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Berea, Kentucky
Berea City Hall
Berea City Hall
The Folk Arts And Crafts Capital Of Kentucky
"Where Art's Alive"
Location of Berea, Kentucky
Location of Berea, Kentucky
Country United States
State Kentucky
County Madison
 • Total 9.4 sq mi (24.2 km2)
 • Land 9.3 sq mi (24.2 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.1 km2)
1,024 ft (312 m)
 • Total 13,561
 • Density 1,458.2/sq mi (560.4/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 859
FIPS code 21-05842
GNIS feature ID 0486894

Berea is a home rule-class city in Madison County, Kentucky, in the United States. The town is best known for its art festivals, historic restaurants and buildings, and as the home to Berea College, a private, liberal arts college. The population was 13,561 at the 2010 census. It is one of the fastest-growing towns in Kentucky, having increased by 27.4% since 2000.

Due to the high number of arts and crafts produced, Berea is a tourist attraction. It hosts several crafts festivals throughout the year. Berea also hosts a Spoonbread Festival in mid-September, which features a cornmeal bread traditionally served with a wooden spoon.

Berea is a principal city of the Richmond−Berea Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Madison and Rockcastle counties. It was formally incorporated by the state assembly in 1890.


In 1850 this area, called the Glade, was a community of scattered farms with a racetrack and citizens sympathetic to emancipation. In 1853, rich and politically ambitious Cassius Marcellus Clay gave Reverend John Gregg Fee a free tract of land in the Glade. With local supporters and other abolitionist missionaries from the American Missionary Association, Fee established two churches (First Christian Church and Union Church), a tiny village, and Berea College. Fee named Berea after a biblical town Berea (today Veria) in Macedonia, northern Greece, where the people "received the Word with all readiness of mind."

Founded in 1855, Berea College was the only interracial and coeducational college in the South for nearly forty years. Its motto is "God has made of one blood all peoples of the Earth," a paraphrase of Acts 17:26. Reverend Fee modeled it on Oberlin College in Ohio and hoped it would become an academic beacon to Northern students. Pro-slavery supporters expelled Fee and his followers from Berea in 1859, in the aftermath of John Brown's Raid. Fee had delivered an address at the Pilgrim Church in Brooklyn, New York, in the pulpit of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher. Fee's remarks were reported in the New York Times, but were misrepresented in the Louisville Courier. Subsequently, everyone at the college was given ten days to leave the state. Most lived in Cincinnati or nearby northern towns for several years, returning for good after the war.

Starting in 1864, during the American Civil War, John G. Fee applied his energies to improving conditions for former slaves at Camp Nelson who had volunteered for the Union Army. He started with preaching but saw there were other pressing needs for them and their families. He helped arrange for construction of facilities to support them and their families at the camp, including housing, a hospital, church and school. After the war, African-American families came to Berea to take part in its education and interracial vision. For years it included instruction in preparatory grades for college.

In the 1890s, as part of a general heritage movement in the US, there was a growing national interest in the culture and traditions of Appalachia by writers, academics, missionaries and teachers. In addition to organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and Daughters of the Confederacy (DOC) being founded, people had renewed interest in traditional crafts. It was in part a reaction to continuing urbanization and industrialization. Fascinated by the rich culture of Appalachia and dismayed by the region's isolation and poverty, donors to Berea College were enthusiastic about the quality of traditional coverlets brought by students in exchange for tuition.

College President William Frost (1893–1920) took many such coverlets with him on fund-raising trips North. The college had maintained connections with groups in Boston and other cities which had supported it from its earliest days. Frost, perceiving a national market for traditional crafts, established the first Berea College Fireside Industries. Frost encouraged craftspeople to move to Berea. The college built a loom house and hired a supervisor to train and maintain the quality of student work. The first supervisor of weaving was Jennie Lester Hill. She was succeeded in 1911 by Anna Ernberg, a Swedish weaver who at Berea taught several influential figures in the American Handweaving Revival.

Berea College attracts many regional, national, as well as international students. Students work on campus and receive free tuition. There are many criteria for getting into this college, including a modest family income, or an independent status as a student. It is also assumed that to get into Berea College, students must have at least a 3.8 unweighted High School GPA. The college's current president is Dr. Lyle Roelofs.

Berea has maintained its support for traditional arts and crafts. The recently built Kentucky Artisan Center, located at Exit 77 of Interstate 75, hosts a wide variety of works by Kentucky artisans. The Old Town and College Square areas have numerous galleries selling locally- and regionally-produced arts and crafts, as well as the studios of working artists. In 1922, David Carroll Churchill founded Churchill Weavers, which produced handwoven goods until spring 2007.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.4 square miles (24 km2), of which 9.3 square miles (24 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) (0.32%) is water. Berea is on the border of the Cumberland Plateau. The area has a mountainous appearance, but most outcroppings in the area have a max elevation of 2500 ft.


Berea has a humid continental climate. They have warm summers and cold winters. Summers tend to be humid and sunny, with occasional storms, while winters are generally cold with many milder periods.

Climate data for Berea, Kentucky
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 77
Average high °F (°C) 45
Average low °F (°C) 28
Record low °F (°C) −21
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.91
Source: The Weather Channel.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 580
1900 762
1910 1,510 98.2%
1920 1,640 8.6%
1930 1,827 11.4%
1940 2,176 19.1%
1950 3,372 55.0%
1960 4,302 27.6%
1970 6,956 61.7%
1980 8,226 18.3%
1990 9,126 10.9%
2000 9,851 7.9%
2010 13,561 37.7%
Est. 2015 14,882 9.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

At the 2010 census, there were 13,561 people, 5,119 households and 3,382 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,458.2 per square mile (560.4/km²). There were 5,633 housing units at an average density of 612.3 per square mile (232.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.7% White, 4.00% African American, 0.5% Native American, 1.2 percent Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.9% from other races, and 2.6% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 2.7% of the population.

There were 5,119 households of which 31.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them. 47.1% were married couples living together, 4.5% had a male householder with no wife present, 14.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.9% were non-families. 28.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 22.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.92. It is known as a politically progressive community with an active arts and crafts movement and a large number of arts professionals among its residents.

The age distribution was 22.7% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 21, 53.2% from 21 to 62, 2.8% from 62 to 65, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32.4 years. The population was 53.4% female and 46.6% male (81 males per 100 females).

The median household income was $38,333 and the median family income was $45,541. Males had a median income of $28,304 compared $12,163 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,003. About 27.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.6% of those under age 18 and 7.0% of those age 65 or over.

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