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Somerset, Kentucky
Corner of Main Street and West Columbia Street, featuring the historic Goldenburg Furniture building
Corner of Main Street and West Columbia Street, featuring the historic Goldenburg Furniture building
Welcome Home
Location of Somerset in Pulaski County, Kentucky.
Location of Somerset in Pulaski County, Kentucky.
Country United States
State Kentucky
County Pulaski
 • Total 11.73 sq mi (30.39 km2)
 • Land 11.72 sq mi (30.35 km2)
 • Water 0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)
971 ft (296 m)
 • Total 11,196
 • Estimate 
 • Density 988.82/sq mi (381.78/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 606
FIPS code 21-71688
GNIS feature ID 0503873

Somerset is a home rule-class city in Pulaski County, Kentucky, United States. The city population was 11,196 according to the 2010 census. It is the seat of Pulaski County.


Somerset was first settled in 1798 by Thomas Hansford and received its name from Somerset County, New Jersey, where some of the early settlers had formerly lived. Somerset became the Pulaski County seat in 1802, and it was incorporated as a city in 1887. A significant Civil War battle was fought in January 1862, at Mill Springs (now "Nancy") about 8 miles (13 km) west of Somerset, and a museum is at the site. A smaller battle was fought nearby at Dutton's Hill in 1863. The completion of Lake Cumberland in 1950 transformed Somerset from a sleepy rural community into one of the largest recreation centers in Kentucky, drawing more than 1.7 million visitors annually, especially between the Memorial and Labor Day holidays.


Somerset is located at 37°4′59″N 84°36′34″W / 37.08306°N 84.60944°W / 37.08306; -84.60944 (37.082966, -84.609387), and the downtown (central) part of the city is at an elevation of around 750–800 feet above sea level. The city is located at the eastern end of Kentucky's Mississippian Plateau (or Pennyroyal Plateau); however, the micropolitan area extends eastward into the Appalachian Plateau (or Eastern Kentucky Coalfield), and northward to Kentucky's Outer Bluegrass region. Thus, the area shows significant variations in landforms and scenery.

Nearby Lake Cumberland is one of the largest man-made lakes in the world (101 miles in length, with an average depth of 85 feet (26 m) and a normal pool containing more than 2 trillion gallons of water). Somerset is also near Cumberland Falls and the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area; its tourism industries are, in part, due to its scenic and varied landscape.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.3 square miles (29 km2), of which 11.3 square miles (29 km2) is land and 0.09% is water.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Somerset has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.

Somerset's climate is warm during summer when temperatures tend to be in the 80s and mild during winter when temperatures tend to be in the 30s and 40s. The warmest month of the year is July with an average daily maximum temperature of 86 °F (30 °C). The coldest month of the year is January with an average minimum temperature of 25.10 °F (−3.83 °C).

The annual average precipitation at Somerset is 51.08 inches (1,297 mm). Rainfall is fairly evenly distributed throughout the year. The wettest month of the year is May with an average rainfall of 5.17 inches (131 mm). Snowfall typically occurs between the months of December and February, though on record as early as November and as late as April.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 231
1850 412
1860 662 60.7%
1870 587 −11.3%
1880 805 37.1%
1890 2,625 226.1%
1900 3,384 28.9%
1910 4,491 32.7%
1920 4,072 −9.3%
1930 5,508 35.3%
1940 6,154 11.7%
1950 7,097 15.3%
1960 7,112 0.2%
1970 10,436 46.7%
1980 10,649 2.0%
1990 10,733 0.8%
2000 11,352 5.8%
2010 11,196 −1.4%
2019 (est.) 11,585 3.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

The major demographic differences between the city and the micropolitan area relate to income, housing composition and age. The micropolitan area, as compared to the incorporated city, is more suburban in flavor and has a significantly younger housing stock, a higher income, and contains most of the area's school age population. Over the last 20 years, significant housing growth has occurred along the Fishing Creek tributary of Lake Cumberland, which lies just to the west of the City of Somerset, and along the main body of Lake Cumberland between the City of Burnside and Fishing Creek. Much of the Somerset area housing growth in the last 20 years is decidedly lake-oriented.

As of the census of 2000, there were 11,352 people, 4,831 households, and 2,845 families residing within the City of Somerset (proper). The population density for the city proper was 1,007.1 persons per square mile (388.9/km2). A large karst valley occupies the south-central portion of the city, taking up about 25% of the land area; this valley is quasi-industrialized and also contains parks and recreational facilities; most of the population lies to the east and north of this valley in fairly compact and well-kept residential neighborhoods that have a real population density of about 1,800 persons per square mile. There were 5,428 housing units at an average density of 481.5 per square mile (186.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.16% White, 3.66% Black, 0.18% Native American, 0.71% Asian, 0.26% from other races, and 1.02% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.99% of the population.

There were 4,831 households, out of which 26.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.3% were married couples living together, 15.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.1% were non-families. 37.8% of all households were made up of individuals, 18.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.13 and the average family size was 2.80.

In the city proper, 20.6% were under the age of 18, 8.5% were in the age cohort from 18 to 24, 27.8% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 21.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females, there were 82.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $22,362, and the median income for a family was $31,226. Males had a median income of $28,536 versus $20,194 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,048. About 16.4% of families and 22.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.3% of those under age 18 and 18.9% of those age 65 or over.

Popular culture

  • The FX drama Justified mentions Somerset frequently in Seasons 1, 2, 3, and 5. A bank robbery scene was filmed in downtown Somerset during Season 1.
  • Somerset has also been featured on television many times as a result of the Somernites Cruise event. Somernites Cruise has been featured on My Classic Car on the Speed Channel, "Horsepower TV" multiple times on the Spike TV network, Car Crazy on the Speed Channel, "Mothers Car Show Series" on ESPN2 and the "Lokar Car Show Series" on Fox Sports.


Tourism is important to Somerset, due to its proximity to Lake Cumberland and other events. Lake Cumberland alone generates approximately $150 million in revenue each year, though the industry has been greatly impacted in recent years by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' work on the Wolf Creek Dam. Since 2007, Lake Cumberland has been at low levels to facilitate the Corps work. . The city holds the annual Master Musicians Festival. The Civil War Battle of Mill Springs took place in nearby Nancy and the reenactments held there often draw large crowds. In November 2006, the Mill Springs Battlefield Visitor Center and Museum opened. Their efforts focus on the preservation of the battlefield while providing educational resources to visitors.

Commerce, driven in part by the area's tourism, thrives in Somerset. The city is home to a small mall and several shopping centers. Most of these stores, as well as many restaurants and hotels are located along U.S. Route 27, making up the state's longest stretch of businesses outside of Louisville and Lexington.

Begun in 2001, Somernites Cruise is a monthly classic car show held the fourth weekend of the months April through October. It has now become one of the largest monthly classic car events in the southeastern United States averaging over 1,100 cars each month. As a result of this event, the Kentucky State Legislature has named Somerset as "The Car Cruise Capital of Kentucky."

Somerset has also increasingly been taking on the functions of a major medical center. In 2006, a new 58-acre (230,000 m2) medical park, called MedPark West, was finished near the Lake Cumberland Regional Hospital (LCRH). Since completion, several new medical practices have opened there. LCRH is one of the largest in the state and is surrounded by many doctors' offices and pharmacies. LCRH is regional hub for the region's only advanced medical services. LCRH is a JCAHO-accredited hospital with 304 beds. A virtual online tour of the hospital is available. An advanced ventilator care facility, Rockcastle Regional Hospital and Respiratory Care Center, is in adjoining Rockcastle County.

On June 26, 2012 Somerset city voters approved the sale of alcoholic beverages by a margin of 2167 "Wet" votes to 1464 "Dry" votes. This vote will allow for packaged liquor and beer sales and sales by the drink at restaurants and bars.

In 2014, a municipal-run filling station, the Somerset Fuel Center, was opened in response to persistently high local gas prices. "The price of gas will be based on an average regional price and will include a small markup to cover costs, the mayor said." In addition to serving local residents, it is hoped the station will help encourage visits to nearby Lake Cumberland for fishing and boating.

Nearby Somerset, located off Highway 461, is the Valley Oak Technology Complex, a key industrial center in the region. Housed there are such companies as SafeAuto and others. Somerset's location along Lake Cumberland has caused it to become a major houseboat manufacturing center. The city also has auto-associated, flooring, wood-associated, and other industries.


There are several schools in the county, served by two main school systems – Somerset Independent and Pulaski County. Students living within the city limits typically fall under the Somerset Independent school district. The Pulaski County School System contains Pulaski County High School (PCHS) and Southwestern High School (SWHS), which was built in 1993 to alleviate overcrowding.

There are several other smaller schools, including Tabernacle Christian Academy, Science Hill Independent, Somerset Christian School, and Saline Christian Academy. The three main high schools are Southwestern, Pulaski County, and Somerset. There is a local two-year college, Somerset Community College, part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). Somerset Community College offers one of the few Aviation Maintenance Technology programs (Airframe and Powerplant) in Kentucky.

Somerset has a lending library, a branch of the Pulaski County Public Library.

Notable people

  • James L. Allen – one of the founders of the management consulting firms Booz Allen Hamilton and Strategy
  • Harriette Simpson Arnow – author
  • Howard H. Baker – U.S. congressman for the state of Tennessee
  • John Sherman Cooper – former U.S. senator, liberal Republican, and a member of the Warren Commission
  • Jack Daws – artist
  • Daniel Dutton – artist, lyricist, and composer
  • Bud Foster – former Virginia Tech Hokies football defensive coordinator
  • Lance Fuller – actor
  • Jack I. Gregory – General, USAF, Commander in Chief Pacific Air Forces 1986–1988
  • Vermont Garrison – U.S. Air Force pilot in three wars who achieved "ace" status in both World War II and Korean War
  • Reggie Hanson – former NBA player for the Boston Celtics
  • Chuck Hardwick – politician and businessman, served as Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly
  • Lewis G. Longsworth – chemist, biochemist, recipient of the 1968 American Chemical Society Award in Chromatography and Electrophoresis
  • Ted McCarty – electrical engineer known for his innovations and design work at the Gibson Guitar Corporation
  • Monte Montague – stage and film actor
  • Edwin P. Morrow – Governor of Kentucky, 1919–1923
  • Joseph Buford Pennybacker, (1907–1983) railroad worker's son and neurosurgeon. Educated at the University of Tennessee and Edinburgh University and trained in London by Sir Hugh Cairns, in 1952 he succeeded Cairns as director of the neurosurgery department at Oxford's [now closed] Radcliffe Infirmary. Passionate in his support for the UK's NHS, he became a British citizen in 1967 and in 1971 retired to Argyllshire, Scotland, where he died. He pioneered the use of penicillin in operations to drain and remove cerebral abscesses.
  • Tunstall Quarles – pioneer settler of Somerset, lawyer, state representative, state senator. Organized first bank in Somerset
  • Venus Ramey – Miss America 1944
  • Lloyd B. Ramsey, (1918–2016), Major General United States Army, Commander 23rd Infantry Division (United States) (1969–1970), United States Army Provost Marshal General (1970–1974)
  • Red Roberts – American football player and coach.
  • Hal RogersU.S. Representative for Kentucky's 5th congressional district, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee
  • Tommy Lee Wallace – film producer, director, and screenwriter
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