Whatever I'm Thinking

Paducah, Kentucky’s Murals and Townscapes

September 30, 2020

Paducah, Kentucky is a small city situated on the south bank of the Ohio River at its junction with the Tennessee River, which comes up from the south.

The Paducah waterfront looking northeastward up the Ohio River with the Tennessee River joining it

Paducah is an old city in terms of the American west, founded in 1827 by William Clark of Lewis & Clark fame with a purchase of 37,000 acres of land for the sum of $5. A historical sign downtown explains the circumstances.

Colonel George Rogers Clark had claimed the land as a warrant for his army service during the Revolutionary War, in which he effectively gained the entire Northwest Territory for the new United States of America.

Much of Paducah’s history is recounted by murals painted on the town’s Ohio River floodwall. A walk along the wall is a walk through history.

Kincaid Mounds near Paducah, around 1300 A.D.
Chickasaw tribesmen along the Ohio River in the early 19th Century. The Lewis & Clark flotilla is shown passing by on their way downstream to the Mississippi.

The name “Paducah” was given by William Clark. Some say Clark named the town for the “Padoucas”, a Great Plains tribe he encountered in his travels to the Pacific with the Corps of Discovery. Others say Clark named the town for Chief Paducah, leader of a nearby Chickasaw band.

Scenes of early white settlement in Paducah
Steamboats docked at Paducah

The town was a major prize in the early days of the Civil War. In 1861 while Kentucky was trying to remain neutral in the impending conflict, General Ulysses Grant took Paducah on September 6 before his Confederate counterpart could do so. Later in the war, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest conducted a successful raid on the city.

The Battle of Paducah, 1864
Paducah, Kentucky in 1873
Paducah in the early 1900s
Paducah Townscape in the 1930s
Paducah as the “Atomic City”. Home to the nation’s only uranium enrichment facility.

The Ohio landing areas near the riverfront provide an insight into late 19th Century Paducah. The area abounds in old brick merchant buildings now used as restaurants, bars, and antique shops.

Downtown Paducah
19th Century brick buildings in Paducah, Kentucky
Tree-lined merchant shops converted to restaurants
Paducah, Kentucky. Red brick streets downtown

The McCracken County Courthouse occupies an entire city block seven blocks away from the river. This two-story red brick structure was built between 1940 and 1943 under the auspices of the WPA.

McCracken County Courthouse
McCracken County Courthouse. Paducah, Kentucky
McCracken County in the state of Kentucky

Here’s a final floodwall mural of some of the most prominent old buildings in Paducah. Most of them are churches.

The churches of Paducah, Kentucky

All photos were taken by the author on September 3, 2019.

A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.

I travel as a hobby and not for a living (yet) — but donations are happily accepted if you’d like to help defer my costs.
The TimMan


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