Paducah – a bargain at twice the price

Paducah KY is of course worth a whole lot more than $10. Its lovely and strategic setting on the Ohio River may have caused it a few flooding headaches now and again, but on a lovely fall day like today, it makes this historic river town shine.

The town has lots of history to share. It was begun by William Clark, of Lewis and Clark fame, after all the excitement of the Corps of Discovery was over. It was a busy trade center and a center of some dispute during Civil War – a touchy subject. It is known as Quilt City, USA, as it is the home of the National Quilt Museum – which doesn’t allow photos, but which is chock full of both old and contemporary quilts of great beauty. (Observe the little Indian maiden outside holding a quilt, next to Lewis and Clark with an Indian guide.)

The town’s river wall is used to commemorate the history of the town with murals of key moments. Not the least of its claims to fame are local boys Alben W. Barkley, Vice President under Truman, as well as Irvin S. Cobb, famous journalist, writer and humorist of the same era. Oh, and let’s not forget this county is the Strawberry Capital of the US. The hits just keep a’ comin’ in Paducah.

This is also a town which did not ravage its downtown and still has a charming old center to show, with a wonderful old market building housing a museum and an art gallery. The museum has treasures ranging from Alben’s inaugural outfit, the buggy he went a courting in, a quilt done by Mrs. Robert E. Lee, and the intact woodwork from a downtown drug store. Eclectic and interesting.

The town also set out to attract artists to live in a part of the city that has stayed vibrant and intact, thanks to that vision. For a city of only 25,000, there is a lot going on and a lot to see. The town is supposedly named for an Indian chief, but our friend Gail who grew up there and who ought to know, says that is a lot of hooey. Authorities seems to agree there was no such person, but that Clark did name the town after the Comanches, known at that time as the Padoucas. Old chief Paduke, who never existed, has a nice statue in a lovely neighborhood.

But there was one additional place in this area that we just couldn’t resist. Just across the river in Illinois is the town of Metropolis, which claims the distinction of being Superman’s hometown. Now, we will have to do some research on that, but we went, regardless of the questionable provenance of the claim, to see the super-sized Superman statue, which is quite appropriately in front of the courthouse on Superman Square. He is across from the souvenir shop and down the street from the Lois Lane statue, the bank offering “super financial services” and the grocery store standing for quality, convenience and friendly service. Clark Kent would be/can be so proud! The newspaper is the Daily Planet and there is still an actual phone booth very handy to their offices. (And just to add another note of acclaim for Metropolis – the Bird Man of Alcatraz is buried here. Go know!)

So you can see how busy one can be in the Midwest. Never a dull moment on this trip!

5 thoughts on “Paducah – a bargain at twice the price

  1. Paducah is quite wonderful. Any thoughts about how/why these towns preserved their heritage? Was it love of history or simply successive generations of bad economies — and not enough money to enact progress?

  2. In this case, the town made a concerted effort to keep its core alive. When people were moving to the suburbs, they created the Lower Town Arts section, and incentivized artists to occupy the area, and that turned the tide. This is a place with enough people who had some foresight and vision – and who weren’t afraid to let new people in. In other places, inertia and lack of funds can help – for a time. Surely you’ve seen places like that in your travels…

  3. Thank you Jo for making Paducah shine. I almost didn’t recognize my former home without the porte-cochere. In answer to the question of preservation, Paducah has always been a vibrant town with very involved citizens and good leadership. The downtown demise happened slowly when Interstate 24 arrived on the outskirts and a huge mall was built near it. There was no economic collapse as happens in some towns. Paducah is blessed with a lot of industry in the surrounding area as well as tourism, a large college, a huge medical community and other opportunities for employment. I know many tales of the reinvention of downtown over the past 40 something years because my mother was very involved and delighted in sharing them with me. I will spare you the and your readers the details. The on-going progress speaks for itself.

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