Paducah is a city in and the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, United States, and the largest city in the Jackson Purchase region. It is located at the confluence of the Tennessee River and the Ohio River, halfway between the metropolitan areas of St. Louis, Missouri, to the west and Nashville, Tennessee, to the east. The population was 25,024 at the 2010 census. Twenty blocks of the city's downtown have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Paducah is also the hub for the Paducah Micropolitan Area and the western Kentucky region, the Paducah micropolitan area includes McCracken, Ballard, and Livingston counties in Kentucky and Massac County in Illinois.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 20.0 square miles (52 km2), of which 19.9 square miles (52 km2) is land and 0.10 square miles (0.26 km2) (0.52%) is water.
Paducah has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) with four distinct seasons and is located in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7. Spring-like conditions typically begin in mid-to-late March, summer from mid-to-late-May to late September, with fall in the October–November period. Seasonal extremes in both temperature and precipitation are not uncommon during early spring and late fall; severe weather is not uncommon, with occasional tornado outbreaks in the region. Winter typically brings a mix of rain, sleet, and snow, with occasional heavy snowfall and icing. The city has a January daily average of and averages 5.6 days annually with low temperatures dipping to ; the first and last freezes of the season on average fall on October 25 and April 8, respectively. Summer is typically hazy, hot, and humid with a July daily average of and drought conditions at times. Paducah averages 48 days a year with high temperatures at or above . Snowfall averages 9.2 inches (23 cm) per season, contributing to the annual precipitation of 49.1 inches (1,250 mm). Extremes in temperature range from , which last occurred on June 29, 2012, down to on January 20, 1985.
Paducah, originally called Pekin, began around 1815 as a mixed community of Native Americans and white settlers who were attracted by its location at the confluence of many waterways.
According to legend, Chief Paduke, most likely a Chickasaw, welcomed the people traveling down the Ohio and Tennessee on flatboats. His wigwam, located on a low bluff at the mouth of Island Creek, served as the council lodge for his village. The settlers, appreciative of his hospitality, and respectful of his ways, settled across the creek.
The two communities lived in harmony trading goods and services enjoying the novelty of each other's culture. The settlers had brought horses and mules which they used to pull the flatboats upstream to farms, logging camps, trading posts and other settlements along the waterways, establishing a primitive, but thriving economy.
This cultural interaction continued until William Clark, famed leader of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, arrived in 1827 with a title deed to the land upon which Pekin sat. Clark was then the superintendent of Native American affairs for the Mississippi-Missouri River region. He asked the Chief and the settlers to move along, which they did, offering little resistance, probably because the deed was issued by the United States Supreme Court. Though the deed had cost only $5.00 to process, it carried with it the full authority of the U.S. Government backed by the United States Army.
Clark surveyed his new property and laid out the grid for a new town which remains evident to this day. The Chief and his villagers moved to Mississippi, allowing Clark to continue with the building of the new city, which he then named Paducah in honor of the Chief. Upon completion of the plat, Clark sent envoys to Mississippi to invite Chief Paduke back to a ribbon-cutting ceremony, but he died of malaria in the boat while making the return trip. The settlers had been allowed to purchase tracts within the new grid but most of them moved on to less developed areas.
Paducah was incorporated as a town in 1830, and because of the dynamics of the waterways, it offered valuable port facilities for the steam boats that traversed the river system. A factory for making red bricks, and a Foundry for making rail and locomotive components became the nucleus of a thriving River and Rail industrial economy.
After a period of nearly exponential growth, Paducah was chartered as a city in 1856. It became the site of dry dock facilities for steamboats and towboats and thus headquarters for many bargeline companies. Because of its proximity to coalfields further to the east in Kentucky and north in Illinois, Paducah also became an important railway hub for the Illinois Central Railroad, the primary north-south railway connecting Chicago and East St. Louis to the Gulf of Mexico at Gulfport, Mississippi. The IC system also provided east-west links to Burlington Northern Railroad and Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway lines (which later merged to become the BNSF Railway).
During the American Civil War on September 6, 1861, forces under Union General Ulysses S. Grant captured Paducah, which gave the Union control of the mouth of the Tennessee River. Throughout most of the war, US Colonel Stephen G. Hicks was in charge of Paducah and massive Union supply depots and dock facilities for the gunboats and supply ships that supported Federal forces along the Ohio, Mississippi and Tennessee River systems.
On December 17, 1862, under the terms of General Order No. 11, thirty Jewish families, longtime residents all, were forced from their homes. Cesar Kaskel, a prominent local Jewish businessman, dispatched a telegram to President Lincoln, and met with him, eventually succeeding in getting the order revoked.
On March 25, 1864, Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest raided Paducah as part of his campaign northward from Mississippi into Western Tennessee and Kentucky to re-supply the Confederate forces in the region with recruits, ammunition, medical supplies, horses and mules and to generally upset the Union domination of the regions south of the Ohio River. The raid was successful in terms of the re-supply effort and in intimidating the Union, but Forrest returned south.
Later, Forrest, having read in the newspapers that 140 fine horses had escaped the raid, sent Brigadier General Abraham Buford back to Paducah, to get the horses and to keep Union forces busy there while he attacked Fort Pillow.
On April 14, 1864, Buford's men found the horses hidden in a foundry as the newspapers reported. Buford rejoined Forrest with the spoils, leaving the Union in control of Paducah until the end of the War.
In 1937, the Ohio River at Paducah rose above its 50-foot flood stage on January 21, cresting at 60.8 feet on February 2 and receding again to 50-feet on February 15. For nearly three weeks, 27,000 residents were forced to flee to stay with friends and relatives in higher ground in McCracken County or in other counties. Some shelters were provided by the American Red Cross and local churches. Buildings in downtown Paducah still bear plaques that highlight the high-water marks.
With 18 inches of rainfall in 16 days, along with sheets of swiftly moving ice the '37 flood was the worst natural disaster in Paducah's history. Because Paducah's earthen levee was ineffective against this flood, the United States Army Corps of Engineers was commissioned to build the flood wall that now protects the city from the ravages of flooding.
In 1950, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission selected Paducah as the site for a new Uranium enrichment Plant. Construction began in 1951 and began operations in 1952. The plant, originally operated by Union Carbide, has changed hands several times to Martin Marrieta, its successor company Lockheed-Martin, and is now operated by the United States Enrichment Corporation. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), successor to the AEC, remains the owner.
On April 25, 1991, The National Quilt Museum opened in downtown Paducah. The Museum is a cultural destination that brings a worldwide audience of over 40,000 quilters and art enthusiasts to the Paducah area on an annual basis. The Museum features professional quilt and fiber art exhibits that are rotated throughout the year. The National Quilt Museum is currently the largest tourist attraction in Paducah.
Local Chapters of Paducah's Lions Club and WPSD, the local NBC affiliate, hold an annual telethon to raise money for local charities. The money raised over the past 49 years has totaled more than $18,000,000 as of 2005. Talent throughout the years has been very diversified including:
In 1996, the Paducah Wall to Wall mural program was begun by Louisiana mural artist Robert Dafford and his team on the floodwall in downtown. The over 50 murals cover a number of subjects, including Native American history, industries such as river barges and hospitals, local African-American heritage, the old Carnegie Library on Broadway St., steamboats, and local labor unions. In May 2003 photographer Jim Roshan documented painting on the Lewis and Clark Expedition mural during the America 24/7 project. One of the images was used in the book Kentucky24/7 published in 2004. By 2008 the project was in mainly a maintenance phase, with muralist Herb Roe returning to town each year to repaint and refurbish the panels. Roe is the only muralist associated with the project to have worked on all of the panels. A new mural was added to the project by Roe in the summer of 2010. It shows the 100 year history of the local Boy Scout troop. Troop 1 is one of only a handful of troops who share their centennial with the centennial of the national scouting organization itself. The dedication for the mural was held on National Scout Sunday, February 6, 2011.
In August 2000, Paducah’s "Artist Relocation Program" was started to offer incentives for artists to relocate to its historical Downtown and Lower Town areas. The program has become a national model for using the arts for economic development, and has been awarded the Governors Award in the Arts, The Kentucky Chapter of the American Planning Association Distinguished Planning Award, The American Planning Association National Planning Award, and most recently Kentucky League of Cities' Enterprise Cities Award. Lower Town, home of the Artist Relocation Program, is the oldest neighborhood in Paducah. As retail commerce moved toward the outskirts of town, efforts were made to preserve the architectural stylings, restoring the historic Victorian structures in the older parts of the city. The program helped that effort and became a catalyst for revitalizing the Downtown area. The Luthor F. Carson Center for the Performing Arts was also constructed. In September 2004 plans jelled to highlight Paducah's musical roots through the redevelopment of the South side of Downtown. The centerpiece of the effort is the renovation of Maggie Steed's Hotel Metropolitan, where legends such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb's orchestra, B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Ike and Tina Turner and other R & B and Blues legends polished their craft along what has become known as the Chitlin' circuit. Using this genre as a foundation, supporters hope to advertise Paducah's role in the history of American music.
Another mainstay and regional attraction is the annual OMGcon, an anime and gaming convention held in Paducah since 2006, drawing in attendees from across the United States.
The town of Paducah has given birth to artists from various genres. The top mainstream artist is Steven Curtis Chapman, the greatest selling Christian artist of all time. Rockabilly Hall of Fame artists Ray Smith, whose recording of Rockin' Little Angel was a hit in 1960 and Stanley Walker, who played guitar for Ray Smith and others. Terry Mike Jeffrey, who has been showcased on national television is a resident of Paducah.
The local community boasts an"underground" musical environment, with acts finding some success due to the recent promotion of musical growth in the city with the new Middletown project. The plan is similar to the Lowertown Artist District. The focal point of Middletown will be the Metropolitan Hotel, where many blues and jazz musicians played during the mid-20th century.
The town celebrates its local musicians many times in the year, but most notably during its annual Summer Festival and the Rock The Vote-sponsored Paducahpalooza festival. The Luther F. Carson Four Rivers Center is a beautiful new addition to downtown Paducah, hosting various musical artists, theater productions and local musical acts.
Paducah is one of only two cities named in the world-famous song "Hooray for Hollywood" that opens the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards (The Oscars). The 1937 song, with music by Richard Whiting and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, contains in the second verse: "Hooray for Hollywood! That phony, super Coney, Hollywood. They come from Chilicothes and Padukahs..."
Both cities were misspelled in the original published lyrics, though that may have been the fault of the publishers rather than Mercer, who was famous for the sophistication and attention to detail he put into his lyrics. The correct spellings are, of course, "Chillicothe" and "Paducah".
See also: Urban planning, Gentrification
Local media in Paducah includes NBC affiliate WPSD-TV, MyNetworkTV affiliate WDKA, Fox affiliate KBSI, and regional daily newspaper The Paducah Sun, both owned by Paxton Media Group. Six radio stations call Paducah home with half of the stations owned by Bristol Broadcasting Company, while weekly newspapers the West Kentucky News and The Good Neighbor also enjoy significant readership. A National Weather Service Forecast Office is based in Paducah, providing weather information to western Kentucky, southeastern Missouri, southern Illinois, and southwestern Indiana. A bi-monthly magazine by the name of Paducah Life () debuted in 1994 and continues publication today. The magazine features articles about life and residents in and around Paducah. Paducah Parenting and Family Magazine, a monthly publication distributed throughout Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, and parts of Missouri and Tennessee, debuted in 2004(). In 2009 PaducahLIVE.com () became the first video based online presence to offer features, entertainment, and information about the area
As of the census of 2010, there were 25,024 people, 11,462 households, and 6,071 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,251.0 people per square mile (483.0/km²). There were 12,851 housing units at an average density of 642.5 per square mile (248.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 70.99% White (69.66% non-Hispanic), 23.67% African American, 0.22% Native American, 1.02% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.07% from other races, and 3.01% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.68% of the population.
There were 11,462 households out of which 26.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32.5% were married couples living together, 16.4% had a female householder with no husband present, 4.0% had a male householder with no wife present, and 47.0% were non-families. 41.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09 and the average family size was 2.84.
The age distribution was 21.8% under 18, 8.0% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 27.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.2% who were 65 or older. The median age was 41.4 years. For every 100 females there were 85.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.2 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,220, and the median income for a family was $42,645. Males had a median income of $36,778 versus $27,597 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,430. About 18.1% of families and 22.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.3% of those under age 18 and 12.8% of those age 65 or over.
As of the census of 2000, there were 26,307 people, 11,825 households, and 6,645 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,350.2 people per square mile (521.4/km²). There were 13,221 housing units at an average density of 678.6/sq mi (262.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 72.78% White, 24.15% African American, 0.25% Native American, 0.64% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 0.55% from other races, and 1.56% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.38% of the population.
There were 11,825 households out of which 25.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.8% were married couples living together, 16.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.8% were non-families. 39.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.84.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 26.2% from 25 to 44, 22.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 83.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $26,137, and the median income for a family was $34,092. Males had a median income of $32,783 versus $21,901 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,417. About 18.0% of families and 22.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 33.8% of those under age 18 and 16.8% of those age 65 or over.
Dippin' Dots and the Paducah & Louisville Railway have their headquarters in Paducah.
According to Paducah's 2011 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city were:
Paducah Public Schools operates public schools serving most of the City of Paducah. Three K-5 elementary schools, Clark Elementary School, McNabb Elementary School, and Morgan Elementary School, serve sections of the city. All district residents are zoned to Paducah Middle School and Paducah Tilghman High School.
Parts of the city are instead served by the McCracken County Public Schools. Depending on location, elementary students in those areas may be zoned into Concord, Farley, Lone Oak, or Hendron-Lone Oak Elementary School; middle school students into Heath, Lone Oak, or Reidland Middle School; and high school students into Heath, Lone Oak, or Reidland High School. In 2013, the three high schools will consolidate at the new McCracken County High School. The Paducah city district will not participate in this consolidation.
West Kentucky Community and Technical College (WKCTC) is a member of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System and is a public, two-year, degree-granting institution serving the Western Region of Kentucky. There are 7,000 - 9,000 students enrolled at the college. There is a University of Kentucky College of Engineering Paducah campus located on the WKCTC campus. The college is also the site for the Challenger Learning Center at Paducah and the Emerging Technology Center.
Paducah was the birthplace or residence of the following notable people: