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Stop A: Muhlenberg County Public Libraries – Central City; 108 East Broad Street
Our tour begins at the Central City branch of Muhlenberg County Public Libraries. A parking lot is located in the rear of the building, and free street parking is also available along Broad Street at the front of the building.
This site once held four separate storefronts. Bryson Studio and Wells’s Dry Goods were located in two storefronts on the western half of the library. In 1931, the Masons met in this area until their new building was constructed on the corner of Second and Broad Streets. The Shriners Club also once met here.
The section of the library next to those buildings held first the Selba Theater, named for owners Sam and Eck Gish, Lucian Miller, Bardon Jourdaine and Ab Mercer, and then the State Theatre.
The easternmost portion of the library (the section nearest the alley, where the main library doors are located) is situated on the lot that once held J.C. Penney.
J.C. Penney and the State Theatre burned in 1964.
The library moved to this location in 1973, and the current building was constructed in 2007.
Ceramic reproductions of many historic Central City buildings are on display inside the library.
From the front of the library, travel east along Broad Street.
Stop B: First United Methodist Church and St. Joseph Catholic Church; 200 East Broad Street and 113 South Third Street
At the corner of Broad and Second Streets is the First United Methodist Church. This church was organized in 1883. In 1889, James and Sarah Davenport donated the land on the corner to the church, and a frame building was erected on this lot in 1891. The current brick building with the sanctuary and classrooms was built in 1911, and an addition was built in 1951.
The next building, on the corner of Broad and Third Streets, is St. Joseph Catholic Church. This building was erected in 1912 on property donated by Mr. E.B. Miller. The original St. Joseph school was built behind the church in 1919 and opened in 1923; this was replaced by a new building on the same site in 1969. Teachers were provided by the Ursuline Sisters from Mount St. Joseph in Maple Mount, Daviess County. The Sisters returned to Mount St. Joseph in 1975, and the school was maintained by lay faculty until it closed at the end of the 1984-85 school year.
Turn right onto Third Street and proceed to the end of the street for the next tour stop.
Stop C: Former Kentucky Utilities, Southern Ice Company and Ideal Pure Milk; South Third Street
On the right side of South Third Street where it dead-ends at the railroad track is the old, now abandoned Kentucky Utilities building. This building previously housed the Southern Ice Company, which provided large blocks of ice that would be delivered to homes before the advent of modern refrigeration technology. At one time, this location was also the meeting place of the Christian Church congregation, before their building at the corner of Third and Broad Streets was constructed.
Across Third Street was once the location of Ideal Pure Milk.
Return to Broad Street, turn right and continue east for approximately two and a half blocks.
Stop D: Robert Young Thomas House; 516 East Broad Street
Former United States Representative and early Central City newspaper publisher Robert Young Thomas once lived in this house. Thomas’ wife first saw this house, along with three others, at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Mo. She was so impressed that she purchased the homes and had them transported to Central City.
One of the other houses purchased by Mrs. Thomas was the residence of J.T. May, previously located next door at 508 East Broad Street. This house was later removed to construct the apartment building that is currently located on the site.
The other two houses’ locations are unknown.
Across the street at 509 East Broad Street is the former home of Dr. John Porter Walton. Dr. Walton opened his practice in Central City in 1908 as a horse-and-buggy doctor. (He purchased his first automobile eight years later, in 1916.) Walton practiced medicine for 54 years and delivered more than 6,000 babies.
Continue east along Broad Street to Eighth Street. Turn right onto Eighth Street and drive to the end of the street to view the former location of the Illinois Central yard office, then turn around and proceed north about two and a half blocks.
Stop E: Fairmount Cemetery; North Eighth Street
Fairmount Cemetery is the final resting place of many of Central City’s prominent residents, including Earl F. Wheeldon, the first Muhlenberg Countian killed in World War II. S.F. Howey, one of the first city councilmen in 1894, is also buried here. We will see Howey’s house later on this tour.
Fairmount Cemetery is well over 100 years old, and the cemetery is still in use today. As you travel through the cemetery, you may see tombstones dating back to 1890, the date of the first known burial here.
From the main cemetery entrance, turn right on North Eighth Street and travel half a block to Reynolds Street. Turn left and continue on Reynolds Street four blocks to Fourth Street. Turn left and drive one block to the corner of Fourth and Morehead to see the previous location of the Central City High School (and, later, Graded School), then turn around and return to Reynolds Street. Turn left and continue along Reynolds Street for one more block. Turn left again onto Third Street and travel one more block to Tour Stop F at the corner of Third and Morehead Streets.
Stop F: Tucker Funeral Home and First Baptist Church; 113 & 114 North Third Street
Tucker Funeral Home was originally started in 1909 in Sacramento by Jesse B. Tucker and his father-in-law Bennie Stewart. The Tuckers bought the Arthur B. Mosley Funeral Home located on this site in 1939 and moved their business here. Tucker Funeral Home has since expanded their business back into Sacramento (1959) and eventually into Beechmont (1969).
The Tuckers also operated an ambulance service until 1974, beginning in 1947 when Norman Tucker purchased a cream-colored Cadillac for this purpose. This was the first ambulance service in Central City.
The funeral home’s original hearse is also displayed in an enclosure outside the building.
First Baptist Church is on the other side of North Third Street, across from Tucker Funeral Home. The church was originally organized in 1878 as the United Baptist Church. The first church was built at this location in 1894, and the current building was built in 1921 at a cost of $50,000. An addition for classrooms, a library and church offices was built in 1941, and the educational building was completed in 1951.
Continue south one block to Broad Street and turn right. At the next intersection (North Second Street), turn right again. For our next tour stop, turn left into the parking lot for First Kentucky Bank, then right onto Keith Nunley Way on the other side of the parking lot. Our next tour stop is for the bank and Clinic Pharmacy (across Morehead Street).
Stop G: First Kentucky Bank & Clinic Pharmacy; 109 & 203 North Second Street
First Kentucky Bank, located at 109 North Second Street, was once the location of Jerry’s Cafe and the bus station owned by Ed Payne and Mr. Hale. The bus transported travelers from Central City to Owensboro.
Helen Vincent also operated a beauty shop in the upstairs of one of those businesses.
Clinic Pharmacy, which is located just past First Kentucky Bank at 203 North Second Street, is located on the site of the former City Hall building. City Hall was built on this site in 1925 and remained at this location until the early 2000s, when it moved to North First Street. The building was demolished and the pharmacy was built in its place.
The fire department and police department also operated out of the City Hall building when it was located here.
Continue up Keith Nunley Way to the Clinic Pharmacy parking lot. Turn right into the parking lot and drive through it to return to Second Street. Turn right again and travel one block to Broad Street. Turn right once more and travel west along Broad Street for one block to Margaret Everly Way/South First Street.
* For a more in-depth walking tour of downtown, you may choose to park at this point and walk the next two and a half blocks down Broad Street to the railway overpass, referring to the additional in-depth information provided along with this driving tour as a separate document for information about each of the downtown buildings. You can then return to your car to visit tour stops H-O. Street parking is available along Broad Street. Parking is also available behind the library.
Stop H: Broad Street at First Street
The empty lot between Keith Nunley Way and Margaret Everly Way/South First Street was for many years the location of J.J. Newberry’s, with the “new” Gish Apartments upstairs. The old Gish Apartments were also located on this site previously but were destroyed by fire in 1924. The building was rebuilt, along with the apartments, the following year.
The J.J. Newberry building was scheduled to be torn down in the early 2000s but was again destroyed by fire before it could be demolished. The lot has remained empty since that time. It is now used for various community events and will soon become Festival Square. Ground was broken for the new park in summer 2023.
G.T. Westerfield’s Livery & Stable was located on this site in 1907.
This block also previously housed many other businesses, including the Dollar General store, Red Front Grocery, Perry’s Ice Cream Parlor, A&P Grocery, a pool room (with numerous owners at different time periods), the Central City Drug Company, a telephone office, Wallace Hardware (next to the bank) and the First National Bank, which was at the northeast corner of the intersection for many years. The bank had originally opened in 1902 as the Home Deposit Bank at a different location but had moved here by the mid-1920s. The bank built a new facility down the street and moved in 1968.
The next block, which is now used for parking for Holly J’s restaurant, was at one time the location of a bandstand early on. This block was once also the location of buildings housing, at various times, Perry’s Drugstore; McGehee’s Dry Goods; Miss Ida’s Music Store; Cohen’s Dry Goods; Rubenstein’s Dry Goods; Freeman Hershberg Dry Goods; the M&R Shoppe; Vaught’s; Neil Barnes’s saloon; the Bennett Clothing Company; the Crescent Coal Company Commissary and Company Store; Boggess TV; Durham Drugstore; the offices of Doctors Hannephin, Davis and Paul Todd; and the McDowell Hotel.
Like the previous block, the buildings along this block were also subject to accidental demolition by fire. Rubenstein’s burned in 1926. The M&R Shoppe was later located on the same site as Rubenstein’s but also burned in the 1970s.
Continue west along Broad Street. At the intersection, turn slightly left onto Center Street toward the railway overpass. Go under the elevated railroad tracks and proceed up Center Street for two blocks. Our next stop is at the corner of Center Street and West Second Avenue.
Stop I: The Bible Way Holiness Church (Former First Presbyterian Church); 301 Center Street
The now-defunct First Presbyterian Church of Central City was organized May 14, 1889 with 14 charter members. The Central Coal and Iron Company donated this lot on the corner of Center Street and West Second Avenue, and the original church building was completed and dedicated in May 1891. That building was replaced and the current building was dedicated in May 1924 at a cost of $23,000.
The church parking lot (behind the church) is the former location of the Evan Dupont house. The house was built in the 1880s by Evan, the son of Antoine Biedermann Dupont and the younger brother of Thomas Coleman Dupont, whose house we will see later on the tour. The house was razed in 1975 to build the church’s parking lot.
First Presbyterian closed in 2019.
Turn right on West Second Avenue. Continue on West Second Avenue for one block to West Reservoir Avenue.
Stop J: Shaver’s Body Shop and Former Todd’s Furniture; West Reservoir Avenue at West Second Avenue
On the left is the building that previously housed Todd’s Furniture. This building was originally the Cumberland Presbyterian Church — the lower part of the steeple is still visible on the side of the building. Later, the Central City library was housed here until it moved to its current location on Broad Street.
Shaver’s Body Shop is on the opposite corner. This building previously housed the Coca-Cola Bottling Company. N.B. Barnett, a native of Murray, Ky., opened the Central City bottling facility in 1922 to cover Muhlenberg and Ohio County. Barnett also owned franchises in Owensboro and Illinois.
Adrian McRee, Barnett’s daughter, took over as president of the franchise upon her father’s death in 1934. We will see McRee’s house farther up West Second Avenue where it intersects with Walnut Street.
The Central City franchise of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company was sold to Owensboro Coca-Cola in 1979.
Continue up West Second Avenue for two blocks. Turn left onto Golden Tide Avenue and travel one and a half blocks to the next tour stop.
Stop K: Central City Convention Center; 320 Golden Tide Avenue
The Central City Convention Center is built on the site of the Central City High School. The school was built in 1925 on this site, and the gymnasium and band/music room were added in 1951 and 1965, respectively. The school was in operation until Muhlenberg County schools consolidated in 1990. Most of the building was torn down in 2007, and the Convention Center was completed in September 2009.
The Convention Center operates as a fitness center and community events facility. The school’s gym area is still in operation as part of the Convention Center’s facility. This part of the facility also houses a small museum of Central City High School memorabilia.
Continue approximately half a block on Golden Tide Avenue to West Fourth Avenue and turn left. In one block, turn left again onto Walnut Street. Turn right onto West Second Avenue and return to Reservoir Avenue. Turn left and travel about one block, continuing under the railway overpass. Turn right onto Broad Street for Tour Stop 12.
Stop L: 300 block, West Broad Street
Pace Tire Center is on the right side of the street. This was previously the Neal Barnes Garage and Cab Service. The building also once served as Raymond Rich Dodge, and Lila Jean School of the Dance was located upstairs. In 1931, there was a filling station located on the corner of Broad and Reservoir on the right side of the Pace Tire building.
Across from Pace Tire Center on the left side of Broad Street is the former site of the Ford Liberty service station (on the corner), Root 66 hair salon (previously Freymeyer’s Electrical Shop, Dukes and Yonts Grocery and the water company office) and the former site of the Woodwright’s Shop and the First Federal Savings and Loan.
The building next door to Pace Tire Center is the former Bivins Furniture and Red Front Grocery. A bakery and flour warehouse was located here in 1931.
The Central Coal and Iron Company, owned by the DuPont family, was located across the street where the post office parking lot is currently located. Central Coal and Iron began operation circa 1872. The company proved so important to the economic development of the area that the town, then named Stroud City, was reincorporated as Central City in 1882 as an homage to the company.
Thomas Coleman DuPont, son of the company owner Biedermann DuPont, ran the company here (as well as the water office and the Green River Power Company). He left Central City after being defeated by Dr. James McDowell in the first mayoral election in 1892, after which time he moved to Delaware and took over the larger DuPont corporation. DuPont became a very wealthy and prestigious man, serving as a United States Senator and building many recognizable buildings in New York City and other locations.
Continue down Broad Street. At the stop sign, continue straight onto Maiden Lane. Maiden Lane stops at the end of the block, where it intersects with Lawton Way. Tour stop M, Lu-Ray Park, is located just to the right at the end of Lawton Way. Parking is available near the intersection if you would like to enter the park.
Stop M: Lu-Ray Park; 203 Lawton Way
This beautiful three-acre park, featuring a walking trail, an amphitheater and a veteran’s memorial, honors the location’s history as the long-time site of one of Central City’s former hotels. The Lu-Ray Hotel, originally owned by Lucian and Raymond Miller, closed in the early 1970s. The hotel was the most recent occupant of this land until the park broke ground in 2015.
The Lu-Ray, named for the owners, was built at a cost of $45,000 in 1912 on the former site of another hotel, the Sandusky Hotel, which had burned three years earlier. The Sandusky Hotel had been built in 1885 by Captain William H. Sandusky to take advantage of this prime location at the crossing of the Illinois Central and Louisville & Nashville railways.
Start back down Lawton Way toward Broad Street. Cross Broad Street and continue down Lawton Way. At Reservoir Avenue, turn left, then right onto Legion Drive. At the top of the hill, turn right again onto Eagle Drive for our next tour stop.
Stop N: Former Central City Colored High School; Eagle Drive
The Central City Colored High School was constructed in the 1930s and opened in Sept. 1937. The school closed two years later, after which students were transported to Drakesboro Community High School in Drakesboro until Muhlenberg County schools were integrated at the beginning of the 1963-64 school year.
The first known African-American school in Central City was a small schoolhouse near the intersection of North First and Pendleton Streets, which was built about 1900 and operated as a school until 1921. This building still stood as a private dwelling until after 1979. After this first school closed, students attended class in a building just south of the present location of Ebenezer Baptist Church. That building was sold in June 1941, and the lot was sold to the trustees of Ebenezer Baptist in October of the same year.
Continue on Eagle Drive back to Reservoir Avenue. Turn left, then turn right onto North First Street. Proceed two blocks to our final tour stop.
Stop O: Central City Tourism Office & Museums; 200 North First Street
The Central City Tourism office is home to the Muhlenberg County Music Museum, featuring memorabilia from notable Muhlenberg Countians including the Everly Brothers, James Best, flautist Jim Walker and more. The building also now houses the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame and Museum.
The building was originally the location of Barnes Auto Company in 1924, then Lester Motors beginning in 1952. It also housed SMR Labs in the early 2000s.
The Tourism Commission and Music Museum moved to this building in 2017 from their previous home next door, and the Kentucky Motorsports Hall of Fame & Museum opened here in 2019.
Thank you for visiting our town! If you have time, please visit the music and motorsports museum to see what’s on display there!
If you wish to return to the Central City library to conclude your tour, simply continue down North First Street/Margaret Everly Way to Broad Street and cross the street to the library.
For more information about Muhlenberg County history, contact the Thistle Cottage history museum & archives at 122 South Cherry Street in Greenville or by phone at 270-338-4760.
More in-depth information about sites of interest numbered on the above map is available here.