FRANKFORT – Gov. Andy Beshear and the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet announced Monday that three Kentucky historic preservation projects will receive $150,000 in federal funding to help preserve African American history in the commonwealth.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced that 40 grants totaling more than $3 million will be distributed nationally from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund to help preserve historic African American sites and buildings, including three projects from Kentucky. This investment is the largest preservation effort to support African American historic sites, and the current round represents the largest single disbursement in its four-year history.
“These grants further support the preservation of these irreplaceable historic resources that help identify and tell the stories of African Americans in Kentucky,” Beshear said. “Kentucky is so heavily represented in this year’s grant pool, and that speaks to the hard work of volunteers, non-profits, community advocates and state agencies that are dedicated to ensuring these important places are represented in our history.”
Each Kentucky project will receive $50,000 to continue efforts to preserve these historical sites that represent African American history and culture in the commonwealth. The funding will enhance each project’s ability to serve as a tourism attraction in its community. The historic sites that will receive funding in Kentucky are:
• Cherokee State Park, Hardin, located within Kenlake State Resort Park, the first segregated state park and recreational site for Black Americans in the South; established in 1951, operated until 1964, and abandoned until 2002. Today the park is used for weddings and other recreational activities. Funding will be used for interpretative signage and programming to tell its story; Friends of Cherokee State Park is the recipient.
• Hotel Metropolitan, Paducah, to restore the Purple Room, which was used as an after-hours gathering space for musicians traveling on the “Chitlin’ Circuit.” Built by a woman, Maggie Steed, and opened in 1909, the hotel served Black travelers at a time when lodging was segregated, and it was later listed in the Green Book. The hotel hosted notables such as musicians Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
• Palmer Pharmacy Building, Lexington, for a feasibility study and business plan for reuse of the circa 1961 Midcentury building by social service and philanthropic organizations, to carry on the legacy of community service by its builder, pioneering Black pharmacist Dr. Zirl A. Palmer. Dr. Palmer was the third African American to own and operate a pharmacy in Lexington; Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation is the recipient.
Kentucky’s arts and culture sector is a vital part of the state’s $11.8 billion tourism industry. The funding for these projects is part of the commonwealth’s ongoing effort to foster investments in tourism and economic development projects that will position Kentucky to attract new, diverse travel markets.
“Promoting Kentucky as a diverse, inclusive travel destination is top priority as we continue our efforts to attract new travel markets to the commonwealth,” said Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry. “This investment into these historic sites shows that Kentucky is not only committed to preserving our state’s history, but also to ensuring that our history reflects the experiences of all Kentuckians.”
The announcement was made by Action Fund Executive Director Brent Leggs, a Paducah native, who got his start in historic preservation working for the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office.
“The recipients of this funding exemplify centuries of African American resilience, activism, and achievement,” Leggs said. “Some of their stories are known, and some are yet untold. Together they help document the true, complex history of our nation. By preserving these places and telling their stories, preservationists can help craft a more accurate American identity and inspire a commitment to justice.”
As part of an ongoing effort to invest in historic preservation, the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office (KHC), an agency within the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, has been actively involved with helping identify grant opportunities for local partners. KHC also provides technical assistance and historic rehab tax credits to assist communities throughout Kentucky with preservation efforts, said Craig Potts, executive director and state historic preservation officer.
To learn about historic preservation efforts in Kentucky, visit heritage.ky.gov.
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