Benham Kentucky and The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum

Benham (population 599), a city in northern Harlan County was founded in 1911 as a coal mining company town by Wisconsin Steel, a subsidiary of International Harvester.  There are several buildings in the town that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  For the purposes of this entry I will focus on one of these buildings, The former Commissary which was built in 1923.

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The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, housed in the former commissary building (1923), which is in the center of this photo, has became a regional tourist attraction. Three stories of exhibits feature the history of coal mining in Kentucky and the life of coal miners and their families. The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum features exhibits on a miner’s home, a company hospital, commissary, and school; engineering, coal sampling, a mock mine tour and the Loretta Lynn “Coal Miner’s Daughter” exhibit.  The Museum opened in May of 1994.

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The Benham Post Office is located near the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum.

Lynch Kentucky [Part II: Lynch High School]

Lynch High School opened its doors in 1924.  The entire town of Lynch, including the public schools were paid for and ran by the US Coal and Coke Company which is a subsidiary of US Steel.   The schools, along with many of the other company constructed buildings in town were built of cut sand stone.  Many people believe that US Steel thought they would be in Lynch mining coal for more than a century.

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Lynch High School is next door to the old Lynch Graded School I covered in this blog earlier.  It is a large, two story building made of cut sandstone.  Most of the windows have been borded up in the front, I assume this was done because some idiots had nothing better to do than let their kids go out and break the window panes.

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As you can see in this photo and the one to follow, the front door is secure and boarded up.

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I love the attention to detail the stone masons made to this building.  Every stone is cut and laid perfectly.   In 1924 that had to take some talented and hard working people.

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Around to the side, I found this side entrance wide open.

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Im not really sure what has happened in this room….If something caused the wall to fall, or if someone caused the wall to fall.  This is the room just inside the side entrance.

hs5This shot was taken just as you enter the side hallway, well….as you climb over the debris in the side hallway.

hs6 The stairwell on the left side of the building.

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One of the classrooms inside the building.   I cant get over at how large these rooms were.  They were humongous.

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They really believed in using chalk boards at Lynch High School apparently.

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HS11Sadly, US Steel wasn’t in Lynch for over a a century.   In 1981 the Lynch School District merged with the Harlan County School District and Lynch High School closed.  Students from Lynch were sent to Cumberland High School.

It’s such a shame that what was once the largest coal mining town in the world has buildings like this that arent being utilized.  These buildings should be restored and used for something.  Anything.  I if the city of Lynch or Harlan County could apply for promise zone funds to restore these buildings to be used for some kind of job location such as a call center or customer service center?  The money is out there and these buildings are in dire need of attention and being saved.  I just cant stress enough how beautiful these buildings are, I would love to have saw them and Lynch in their glory all those years ago.

Ages-Brookside, Kentucky 40801

In a time when post offices are closing all across America, the Ages-Brookside post office story is a bit different.  Brookside and Ages are two separate communities in Harlan County on KY 38 between Harlan and Evarts.  The two communities are separated by a small creek.  I can remember reading somewhere at one time, when the Ages and Brookside post offices were separate that they were the two closest post offices in the United States.   Some time back, (one source says 1975)  the Ages and Brookside post offices were combined and formed Ages-Brookside.   The postal services were completed in this building until early 2014 when a leasing dispute with the postal service and the building owner forced the post office to close.  Recently a village post office for Ages-Brookside has opened in a local farm store down the road from this location.  DSCN0547

Liggett, Kentucky

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Liggett Kentucky was once a thriving coal mining community located at the eastern terminus of Kentucky State Route 72 in Central Harlan County, Kentucky, about 6 miles from the county seat of Harlan.  Today, little remains of what was once a busy coal camp.  There are still signs that recall the bustling past of the area.  There is still work going on in this area, the day that I was here there were trucks coming in and out and you could see workers moving from buildings to other areas.  Also there was a watch dog that tried to chase my car back down the road.

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Liggett Baptist Church is still in operation and growing strong at Liggett.  The church is surrounded by some of the most serene views I have ever witnessed.   To find out more about Liggett Baptist Church you can visit their website  at www.liggettbaptistchurch.org

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The bridge structure of the bridge leading to Liggett even hearkens back to the days of big coal and company constructed infrastructure and towns.