KENTUCKY - A GUIDE TO THE BLUEGRASS STATE - 1939
Railroad Station: Union Depot, Brown and Caldwell Aves., 2 m. from downtown
section, for Illinois Central R.R.; Chicago, Burlington and Quincy R.R.; Gulf,
Mobile and Northern R.R.; Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis R.R.; Paducah
and Illinois R.R.
Bus Stations: 220 S. Sth St. for Greyhound, C. Ray, and Ohio Lines; Broadway
and 2nd St. for Cardinal and Mohawk Lines; Arcade Bldg., Sth and Broadway,
for Southern Limited Line; 4th St. and Kentucky Ave., for Chaudoin Bus Lines.
Airport: Cairo Rd. 4 m. W. ; no scheduled service.
Street Buses: Fare 5 cents .
Taxis: 25 cents and upward; $2 per hour.
Traffic Regulations: Right turn on red light. Parking restrictions indicated by
Accommodations: Eight hotels, three for Negroes; tourist camps 4 m. south on
US 68 and 5 m. W. on US 60.
Information Service: Irvin Cobb Hotel, Broadway and 6th St.
Radio Station: WPAD (1420 kc.).
Motion Picture Houses: Three.
Swimming: Noble Park, Park Ave. and 28th St., adm. to pool 25 cents .
Golf: Noble Park Municipal course, Park Ave. and 28th St., 9 holes, greens fee
15 cents ; Lakeview Country Club, 4 m. S. on Lovelaceville Rd., 18 holes, greens
fee 50 cents .
Tennis: Municipal courts in Noble Park, entrance 28th St. and Park Ave.
Annual Events: Strawberry Festival, movable date varying with crop season,
usually early in June.
PADUCAH (326 alt., 33,541 pop.) is the seat of McCracken County,
and the most consequential port and distributing center for the extreme
western section of Kentucky. It lies on the flood plain of the Ohio
River at the point where the Tennessee, pouring down from the
Southern Highlands, joins the larger stream before it goes on fifty
miles to the Mississippi. Cypress and sycamore trees thrive in the low,
moist land, giving Paducah the appearance of an Old World town surrounded
by rivers and trees.
The city is laid out in a rectangular plan, its streets running parallel
to and at right angles with shorelines of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers.
Numbered streets, parallel with the river, begin at the waterfront with
1st Street. Except for Broadway and three streets named for Kentucky
and neighboring States, the rest, for the most part, honor Presidents
Paducah seems on first sight to be peaceful and unhurried; actually
it is a rather busy place. The waterfront, built up for utility rather
than beauty, is still active in a modest way. Paducah pioneers discovered
very early that in winter the mouth of the Tennessee River
was usually free of ice because of its warm waters from the south, and
that it offered a winter haven for Ohio River boats. Today the left
shore of the Tennessee, sheltered by a low-lying island that separates
it from the Ohio, is lined with boatyards, fuel storage tanks, and warehouses,
remnants or expansions of the once lively river traffic; and
Paducah is still the center of boatbuilding and boat repairing for the
Farther down the Ohio and extending through much of the older
section of the city are the various factories, the extensive railroad
shops five lines serve Paducah and the vast tobacco warehouses
which have grown up in this principal dark-tobacco market of the country.
Four blocks inland from the river is the business center of brick
structures, largely dating from the last century, packed into a few
blocks along Broadway and 4th Street. Commerce has invaded the
old residential section in the downtown areas, leaving the homes and
lawns looking bedraggled and forlorn.
The newer homes have reached out over the flood plain into higher
ground back of the river, from which the eastern foothills of the Ozarks
in Illinois, lying low beyond the bend in the Ohio, are visible on clear
days. Playgrounds and parks are scattered over Paducah's nine square
miles, and to the south are small farms devoted to livestock, tobacco,
dairying, and berry culture. Peach and apple orchards front the many
State and Federal highways that lead into the city.
The Negroes represent about 20 percent of the population of Paducah.
They have their own schools, churches, and social life.
Friendly co-operation between the races is maintained in all business
and labor relations. The older generation of Negroes engages in the
unskilled labor of various Paducah industries. Among the younger
generation are many skilled mechanics and tradesmen who enjoy the
better economic conditions given by industrial training, and the Negro
students of Paducah are taught by members of their own race, in
Negro public schools and the West Kentucky Industrial College for
Negroes. The more than 90 percent Negro illiteracy of 1865 dwindled
to less than 4 percent in 1930.
In 1778, when George Rogers Clark advanced upon the British military
posts in the Old Northwest, his last base before striking into the
wilderness was at the mouth of the Tennessee River. In 1795 the State
of Virginia gave Clark, in compensation for his services, 72,962 acres
of land along the southern shore of the Ohio between the Tennessee
and Mississippi Rivers. Though claimed by Virginia under its Colonial
Charter from the British Crown, this area was not included in the agreements
by which the rights of the Indians to the balance of Kentucky
had been upheld, and Clark derived no benefit from the grant; it was
still the property of the Chickasaw Indians. On October 19, 1818, a
special commission headed by Gen. Andrew Jackson and Gov. Isaac
Shelby negotiated a settlement known as the Jackson Purchase, following
which the Chickasaw evacuated the region and moved into northern
News of the impending purchase spread, and in 1817 a migration to
the area began. Settlers poured in by flatboat and wagon from North
Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky settlements
already established for some years. James and William Pore built the
first log cabin in Paducah (then known as Pekin) at the foot of Broadway.
James Davis who came with his family down the Licking River
from Harrison County, Kentucky, to Cincinnati, then by way of the
Ohio to Paducah, built a hut at the northwest corner of First and
Broadway, and later erected a house where Riverside Hospital now
When George Rogers Clark died in 1818, his claim passed into the
hands of his brother William, of the famous Lewis-Clark expedition
along the Missouri and Columbia Rivers. William Clark, who was
made Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Missouri (1822-1836), revived
his brother's claim and in 1827 laid out the town site, and
named it for his Chickasaw friend, Chief Paduke. Paducah was incorporated
as a village in 1830, and as a city in 1856.
The growth of Paducah has been slow, continuous, and at no time
spectacular. In early steamboating days its proximity to four great
navigable rivers made it convenient for the transshipping of goods and
passengers. This fact lured merchants and business men to the new
town. The first store, in which furs were used for money, was erected
in 1826 at the northeast corner of what is now First and Broadway.
Opposite this store Albert Hays in the same year built the first frame
house. Although it was not a hotel, the three rooms, considered elaborate
in that day, often housed traders overnight.
When the logs began to come down from the Tennessee and Cumberland
Valleys during the mid-nineteenth century, there arose a thriving
lumber industry, with its attendant mills and factories. As this industry
declined, its place was taken by the handling and transshipment
of agricultural products down the river to the seaports, and of goods
from the Atlantic Coast and from Europe destined for the interior
towns and cities of the Cumberland and Tennessee Valleys.
Because of its location Paducah was a strategic point during the War
between the States. For a brief time in the earlier months of the war,
Kentucky, striving to be neutral, served as a no man's land between
North and South. Both sides rushed their armies into this area, for
mastery over it would give the victor control of western Kentucky,
Tennessee, and a good-sized portion of Alabama. In September 1861,
General Grant took military possession of Paducah. Thereafter, until
the close of military operations in the West, the city was one of the
important depots of supply that linked the farms and storehouses of
the North with the Union Armies in the field.
During this occupation by Federal troops, Gen. Lew Wallace, later
the author of Ben Hur, for a time commanded the garrison. In 1864,
after the main theater of action had been moved southward, Gen.
Nathan Forrest, Confederate cavalry leader, trying desperately to turn
back the Northern invasion by destroying Union Army bases, struck
savagely at Fort Anderson, which controlled the Ohio River from its
position at the west end of 5th Street. The attack, known as the Battle
of Paducah, was from the south along Lovelaceville Road and down
Broadway toward the river. After burning Union supplies stored along
the river front, Forrest retired. In his report to President Jefferson
Davis, he explained that he withdrew because of an epidemic of smallpox
in the city, rather than because of the formidable nature of the
Union entrenchments. This raid ended operations in western Kentucky
for the remainder of the war.
After the war the city resumed its customary place in river transportation.
The great steamboating era that continued in its prime to about
1880 gave life to its shipbuilding and ship repair industries, and those
depending upon lumbering and farming adjusted themselves to the
dwindling of the lumber trade and the expansion of agriculture. Southward
extension of rail lines connecting the Great Lakes region with the
Gulf Coast, which took place shortly after the conclusion of the War
between the States, made Paducah an important river-and-rail junction
point, and the Illinois Central Railway located its locomotive rebuilding
and repair shops in the city. Revival of river transportation since 1920
has brought about the establishment, on the ice-free Paducah shore of
the Tennessee, of a Government plant for the building and repair of
boats, barges, and other river equipment used by the Inland Waterways
Corporation. Other important industries that have survived from early
days or have developed since the War between the States are the manufacture
of textile machinery and textiles, garments, hosiery, leather
goods, furniture, barrels, and sundry other products depending on a
plentiful supply of workable timber. The volume of Paducah industry
is indicated by bank clearings that average about $80,000,000 a year.
Paducah is the center of dark tobacco growing. The tobacco in "the
Purchase," known to the trade as "dark fire-cured," is brought to the
loose-leaf floors, where it is auctioned off chiefly for the export market.
A steady movement of livestock from the Jackson Purchase country to
Middle West packing houses goes through the local yards, and the shipping
of fruit apples, peaches, and strawberries is lucrative in Paducah.
The localized cultivation and co-operative shipping of a strawberry
known as Dixie Aroma is the basis for the Strawberry Festival,
held usually in June. Business men and farmers alike join in the festivities,
that usually include a street parade.
Like other river towns, Paducah has had its battles with floods. The
most damaging was the Ohio River flood of January 1937, which swept
with full fury over low-lying Paducah. The flood crest of the Mississippi
River, reached before that of the Ohio, acted as a dam to retard
and spread out the waters of the Ohio, which backed over the low
grounds in the vicinity of Union Station, and ran through the entire
downtown area. Water rose into the elevated first floor of the City
Hall. Government barges steamed up Broadway and rescued refugees
from the second story of the Irvin Cobb Hotel. Stocks of goods, transferred to supposedly safe altitudes, were soaked by oily waters. Ninetythree
percent of the buildings in the city were made untenable. Paducah's
damage bill totaled $30,000,000. Prompt relief work, however,
reduced disease to a minimum, and by midsummer of 1937 few visible
effects of the disaster remained.
Irvin S. Cobb was born at Paducah in 1876, and up to the age of
17 was a shorthand reporter, a contributor to comic weeklies, and a
reporter on a local paper. At 19 he edited the Paducah Daily News.
He was in the town off and on, and from 1901 to 1904 served as managing
editor of the Paducah News Democrat. The first collection of
his Judge Priest stories, Old Judge Priest, was published in 1915; the
last volume, Judge Priest Turns Detective, in 1936. The list of his
writings is too long for mention, but in 1922 he won the O. Henry
Award for the best short story of that year; has been starred and featured
in movies; wrote and collaborated in plays; and is a Chevalier
of the Legion of Honor (France, 1918).
The New York Times, reporting a movement in August 1938 to name
a bridge across the Ohio River for Cobb, printed the following characteristic
There is a brass marker in the sidewalk before the house where he was born
sixty-two years ago. A cigar has been named for him, a beauty shop, a barber
shop. Even a Kentucky mint julep honors Irvin S. Cobb.
This son of Paducah has sometimes been cited as an authority on different
kinds of alcoholic beverages. To the Distillers Code Authority, back in the NRA
days, he gave this description of corn liquor: "It smells like gangrene starting in
a mildewed silo ; it tastes like the wrath to come, and when you absorb a deep
swig of it you have all the sensations of having swallowed a lighted kerosene
lamp. A sudden violent jolt of it has been known to stop the victim's watch, snap
both his suspenders and crack his glass eye right across all in the same motion."
POINTS OF INTEREST
Much of Paducah's early history was made within an area of four or
five squares in either direction from the Ohio river front. Poorly made,
poorly placed markers and crumbling old buildings do not tell a great
deal about the city's past, and sites are not always definite. The bestinformed
people therefore usually say "about here," and point with a
moving finger to places where great events happened.
1. The SITE OF CLARK'S LANDING, Ohio River shore and Kentucky
Ave., is recorded by a sidewalk marker. Local tradition has
fixed this as the point where Gen. George Rogers Clark, after leaving
his base at the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville), paused to reorganize his
forces for their successful campaign in the Illinois wilderness. Clark's
journal, however, seems to indicate encampment on Tennessee Island,
2. The GRANT MARKER, 1st St. and Broadway, designates the
place where Gen. U. S. Grant landed his Union forces in the fall of
1861 and proclaimed martial law. Paducah then became the base for
extensive Union operations.
3. The CONFEDERATE FLAG MARKER, 3rd St. between Broadway
and Kentucky Ave., is a sidewalk slab telling that here, early in
the summer of 1861, was unfurled the first Confederate flag publicly
shown in Paducah.
4. FORT ANDERSON SITE, Trimble St. between 4th and 5th Sts.,
is the place where the fort's Union guns commanded the Ohio River,
and Confederate soldiers stormed the breastworks (see History).
5. The SOUTHERN HOTEL, NW. corner 1st St. and Broadway, a
three-story brick building, was one of the leading Western hotels in the
1850's. This old structure, which shows plainly the marks of time and
recurring floods, is used by temporary occupants for various commercial
purposes. It stands upon the SITE OF THE FIRST INN, a log building
erected by John Field in 1830 on a lot costing $12.
6. MARINE WAYS (open by permission), 101 Washington St., is
a shipyard where river craft are built or reconditioned. Boats to be
overhauled are floated into a "cradle" resting on inclined tracks that
run down from the Tennessee River bank into the water. Resting sidewise,
boats to be repaired are carried ashore on these tracks, and vessels
built ashore are launched down them from the cradles. Here are
boats ranging from the old "floating palace" to the newest self-propelled
7. INLAND WATERWAYS CORPORATION SHIPYARDS (open
by permission), Meyers St. between Island Creek and E. City Limits,
build and repair power barges, tow barges, dredges, and tenders.
8. The OLD BRAZELTON HOME (private), NW. corner 6th and
Clark Sts., erected in 1858, was originally a comfortable two-story
frame structure designed to house a large family. During the War
between the States its ten rooms served as headquarters for Gen. Lew
Wallace, for a time commandant of the Union forces quartered in the
city. In it Wallace entertained Grant when the Union chief of staff
came to Paducah on one of his wartime visits.
9. The McCRACKEN COUNTY COURTHOUSE, 6th St. between
Clark and Washington Sts., extending to 7th St., is a two-story gray
brick building erected in 1857. Judge Bishop, prototype of the Judge
Priest in Irvin Cobb's stories, sat on the bench in its courtroom.
10. The FEDERAL BUILDING, NW. corner Broadway and 5th
St., is a modern building which replaced the old post office structure
(1883). The present building houses not only the post office, but also
the Federal District Court and Government offices.
11. IRVIN COBB HOTEL, Broadway and 6th St., opened in 1929
with Paducah-born Irvin S. Cobb as the first registered guest. The
fagade is a combination of stone, brick, half-timbers, stucco, turrets
and broken parapets characteristic of medieval English castles. The
romantic feeling of Old English architecture is carried out more fully
in the interior by the elaborate paneling and decorative balconies in
the main lobby.
12. LOOSE-LEAF TOBACCO SALES FLOORS (open, sales daily
during marketing season), between Madison and Harrison Sts., and
extending from 8th to 10th Sts., is the center of intense activity during
the marketing season, which begins in mid-December and lasts until
May. The tobacco crop from "the Purchase," prepared for sale on the
farm by a process known as "fire-curing," is offered on the floors, and
sold at auction to the highest bidder. The yield varies widely, depending
upon the season and the prospective market demand at the time
13. The FOWLER HOME (private), 619 Kentucky Ave., a twostory
house with 15 rooms, built by R. C. Woolfork about 1830, has
been the home of the Fowler family for five generations. During the
War between the States it served as headquarters for Col. S. G. Hicks,
of the Union Army.
14. The WHITFIELD HOUSE (private), corner 7th St. and Kentucky
Ave., built in 1857, was the home of Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, Confederate
leader. Later it was occupied by Sgt. William G. Whitfield,
said to be the model for the Sergeant Jimmy Bagby of Irvin Cobb's
Back Home Stories.
15. The LANGSTAFF HOME (private), 800 Broadway, is a Victorian
Gothic structure erected in the 1850's. It has an ornamental iron
porch across the front, and a railing runs around the roof. The main
fagade is broken by the straight lines of the entrances, projecting several
feet in bays. Its otherwise plain wall surfaces are relieved by
broad, shuttered windows with dog-eared trim. In the rear of this
home is a BOMBPROOF SHELTER built by residents of the neighborhood
in the 1860's.
16. The ILLINOIS CENTRAL SHOPS (open by permission), Kentucky
Ave. and 15th St., are mainly engaged in rebuilding engines.
The 38 separate units, covering 21 acres, take care of all the repair
work on the Illinois Central Railroad south of the Ohio River. The
shops, one of the four largest industrial plants in Kentucky, represent
an investment of $11,000,000 and sometimes employ as many as 2,500
17. The TILGHMAN STATUE, 17th and Madison Sts., unveiled in
1909, was erected by members of the Tilghman family and by Daughters
of the Confederacy to honor Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, C.S.A., who
served with distinction through the Mexican War and later helped
build the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and other important lines through
the South. At the time of the War between the States, Tilghman organized
the Third Kentucky Regiment, C.S.A., and was assigned to the
defense of the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers. In 1863 he was
killed during the Battle of Champions' Hill. The statue, by Henry
Kitson, of Boston, shows him standing in field uniform.
18. CHIEF PADUKE STATUE, 18th and Jefferson Sts., by Lorado
Taft, was given in 1909 to the city by the Paducah chapter of the
D.A.R. The statue shows the Indian chieftain sitting, staring into
19. GARLANDS (private), 1710 Kentucky Ave., is a two-story yellow
brick structure erected in 1833. A spacious porch of much later
construction almost conceals the simple lines of the original dwelling.
This was the home of Linn Boyd, Speaker of the House of Representatives
(1851-1855). Mrs. Boyd (nee Anna L. Rhey) was the cousin
of President Millard Fillmore.
POINTS OF INTEREST IN ENVIRONS
Fort Massac State Park (Illinois), 10 m. N. on US 45 (see ILLINOIS GUIDE).
Ballard Lakes, 29 m.; Buried City, a prehistoric Indian center, 33 m. (see Tour 2)
This information was Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project
of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kentucky - 1939