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Central City
St. Joseph's Catholic Church on Broad Street
St. Joseph's Catholic Church on Broad Street
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Location of Central City in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.
Location of Central City in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky.
Country United States
State Kentucky
County Muhlenberg
Established Morehead's Horse Mill, 1826
Incorporated Stroud City, 1873
Incorporated Central City, 1882
 • Type Mayor-City Administrator- City Council
 • Total 5.25 sq mi (13.59 km2)
 • Land 5.24 sq mi (13.56 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)
436 ft (133 m)
 • Total 5,819
 • Density 1,111.13/sq mi (429.05/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 270 & 364
FIPS code 21-13978
GNIS feature ID 0489282

Central City is a home rule-class city in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, in the United States. The population was 5,978 at the 2010 census. It is also the largest city in the county and the principal community in the Central City Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Muhlenberg County.


The site of present-day Central City was originally known as Morehead's Horse Mill after local resident Charles S. Morehead's steam-powered gristmill. A larger community began to develop after the 1870 advent of the Elizabethtown and Paducah Railroad. A post office was constructed the next year in 1871 and called Owensboro Junction after the projected 1872 completion of the Owensboro and Russellville Railroad. By 1873, the settlement was large enough to be incorporated by the state legislature as Stroud City, after local landowner John Stroud.

The same year, however, the du Pont's Central Coal and Iron Company began operation in the area and became so vital to the local economy that the city was reïncorporated in 1882 as Central City. Recessions replaced the E&P and the O&R with a procession of different companies, including the Owensboro and Nashville Railway, but the two rights of way always remained in separate hands, keeping Central City an important regional hub for the Illinois Central and the L&N, with train yards, roundhouses, and even an elevated rail station. Coal was mined from nearby fields, prompting explosions such as one in 1912 that killed 5 workers.

The expansion of automotive traffic in the early 20th century reduced some of Central City's importance, but it continues to service mainline freight traffic on the Paducah and Louisville Railway and trunk-line service for CSX from Madisonville to the Paradise Fossil Plant, minutes south of the city.

Central City is the only city in Muhlenberg County that allows liquor to be sold by package stores and by the drink in restaurants seating at least 100 persons. Muhlenberg County is dry.


Central City is located at 37°17′42″N 87°07′43″W / 37.294989°N 87.128622°W / 37.294989; -87.128622 (37.294989, -87.128622).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.2 square miles (13 km2), all land.

Terrain in Central City is rolling hills to steep bluffs along the northern boundaries of the city along the Green River. The city, along its northwestern border, is known for its swamps and lowland area that remain at or near the water table year-round.

Most of Central City has a sandstone bedrock with #9 bituminous coal underlying the bedrock. Central City has a number of old underground coal mine shafts that still crisscross the city. Most of these old shafts date back to the early 1900s. The majority of terrain around the city limits is reclaimed land where surface mining has taken place.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1890 1,144
1900 1,348 17.8%
1910 2,545 88.8%
1920 3,108 22.1%
1930 4,321 39.0%
1940 4,199 −2.8%
1950 4,110 −2.1%
1960 3,694 −10.1%
1970 5,450 47.5%
1980 5,214 −4.3%
1990 4,979 −4.5%
2000 5,893 18.4%
2010 5,978 1.4%
2020 5,819 −2.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 5,893 people, 2,065 households, and 1,410 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,126.2 people per square mile (435.0/km2). There were 2,313 housing units at an average density of 442.0 per square mile (170.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 88.07% White, 10.67% African American, 0.05% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.41% from other races, and 0.54% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.80% of the population.

There were 2,065 households, out of which 28.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5% were married couples living together, 13.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.7% were non-families. 29.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 15.5% 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 2.95.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 20.1% under the age of 18, 10.6% from 18 to 24, 30.8% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 116.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 120.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $27,371, and the median income for a family was $32,959. Males had a median income of $29,284 versus $18,265 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,637. About 18.4% of families and 20.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.3% of those under age 18 and 21.4% of those age 65 or over.

Sites and events of interest

Everly Brothers Homecoming / Labor Day Cruise-In

On Labor Day Weekend 1988, Central City began hosting The Everly Brothers Homecoming event to raise money for a scholarship fund for Muhlenberg County students. The Homecoming became a popular annual event for fourteen years, before ending in 2002.

Not to be discouraged, the citizens reformed the event as a weekend long cruise-in and car show that is still held annually on Labor Day Weekend.

Kentucky Women's Hall of Fame, Inc.

Sponsored by the Central City Business & Professional Women's Club, the Hall of Fame is located inside the Central City Public Library, 108 E. Broad Street and features a portrait and memorabilia gallery which includes former Governor Martha Layne Collins, Country & Western music giant Loretta Lynn, and local author, editorialist, historian, war correspondent for the Service Star and noted cultivator of roses Agnes S. Harralson. Central City Library hours are Monday 9 am - 7 pm; Tuesday - Friday 9 am - 5 pm ; Saturday 9 am - 1 pm. for more info; Central City BPW meets the second Tuesday of each month in the library meeting room at 6:00 pm - visitors are welcome.

Muhlenberg County Rail Trail

Powderly KY P&L Railcar
A refurbished railcar from the Paducah and Louisville Railroad along the Muhlenberg County Rail Trail

The Muhlenberg County Rail Trail is a paved trail following an old Paducah and Louisville railway route between Central City and Greenville that is open to pedestrian and non-motorized vehicle traffic. Kentucky's most extensive rail trail conversion to date, the Muhlenberg Rail Trail opened October 20, 2000 and was named "Trail of the Month" by the Rails to Trails Conservancy in May 2004. A viewing platform and birding guide are available where the trail passes through a local wetland. The Muhlenberg County Rails to Trails Committee has railbanked an additional 3 miles of abandoned rail, possibly for a later extension into McLean County.


Major employers in Central City include:

  • Brewco
  • Brewer, Inc.
  • Green River Correctional Complex
  • Kentucky Utilities Green River Generating Station
  • Armstrong Coal Company Parkway Mine
  • KenAmerican Paradise Underground Mine
  • Wal-Mart Supercenter
  • Central City Elementary School


Central City is home to Central City Elementary School. Central City Elementary School is a feeder school for Muhlenberg North Middle School which, in turn, feeds Muhlenberg County High School.

Central City is also home to the Muhlenberg Campus of Madisonville Community College, completed in 2001.

Central City has a lending library, a branch of the Muhlenberg County Public Library.

Notable residents

  • Tom Christerson, second recipient of an artificial heart
  • T. Coleman du Pont, manager for the Central Coal & Iron Company, later president of Dupont and a Republican senator for Delaware
  • Don Everly of The Everly Brothers, musician
  • Bernard Hickman, former head coach of the Louisville Cardinals men's basketball team
  • Halley G. Maddox, US Army major general
  • Ziggy Sears, Major League Baseball umpire
  • Jim Walker, musician
  • Corky Withrow, baseball player

See also

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