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Paducah Northside Historic District

Paducah City, McCracken County, KY

Paducah Northside Historic District

Photograph: Repetitive brick house types at North 11th and Olive Streets located in the Paducah Northside Historic District, Paducah. Photographed by David Taylor, consultant, 2021, own work, for the City of Paducah, Historic District nomination document, accessed November, 2022.

The Paducah Northside Historic District [†] is a nearly exclusively residential district of circa 183 acres, located northwest of the central business district of the City of Paducah, the county seat of McCracken County, Kentucky, along the south bank of the Ohio River approximately 250 miles west of the state capitol at Frankfort. The district is also about two blocks (about 1,400 feet) west of the Ohio Rivermarking the dividing line between Kentucky and Indiana. It is similar to an Early Automobile Suburbs, 1908-1945, as described in the Multiple Property Submission "Historic Residential Suburbs in the United States 1830-1930," hereafter referred to as "Suburbs MPS." The district is topographically flat and lies principally south of N. 10th Street and north of the adjacent Maplelawn Park Cemetery, a substantial burial ground that defines much of the district's southern boundary. The district's few commercial buildings and churches are scattered throughout the nominated area. Still, the balance of the district is nearly exclusively residential and includes domestic architecture and dependencies of varying scales and materials. The district is densely built-up and vacant parcels typically consist of lots throughout the district's interior where buildings were previously located, along with a small number of surface parking lots, most of which are associated with the district's several churches. A total of 507 resources is within the district; of these, 392 are contributing elements and 115 are non-contributing features. Contributing properties are those dating from within the circa 1890-1968 Period of Significance and which retain integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. Non-contributing features post-date the Period of Significance or have undergone major alterations that compromise their integrity. Most non-contributing features are automobile garages that appear fewer than fifty years of age, scattered throughout the district. Smaller outbuildings, including prefabricated buildings and temporary structures such as metal carports, are treated as uncounted landscape features. The district's noncontributing elements and these uncounted landscape elements fail to detract from the district's otherwise strong sense of time and place; the district as a whole retains both integrity in its composite qualities and the essential appearance that it had at the end of the Period of Significance.

This nearly exclusive residential historic district, sited northwest of downtown Paducah, consists of streets and alleys platted from northeast to southwest. Moving from north to south, the district includes portions of the numbered streets of N. 10th, N. 11th, N. 13th, and N. 14th. Park Avenue marks the district's southeast boundary and runs from N. 10th to N. 14th Sts. Moving from southeast to northwest, the following intersect the aforementioned numbered streets: Boyd, Burnett, Flournoy, Northwest, Greer, Hampton, Ellis, Salem, Fern, Olive, and Palm, which defines much of the district's western terminus. Unnamed alleys define the rear lot lines of some streets in the district, while others, such as the block between N. 10th, N. 11th, Grover, and Northwest Streets were laid out without alleys.

Development within the district is dense. The majority of the parcels are long and narrow, mostly platted in the early decades of the twentieth century, and some exhibiting side yards that may be the result of demolition or may have never been built upon. While side- or front-yard setbacks were not required historically, setbacks are generally uniform, with houses built near to the sidewalk and relatively close to one another side-by-side. The rear sections of lots were typically reserved for gardens and presently contain yards and in some cases detached garages and miscellaneous outbuildings. Side driveways are often present, normally accessing garages. Most streets retain tree lawns and mature trees are found throughout the district. The largest single parcel in the district is the 3-1/2 acre site of the 1956 Northside School, a school building at 1040 Flournoy Street that, but for its chimney, has been demolished; it is counted as a non-contributing structure within the context of the district. The district's streets are asphalt-paved, typically with curbs, and sidewalks in varying condition line most streets. The Suburbs MPS notes that in districts such as this, "curbs and gutters, durable pavement, sidewalks, driveways, and garages became desirable features in new neighborhoods."2 Alleys in the district are typically unpaved, streetlights are mounted on wooden utility poles, and overhead utility wires are prominent.

The built environment of the Paducah Northside Historic District consists chiefly of domestic architecture, typically 1 or 1-1/2 stories in height, generally of wood frame construction, resting on stone, brick, or early concrete block foundations; some foundations are parged. Typical of most neighborhoods, many of the district's wood frame houses have been clad in non-historic material, including aluminum and vinyl siding, along with historic asbestos shingle finishes. However, the original siding is presumed to remain beneath. A small number of brick-finished houses are in the district, with typical exterior surfaces of common-bond brick. The Property Value Administrator (PVA) identified many of these as "brick veneer" although this cannot be confirmed. A minimal number of houses of concrete block are present. Both the gable and hipped roof forms are equally favored throughout the district, including conventional hipped roofs and pyramidal roofs, along with gable-end-oriented roofs, side-gable roofs, and intersecting gable roofs. Hipped and pyramidal roofs are often penetrated by dormers as are the characteristic side-gable roofs on Craftsman-style Bungalows. A small number of gambrel roofs are present on houses suggestive of the Dutch Colonial Revival style. Roofs are finished in asphalt shingles and standing-seam metal. Many houses retain original front and back porches, both hip-roofed and shed-roofed. Some front porches have been enclosed to create additional interior living space. Interior and gable-end exterior chimneys are on most of the district's houses; some penetrate the slopes of hipped roofs and some original chimneys have been removed in the course of re-roofing or as part of the retrofitting of heating systems. Windows throughout the Paducah Northside Historic District are typically flat-topped, often 1/1, set within modest surrounds. In a few limited cases, fenestration patterns have been modified in the course of window replacement or siding changes. However, these changes fail to diminish the district's otherwise high degree of integrity.

As described fully in Section 8, this has always been a working-class neighborhood. The vast majority of the houses in this district are vernacular in character, interpreting that often-misunderstood term as it is defined in Ward Bucher's Dictionary of Building Preservation: "a building built without being designed by an architect or someone with similar formal training, often based on traditional or regional forms."3 The majority of the houses in the district are modestly-scaled and ornamented front or side-gable roofed cottages, among which are interspersed a series of examples of Craftsman style. Some repetitive house types are evident in the district, suggestive of healthy speculative building during the district's formative years.

Several churches are found within the district. These are typically of brick construction, gable-roofed, with fenestration of religious art glass of varying complexity.

Two schools, Northside School and Whittier School, were once in the district. Northside School was a single-story 1956 brick neighborhood school located on a 3-1/2 acre tract on Flournoy Street at the corner of N. 11th Street. Only its red brick furnace chimney remains, and, as noted above, it is counted as a non-contributing structure. The 1908 Whittier School was demolished circa 1969 and was replaced by the Whittier Apartments, a modern 10-building public housing complex located between North 12th, N. 13th, Greer, and Northview Streets.

As noted in the introductory paragraph, the Paducah Northside Historic District retains historic and architectural integrity, although the district's architecture is modest in scale and ornamentation. The overall working-class character of the district is intact and represents development in this historically African-American section of Paducah throughout the district's Period of Significance. Alterations to buildings within the historic district include applying non-historic siding and installing replacement windows, and early roofing materials have been replaced with asphalt or modern standing-seam metal. However, with respect to the district as a whole, these alterations are widely dispersed and do not detract significantly from the ability of the nominated area to reflect its appearance throughout the Period of Significance. The extent of alteration of only a few properties has led to their loss of historic architectural integrity and their resulting classification as noncontributing resources. Most noncontributing resources are buildings erected following the district's Period of Significance.

Most non-contributing resources are buildings erected following the Period of Significance of the district and the extent of alteration of only a small number of properties has led to their loss of historic architectural integrity and their resulting classification as noncontributing resources.

The following inventory spreadsheet lists the resources in the district, incorporating resource numbers referring to the district map included with this nomination, an approximate date of construction, and an evaluation as to the contributing or non-contribution character of each. Most properties are designated with an "M," referring to minor or moderate degrees of alteration. Properties that have undergone major alterations (obvious porch removals, major changes in fenestration or rooflines, non-historic additions on principal elevations, and other significant character-altering changes) typically render a property "non-contributing."



The Paducah Northside Historic District is locally significant for community development and planning and ethnic heritage/African American and for architecture. The district is significant for community planning and development. It is comprised primarily of formally-platted additions to the City of Paducah, representing the growth of the city from the early twentieth century and after that throughout the Period of Significance. These additions encompass a series of planned subdivisions with formal and repetitive lot sizes, streets, and alleys. Ethnic heritage is owed to this neighborhood's decades-old close association with Paducah's African-American population who lived, worshipped, and were educated here. Significance derives from its position as a strong, locally-significant, and dense concentration of chiefly residential buildings built between the last decade of the nineteenth century and the late 1960s and including examples of several of the house types and styles of design popular during the Period of Significance, which begins circa 1890 and extends to 1968. Found within the district are multiple examples of Craftsman-style Bungalows, along with numerous examples of vernacular architecture that reflect local building traditions and the skill of local craftspeople.

The district retains integrity in all seven qualities defined in the National Register guidelines, exhibiting those physical qualities, associative values, design features, and specific aspects of construction that date from within the Period of Significance.


The Commonwealth of Kentucky was established in in 1792. However, the Paducah environs had been first visited by European settlers as early as 1778 when George Rogers Clark (1752-1818), a Revolutionary General who had led the Kentucky Militia through much of the War, came to the Ohio River in what would become Illinois. Hickman County was established in 1821; McCracken County was originally part of Hickman County, but as the population grew, the larger Hickman County was divided into a new Hickman (erected 1821), Graves (1824) Calloway (1822), and McCracken Counties, the latter of which was established on January 15, 1825 and bore the name of Captain Virgil McCracken, who was killed at the Battle of the River Raisin in Michigan during the War of 1812.

The settlement that would become Paducah was first known as Pekin and was initially settled circa 1815 by European settlers attracted to the site due to its location on the Ohio River. The community was originally populated by a mix of Native Americans and Europeans who lived harmoniously, trading both goods and services.

In 1827, George Rogers Clark's brother, William (1770-1838), serving as Superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Mississippi-Missouri region, arrived in Pekin with a deed issued by the United States Supreme Court identifying him as the sole owner of the land. It is thought that Clark was already aware of the settlers that had arrived before him. He offered to sell them the land that they had been occupying, otherwise they would be forced to relocate. Clark's new town was platted and was named in honor of the largest nation of Native Americans that had ever populated North America, the Padoucas, who had occupied much of the central pains from the Black Hills to Arkansas. Lewis and Clark had made acquaintance with many tribe members while on their renowned westward trek. Clark wrote a letter to his son clearly stating the reason for naming of the town. The community was incorporated in 1830 and two years later became the county seat of McCracken County.

Early on, Paducah thrived due to its port facilities along the Ohio stood as a leading waterway plied by countless steamboats for many decades. A factory that manufactured red bricks was established and a foundry for making rail and locomotive components was built, ultimately contributing to a river- and rail-related industrial economy. In 1856, Paducah was chartered as a city and the burgeoning community continued to capitalize on its geographic location by becoming the site of dry dock facilities for steamboats and towboats and headquarters for a series of barge companies. Other riverfront industries depicted on Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps included the Paducah Furniture Manufacturing Company, Johnson Foundry & Machine Company, and the Langstaff-Orm Manufacturing Company, among many others. Eventually, the City became an important railway hub for the Illinois Central Railroad, largely due to its proximity to the coal fields in Kentucky and Illinois_ While none of these industries were within the Northside Historic District, countless workers made their homes in the district throughout its decades-long Period of Significance.

Viewing the demographics of the City, at the time of the 1830 Census, Paducah's population stood at 105. Over the next twenty years the population grew to 2,428 in 1850, and 4,590 in 1860. By the time the Civil War ended, the 1870 population was 6,866 and 8,036 in 1880. Major growth of 59.2% occurred by 1890, when 12,797 made Paducah their home. Industrial development during the 1890s led to another demographic boost of more than 50% and in 1900, the population stood at 19,446. By 1920, as the area that would become the North Side Historic District was growing, 24,735 lived in the community. The population fluctuated during the ensuing decades, consistently dropping between 1950 and 2010. The 2020 Census recorded a population of 27,137 within the confines of the City proper; 73% of the population was White and 24% African-American. The balance consisted of Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and Hispanics. Returning to the history of the community, Kentucky claimed a neutral position at the outset of the Civil War, but when a Confederate force occupied Columbus, a Union force under General Ulysses S. Grant responded by occupying Paducah. Throughout most of the conflict, Paducah served as a major supply depot for Federal forces along the Ohio, Mississippi, and Tennessee River systems. Throughout most of the conflict, Union Col. Stephen G. Hicks was in charge of Paducah.

During much of the Period of Significance of the North Side Historic District, education in Paducah was segregated and remained so until the early 1970s. Newspaper references describe the 1916 Henry Clay School and the 1905 McKinley School, along with the Lincoln Elementary (1894) and High School (1920), all located outside the historic district. With specific reference to this historic district and corresponding directly to its demographics, the Whittier School was built circa 1907 and Northside Elementary dated from 1956; neither are extant. The School District at first abandoned Northside, then it in 1971 it became a Head Start facility as part of the City's Integration plan, and eventually it passed into private ownership. Prior to its closing, Northside had an enrollment of 185 Black students and 35 White8 The building was put out for bid in 2003 and was demolished in 2015, leaving only a brick chimney. A multi-building public housing complex occupies the site of Whittier School.

Social services were provided to the African-American population by constructing a substantial institutional building at 1335 Burnett Street, at the northeast corner of the historic district. Built as the Home of the Friendless, but not extant, this 2-1/2 story brick building (NR 2000) was the work of William L. Brainard (1865-1934), an M. I. T.-educated architect and was built by contractor B. T. Davis. Its site is occupied by the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, a noncontributing modern metal church building.

It can be argued that religion has played a central role in most neighborhoods, although perhaps none more than African-American neighborhoods such as Paducah's Northside Historic District. Historic churches within the district include the 1950 Mt. Olive (sometimes referred to as "Olivet") Free Will Baptist Church at 1038 Burnett Street. Established long before the construction of the present contributing church building, in 1923, under the heading, National Convention Negro Evangelists. The Paducah News Democrat' reported "The National Interdenominational Evangelist Bureau is in session at the Mt. Olive Free Baptist Church, colored [sic.], Burnett and Eleventh streets, in this City. A large number of delegates are in attendance covering a territory as far west as South Dakota and as far south as Jacksonville, Fla." The church's parsonage is nearby at 1020 Gardner Avenue.

When the Mt. Olive building was built, its pastor was the Rev. circa J. Moss (1895-1975), both a community leader and a major figure in the African-American heritage of this neighborhood. For 36 years a blacksmith's assistant at the Illinois Central Railroad, Moss received a Bachelor of Divinity degree in 1924. A World War One veteran and a Kentucky Colonel, Moss pastored Baptist churches for 53 years. He was a community activist and advocate for civil rights. As early as 1950 he led a delegation described in the newspaper as ua group of colored persons" to a Planning Commission meeting to advocate for the construction (again quoting from the local newspaper) of a "colored housing project" on N. 12th Street between Burnett and Flournoy Streets in the Northside neighborhood. In 1959, well within the Period of Significance of the Northside district, Moss became only the second African-American to file for election as a Commissioner on Paducah City Council. The Rev. Mr. Moss lived on Burnett Street, in the Northside neighborhood; his former house is not extant.

Another leading African-American associated with the Northside Historic District was the Rev. Dr. Wardelle Green Harvey, Sr. (1926-2014). He was born in Boonville, Indiana, but spent much of his adult life in Paducah. He founded and pastored the New Greater Love Missionary Baptist Church at 1249 N. 12th Street. In 1968 he became the first African-American to be appointed to the Paducah City Commission; this date marks the end of the Period of Significance of the Northside Historic District. In addition to serving on the Commission, Dr. Harvey, served as Paducah's Mayor Pro Tempore and served on myriad community boards, including the Paducah Housing Board. When he died in 2014, his funeral was held in the church that he had founded. 12 Other African-American churches within the district include the circa 1962 Congregational Holiness Church at 1400 N. 11th Street, the Ware Memorial Church of God in Christ at 1145 North 11th Street, the 2008 House of Hope at 1731 N. 11th Street, the circa 1962 Cornerstone Church at 1400 N. 11th Street, and the New Greater Love Missionary Baptist Church at 1249 N. 12th Street. Most post-date the Period of Significance and are non-contributing buildings in the context of the district. The Ohio was both an economic driver and a significant threat to the City. A major flood in the late 1880s reached well into the downtown. Nearly annual floods reached into the downtown, flooding industrial sectors along the river, and even encroaching northward into residential neighborhoods. In 1937, the Ohio River at Paducah rose over its SO-foot flood stage. The flood was considered to be the worst natural disaster in Paducah's history. As a result of the flood, the United States Army Corps of Engineers built a flood wall to replace the earthen levee that had once been in place; the flood wall is north of the nominated area. The development of the nominated area began late in the nineteenth century, hence the establishment of the Period of Significance beginning circa 1890. Sanborn Fire insurance Maps for the City did not document the neighborhood until the 1920s; most of the area was described as having "no exposure." In her Architecture of Paducah and McCracken County, Camille Wells noted that "the economy of Paducah grew rapidly in the 1920s," during which time much of the Northside Historic District was growing as well.

Other significant events in the community's history include the selection of Paducah in 1948 to develop a new Uranium Enrichment Plant and the development of the Museum of the American Quilter's Society (MAQS) in Paducah in 1991, which draws quilters from around the world.

The Paducah Northside Historic District is locally significant for ethnic heritage, with specific reference to its long association with Paducah's African-American community. It is also locally significant for community planning and development since it consists of a series of purposefully planned and platted subdivisions (historically referred to as "additions"). The Period of Significance for this is circa 1890-1968.

Through the decades, multiple additions were made to incorporated Paducah. The earliest portion of the community dated from 1830 and was located along the south bank of the Ohio River. Other additions radiated northward and occurred in 1833, 1836, 1856, and 1871, followed by one in 1897. The Harris, Flournoy, Trimble and Norton's Addition encompassed a substantial tract north of Trimble Avenue.

Additionally, this neighborhood is inextricably linked to the heritage of Paducah's African-American working-class community. Many citizens made their homes here, worshipped here, and were educated here. Historic city directories amply illustrate the diversity of residents in what would become the Northside Historic District. As was the custom of the day, African-American residents were identified by a circled letter "C" for "Colored," after their names; a significant proportion of these designations are found in the Northside street listings within the various directories. For example, the 1939 directory indicated that 22 of the 26 residents of North 10th Street between Finley and Burnett Street were so indicated; the same is true throughout the nominated area. In addition, the listed occupations of these individuals, and of others from the neighborhood, were typically menial. M. Hopkins was a laborer for the Paducah Cooperage Co.; Elmira House 1109 Burnett Street, Lula Holt, 218 N. 13th Street, Rosa Harris, 213 S. 14th Street, and Effie Hayes, 516 S. 11th Street were all laundresses; Wesley Howard, 1122 Flournoy, was listed simply as a laborer; Effie Hall, 1158 N. 12th Street was a helper at the Home Laundry; Nolan circa Horton 1103 Ellis Street, was driver; Hattie Hale, 428 N. 12th was a cook; Alvis Futrell, 1018 N. 11th Street was a porter at the Elks Home; Edmund Garrett, 1104 Burnett Street, was a porter. And the list goes on.

Representative Census data reported that all residents of Finley Street in 1930 were African-American, indicated as "Neg" under the "Race" column. As previously noted, several African-American churches are located in the district. Rev. George T. Campbell, was pastor of the Mt. Olive Free Will Baptist Church and lived at 1038 Burnett Street.

The Northside Historic District is locally significant with a Period of Significance from circa 1890-1968, for architecture. The district consists principally of street-after-street of small-scale, vernacular domestic architecture dating from the early 1890s through the middle half of the twentieth century. The architecture of the district includes single-story gable-front houses, gabled ell residences, and Craftsman-style Bungalows, a few gambrel-roofed Dutch Colonial Revival-style houses and Cape Cods, Minimal Traditional and Ranch-style houses, along with several churches and a small number of commercial buildings dating from the early years of the twentieth century. Interspersed with the district's domestic architecture are various dependencies, primarily single-story garages of wood and concrete block construction with both hipped and gable roof forms. One example of Italianate commercial architecture is 950 Park Avenue, a 2-story red brick building with a cast iron storefront and a modest metal cornice. Specific examples of representative styles and house types in the Northside Historic District include the following: Craftsman-style houses include 1116 Park Avenue, 1501 and 1511 N. 10th Street, 1617 N. 10th Street, 1518 N. 10th Street, and 1155 N. 12th Street; gable-front 1- and 1-1/2 story vernacular houses include 1501, 1524, 1604 and 1605 N. 10th Street, 1724 N. 11th Street, and 926 and 1605 N.12th Street; Cape Cod houses at 1530 N. 11th and 1535 N. 12th Street; vernacular gabled ell houses include the properties at 1124 and 1218 Park Avenue, 1005 Grover Street, 1601 N. 11th Street, 1723 N. 11th Street, and 916,920,927, and 1133 N. 12th Street.

Repetitive house types are found throughout the district. Among these are the single-story side-gable-roofed properties at 1443 and 1447 N. 10th Street. Others include four adjacent brick gable-front houses at 1607, 1607, 1623, and 1625, N. 11th Street.

Interspersed with these are properties post-dating the Period of Significance, including single-family homes along with 1- and 2-story multi-tenant public housing, such as the adjacent duplexes at 921-923 and 935-937, and 1301-1303 N. 11th Street, and single-family homes built by the local Habitat for Humanity, represented by the mirror images houses at 1200 and 1204 Park Avenue.

† David L. Taylor, Historic Preservation Consultant for the City of Paducah Planning Department, Paducah Northside Historic District, nomination document, 2022, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
10th Street North • 11th Street North • 12th Street North • 13th Street North • 14th Street North • Boyd Street • Burnett Street • Ellis Street • Fern Street • Flournoy Street • Gardner Street • Greer Street • Grover Street • Hampton Avenue • Northview Street • Olive Street • Palm Street • Park Avenue • Salem Avenue