Sunday, April 9, 2023

Art Deco Architecture in Kentucky + Giveaway

   By Tiffany Amber Stockton

In March, we learned about the name origins for the first 10 of the 50 states in the U.S. I'll be doing other posts to cover the remaining 40 during other months of this year. You can read last month's post if you missed it.

Today is my son's 12th birthday, and we recently attended a homeschool field trip at the Kentucky Historical Society. So, I figured it'd be fun to delve into the history of the Historical Society. Let's chat a bit about KHS building. :)


Historical Society Building
This place is a gem located in downtown Frankfort, Kentucky. It's been around for quite some time and has some great history behind it.

The KHS building was built in the late 1930s and early 1940s as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. If you don't know what that is, the WPA was a New Deal program created by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide employment for millions of Americans during the Great Depression. And boy did it do just that!

Old State Capitol - original site
The Kentucky Historical Society itself has been around since 1838, but its headquarters used to be located in the Old State Capitol building in Frankfort. However, as the KHS grew in size and popularity, they began planning for a new building. They eventually applied for a grant from the WPA, and voila, the KHS building was born.

The architect who designed the KHS building was a guy named Thomas P. Barnett. He was known for his Art Deco designs and did not disappoint with this building. The KHS building is considered one of the most significant examples of Art Deco architecture in Kentucky, and wow, does it show! It has all the classic Art Deco elements, like streamlined forms, geometric patterns, and stylized motifs. Quite a sight to see!

But Barnett didn't stop there. He also incorporated elements of the Kentucky Colonial Revival style into the building's design. This was a popular style in the early 20th century which emphasized the use of local materials and traditional craftsmanship. So, not only is the building beautiful, it also has some local flavor in there too.

Interior view of one exhibit area
The KHS building was constructed in several phases, with the first phase being completed in 1939. This included the main entrance and lobby. The second phase, which included the research and storage areas, was completed in 1941. And the final phase, which included the museum space, was completed in 1942. So it took a few years, but it was definitely worth the wait.

Over the years, the KHS building has undergone several renovations and upgrades to keep it up to date and functional. In the 1980s, the museum space was expanded to include more exhibit space.

Nowadays, the KHS building is still standing strong and is open to the public for tours and events. You can check out the KHS museum, which features exhibits on Kentucky's history, as well as a research library and archives. It's definitely worth a visit if you're ever in the area.

View of the terrazzo floor in the lobby
The KHS building has become a bit of a landmark in downtown Frankfort, and its unique design draws visitors from across the state. The building's interior is just as beautiful as its exterior, with many Art Deco details like a terrazzo floor in the lobby (in the shape of the state of Kentucky), bronze fixtures, and a beautiful mural depicting Kentucky's history. It continues to be an important cultural institution in Kentucky.

But let's talk about the real reason why the KHS building is so cool. It has history. I mean, it's a historical society building, so of course it does. It has seen a lot of changes over the years. It's seen wars, political upheaval, and social change. And yet, it's still standing. It's a testament to the resilience of the people of Kentucky.

There's something special about being in a building that's been around for over 80 years. It's like you can feel the energy of all the people who have walked through those halls over the years. Visiting the old state capitol building produces the same vibes. If only these walls could talk!

President Lincoln's pocket watch -- still ticking!


* Do you have a building in your town with intricate architecture?

* Have you ever visited Frankfort, Kentucky? For what purpose?

* Is there a building or landmark near you with significant historical influence or notoriety?

** Please do not reply via email with any comments. View the blog online and scroll down to the comments section.

Leave answers to these questions or any comments you might have on this post in the comment box below. For those of you who have stuck around this far, I'm sending a FREE autographed book to one person every month from the comments left on each of my blog posts. You never know when your comment will be a winner! Subscribe to comments so you'll know if you've won and need to get me your mailing information.

Come back on the 9th of  May for my next foray into historical tidbits to share.

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Tiffany Amber Stockton has been crafting and embellishing stories since childhood, when she was accused of having a very active imagination and cited with talking entirely too much. Today, she has honed those skills to become an award-winning, best-selling author and speaker who is also a professional copywriter/copyeditor. She loves to share life-changing products and ideas with others to help improve their lives in a variety of ways.

She lives with her husband and fellow author, Stuart Vaughn Stockton, along with their two children and four cats in southeastern Kentucky. In the 20 years she's been a professional writer, she has sold twenty-six (26) books so far and is represented by Tamela Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. You can find her on Facebook and GoodReads.


  1. We have a couple of buildings here. One they saved the mural on the front of the building rest will be demolished sometime soon. The other has all kinds of cool stuff inside. They are saving that part but tearing down all the ad ons and are almost done. One was a auditorium and the other the orginal part of a department store.The city hasn't decided what will go in there yet. We also have Univeristy of Nebraska which is where it started and some of the building they have renovated over the years are still standing today.

    1. Kim, it's always sad to see older buildings torn down and demolished instead of revived, especially if they get completely replaced. At least parts are being preserved, like murals, and efforts are still being made to pay tribute to history. I'm constantly talking to my kids about the importance of honoring and preserving history.

  2. Thank you for posting today. Happy Easter! We have a building near us that is interesting. Its called a "flat iron" building and is triangular at the street corner. Its built at an intersection.

    1. Triangular is definitely something that would stand out! It sounds similar to the art deco of this museum we visited. Fun!

  3. Hi Tiffany, Frankfort is the capital of my home state and it's also home to the Kentucky Dept. of Libraries & Archives. I was a public librarian for over 22 years so I visited Frankfort many times to attend meetings and workshops associated with my job. Frankfort is a beautiful city!

    1. Connie, so you're in Kentucky too? Or have you moved away from the state? There was a time when I thought being a librarian would be a dream job. Never pursued it, though. Perhaps once the kids are grown...if my book writing allows the time. :)

  4. Nearby we have a farm house on one acre that predates 1874. It is set back from the road. It has a sign in the front so people know that it is historic and being taken care of. The front is one story and gabled. The back is two story and gabled. It has a basement. It is so pretty. I can see myself living there. Takes me back in time and I love that feeling quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    1. Lori, I agree. Gabled homes are so fascinating and beautiful. I'm always impressed at the way a builder used to put their own personal stamp and unique touch on those homes NOT built by a company. Sometimes, a company may come along and at least vary the designs, but for the most part, intricate and story-telling architecture is a thing of the past.