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Supplement to “Floodwall Murals Color our Cities”

Floodwall murals are not the only beautification/revitalization project under way in cities across the Bluegrass.

The Kentucky Main Street program, like the national organization (which is a division of the National Trust for Historic Preservation), is designed to encourage downtown revitalization and economic development within the context of historic preservation.

According to Roger Stapleton of the Kentucky Heritage Council based in Frankfort, Kentucky’s program, started in 1979, is the oldest statewide program in the nation.

“We started the same year as the National Main Street Center started,” he says. “Over the years, we’ve had a lot of states come over and see what we’ve done.”

Revitalizing neglected districts is no quick fix, though. The program is based on a four-point approach: organization, promotion, design, and economic restructuring. According to the National Main Street Center, as soon as the process begins in a town, positive changes start taking place, including:

  • Renewed confidence in the downtown through an improved image
  • New job opportunities through the attraction of new businesses and strengthened service and retail markets
  • Savings in tax dollars (revitalization stabilizes and improves the area’s tax base, while protecting the investments already made in the downtown)
  • A process that enables property owners to maintain historic commercial buildings and preserve an important part of a community’s unique heritage

Right now, Kentucky has just over 100 communities involved in various stages of revitalization through its Main Street program. These include the floodwall mural cities of Ashland, Covington, Maysville, and Paducah, as well as cities in every region in the state, which are embarking on a host of different projects, all with the goal of preserving the architecturally and historically significant buildings in downtown districts while preserving or improving the economic vitality of the community’s downtown.

Henderson commissioned Kentucky sculptor Raymond Graf to create in bronze eight of John James Audubon’s Birds of America, which are now part of a permanent public art project in its downtown. Benham restored the Benham Theatre and painted murals in the historic Schoolhouse Inn. Paducah has extended its revitalization beyond its historic downtown, replete with museums, one-of-a-kind restaurants, entertainment venues, and bed and breakfast establishments, to Lower Town, a flourishing artist’s community.

“These projects do increase visitorship,” says Stapleton. “They can make a downtown area a destination point as much as the murals do.

“People are looking for unique experiences: they don’t want to shop in the same stores and eat in the same restaurants, but want quality time in a unique setting that exposes them to the things in that particular community. Each one is a unique experience.”

For more information about the Kentucky Main Street program, visit and click on “Main Street.”

To read the Kentucky Living November 2005 feature that goes along with this supplement, click here: Floodwall Murals Color Our Cities

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