zone 7a. Spring-like conditions typically begin in mid-to-late March, summer from mid-to-late-May to late September, with fall in the October–November period. Seasonal extremes in both temperature and precipitation are common during early spring and late fall; severe weather is also common, with occasional tornado outbreaks in the region. Winter typically brings a mix of rain, sleet, and snow, with occasional heavy snowfall and icing. The city has a normal January mean temperature of 34.6 °F (1.4 °C) and averages 13 days annually with temperatures staying at or below freezing; the first and last freezes of the season on average fall on October 25 and April 8, respectively. Summer is typically hazy, hot, and humid with a July daily average of 78.9 °F (26.1 °C) and drought conditions at times. Paducah averages 48 days a year with high temperatures at or above 90 °F (32 °C). Snowfall averages 9.1 inches (23 cm) per season, contributing to the annual precipitation of 49.1 inches (1,250 mm). Extremes in temperature range from 108 °F (42 °C) on July 17, 1942 and June 29, 2012, down to −15 °F (−26 °C) on January 20, 1985.

Contemporary Paducah

In 1996, the Paducah Wall to Wall mural program was begun by the Louisiana mural artist Robert Dafford and his team on the floodwall in downtown Paducah. They have painted more than 50 murals addressing numerous subjects, including Native American history, industries such as river barges and hospitals, local African-American heritage, the historic Carnegie Library on Broadway Street, steamboats, and local labor unions.

In May 2003, photographer Jim Roshan documented the painting of the Lewis and Clark Expedition mural during the America 24/7 project. One of the images was used in the book Kentucky24/7, published in 2004.

By 2008 the mural project was completed and being maintained. Muralist Herb Roe returned to the city each year to repaint and refurbish the panels. Roe is the only muralist associated with the project to have worked on all of the panels. Roe added a new mural to the project in the summer of 2010. It shows the 100-year history of the local Boy Scout troop, Troop 1. Troop 1 is one of only a handful of troops who share their centennial with that of the national scouting organization itself. The dedication for the mural was held on National Scout Sunday, February 6, 2011.

In August 2000, Paducah's Artist Relocation Program was started to offer incentives for artists to relocate to its historic downtown and Lowertown areas. The program has become a national model for using the arts for economic development. It has received the Governors Award in the Arts, the Distinguished Planning Award from the Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association, the American Planning Association's National Planning Award, and most recently, the Kentucky League of Cities' Enterprise Cities Award.

Lowertown, home of the Artist Relocation Program, is the oldest neighborhood in Paducah. As retail commerce moved toward the outskirts of the city, efforts were made to preserve the architectural character, and historic Victorian structures were restored in the older parts of the city. The artists' housing program contributed to that effort and became a catalyst for revitalizing the downtown area. The Luther F. Carson Center for the Performing Arts was completed in downtown Paducah in 2004.

In September 2004, plans jelled to highlight Paducah's musical roots through the redevelopment of the southern side of downtown. The centerpiece of the effort is the renovation of Maggie Steed's Hotel Metropolitan. Prominent African-American musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb's orchestra, B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Ike and Tina Turner and other R & B and blues legends have performed here as part of what has become known as the "Chitlin' circuit." Supporters want to promote Paducah's role in the history of American music.

Another regional attraction is the annual OMGcon, an anime and gaming convention that attracts attendees from across the United States. It was begun in Paducah in 2006 and moved to the city of Owensboro, Kentucky in 2014.


Paducah is the birthplace and residence of musicians in various genres. Rockabilly Hall of Fame artists Ray Smith, whose recording of "Rockin' Little Angel" was a hit in 1960, and Stanley Walker, who played guitar for Ray Smith and others, grew up in Paducah. Terry Mike Jeffrey, an Emmy-nominated songwriter, is a resident of Paducah. Nashville, TN based composer/violinist, Mark Evitts, is also from Paducah. The most prominent mainstream artist is Steven Curtis Chapman, the top-selling Christian artist of all time.

The local community boasts an "underground" musical environment, with acts finding some success due to the recent promotion of musical growth in the city with the new Middletown project. Similar to the Lowertown Artist District, the project proposes redevelopment of historic spaces for musicians' residences and performance space. Its focal point will be the Metropolitan Hotel, where many blues and jazz musicians played during the mid-20th century.

The city most notably promotes local music during its annual Summer Festival and the Rock The Vote-sponsored Paducahpalooza festival. The Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center hosts various musical artists, theater productions, and local musical acts.

Paducah is one of only two cities named in the world-famous song "Hooray for Hollywood," which is used as the opening number for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards (the Oscars). The 1937 song, with music by Richard Whiting and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, contains in the second verse: "Hooray for Hollywood! That phony, super Coney, Hollywood. They come from Chilicothes and Padukahs..."

Both cities were misspelled in the original published lyrics, though that may have been the fault of the publishers rather than Mercer. He was noted for his sophistication and the attention to detail he put into his lyrics. The correct spellings are "Chillicothe" and "Paducah".


Local media in Paducah includes NBC affiliate WPSD-TV, MyNetworkTV affiliate WDKA, Fox affiliate KBSI, and the regional daily newspaper The Paducah Sun; the latter two are both owned by Paxton Media Group. Six radio stations are located here; half of the stations are owned by Bristol Broadcasting Company. The weekly newspapers, the West Kentucky News and The Good Neighbor, enjoy significant readership.

A bi-monthly magazine by the name of Paducah Life debuted in 1994 and continues publication today. The magazine features articles about life and residents in and around Paducah. Purchase Area Family Magazine, a monthly publication distributed throughout Western Kentucky and Metropolis, Illinois, debuted in 2003. The magazine features a comprehensive calendar of events for the Purchase Area as well as unique articles about events, organizations and activities for families in the region. In 2009 became the first video-based online presence to offer features, entertainment, and information about the area.


Paducah was home to professional baseball's minor league Class D Kentucky–Illinois–Tennessee League (or KITTY League) Paducah Paddys (1903), Paducah Indians (1904–06, 1910, 1914, 1922–23, 1936–41), Paducah Polecats (1911), Paducah Chiefs (1912–13, 1951–55), and Paducah Redbirds (1935). The Chiefs competed in the Mississippi-Ohio Valley League from 1949 to 1950.

The Chiefs played in Brooks Stadium from its opening in 1949 until the KITTY League folded after the 1955 season. Since then, the ballpark has served as the home venue for Paducah Tilghman High School and American Legion Post 31 baseball teams, as well as various special baseball games and tournaments. In recent years, Brooks Stadium hosted the Ohio Valley Conference baseball tournament (2001–2009) and the National Club Baseball Association World Series (2015 and 2016). Brooks Stadium currently is the home field for the Paducah Chiefs of the Ohio Valley Summer Collegiate Baseball League.

In 1969, the Paducah Community College Indians won the National Junior College men's basketball championship.

2010 data

As of the census of 2010, there were 25,024 people, 11,462 households, and 6,071 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,251.0 people per square mile (483.0/km²). There were 12,851 housing units at an average density of 642.5 per square mile (248.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 70.99% White, 23.67% African American, 0.22% Native American, 1.02% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.07% from other races, and 3.01% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.68% of the population.

There were 11,462 households out of which 26.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.5% were married couples living together, 16.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 47.0% were non-families. 41.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the city, the population was spread out with 21.8% under the age of 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 27.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.2% who were 65 or older. The median age was 41.4 years. For every 100 females there were 85.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $31,220, and the median income for a family was $42,645. Males had a median income of $36,778 versus $27,597 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,430. About 18.1% of families and 22.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.3% of those under age 18 and 12.8% of those age 65 or over.

2000 census

As of the census of 2000, there were 26,307 people, 11,825 households, and 6,645 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,350.2 people per square mile (521.4/km²). There were 13,221 housing units at an average density of 678.6/sq mi (262.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 72.78% White, 24.15% African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.64% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.55% from other races, and 1.56% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.38% of the population.

There were 11,825 households out of which 25.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% were married couples living together, 16.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.8% were non-families. 39.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 83.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,137, and the median income for a family was $34,092. Males had a median income of $32,783 versus $21,901 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,417. About 18.0% of families and 22.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.8% of those under age 18 and 16.8% of those age 65 or over.


Dippin' Dots, the Paducah & Louisville Railway, and the Paxton Media Group have their headquarters in Paducah. A federal National Weather Service Forecast Office is based in Paducah, providing weather information to western Kentucky, southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana.

Top employers

According to Paducah's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city were entities in health care, education and government:

Air service

  • Barkley Regional Airport serves the area offering jet service to Chicago-O'Hare with two round trips daily connecting Paducah to 150 domestic and 19 international destinations.
  • Current

  • Interstate 24 is a four-lane remote freeway that routes west to St. Louis and east to Nashville. The highway has a business loop that runs through downtown Paducah.
  • Future

  • Interstate 66 is planned to enter the city from the south and follow I-24 east to Eddyville, where I-66 will then follow the existing Western Kentucky Parkway.
  • Interstate 69 will follow the route of the existing Purchase Parkway to the south and east of Paducah, joining I-24/66 about 15 minutes east of Paducah. Once completed, it will connect the city north to Indianapolis and south to Memphis.
  • US highways

  • US 60 is a major east-west highway that runs through the Paducah business district.
  • US 45 enters the city from the north via the Irvin S. Cobb Bridge from Brookport, Illinois and runs south down to Mayfield.
  • US 62
  • Education

    Paducah Public Schools operates public schools serving most of the City of Paducah. Three K-5 elementary schools, Clark Elementary School, McNabb Elementary School, and Morgan Elementary School, serve the city. All district residents are zoned to Paducah Middle School and Paducah Tilghman High School.

    Parts of the city and surrounding county are instead served by the McCracken County Public Schools. Concord Elementary School and Reidland Elementary/Intermediate serve students through the 5th grade; Lone Oak Elementary School and Hendron–Lone Oak Elementary School end at the third grade, with 4th and 5th grade students in those schools' attendance zones attending Lone Oak Intermediate School. Middle school students in those areas may be zoned into Heath, Lone Oak, or Reidland Middle School. The county district began operating a single, consolidated McCracken County High School on August 9, 2013. The Paducah city district did not participate in this consolidation and Paducah Tilghman High School remains separate.

    Higher education

    West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) is a member of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System and is a public, two-year, degree-granting institution serving the Western Region of Kentucky. There are 7,000 - 9,000 students enrolled at the college. There is a University of Kentucky College of Engineering Paducah campus located on the WKCTC campus. The college is also the site for the Challenger Learning Center at Paducah and the Emerging Technology Center. Murray State University-Paducah offers approximately 20 bachelor's and master's degree programs. A new 43,000 square foot facility located on a 23-acre campus adjacent to WKCTC was opened in 2014.


    Paducah, Kentucky Wikipedia

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