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Williamsburg, Kentucky
Community Assessment 017.jpg
The 'Burg; Gateway to the Cumberlands
"Feels Like Home"
Location in the Commonwealth of Kentucky
Location in the Commonwealth of Kentucky
Country United States
State Kentucky
County Whitley
Established February 5, 1819 (1819-02-05)
Incorporated March 3, 1851 (1851-03-03)
First meeting of city government June 4, 1894 (1894-06-04)
 • Total 4.8 sq mi (12.4 km2)
 • Land 4.7 sq mi (12.1 km2)
 • Water 0.1 sq mi (0.3 km2)
928 ft (283 m)
 • Total 5,245
 • Density 1,092.7/sq mi (423.0/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (EST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 606
FIPS code 21-83334
GNIS feature ID 0516385

Williamsburg is a home rule-class city in and the county seat of Whitley County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 5,245 at the 2010 census. The city was founded in 1818 and named after William Whitley. The Cumberland River flows through the city.


Williamsburg was first known as the Spring Ford after a nearby ford crossing the Cumberland River. On 19 April 1818 the first meeting of the Whitley County Court was held at Samuel Cox's own home. This first court appointed local officials as well as constables to work with the county militia. The town was then known simply as Whitley Courthouse. This name would be changed in 1882 to Williamsburgh, and later changed in 1890 to its current Williamsburg.

The town's initial growth was fueled by three fresh water springs in the area and then by coal and lumber industries. This growth was greatly accelerated by the introduction of the L&N railroad coming to the town in 1883, opening the town to far flung markets and greatly easing the flow of population. Shortly thereafter in 1886 the town would elect W. H. Parker as its first mayor.

This first city government would enact a number of new ordinances including:

  • Prohibiting Gambling
  • Prohibiting Rolling Hoops on Sidewalks
  • Prohibiting Barbering on Sundays
  • Prohibiting Unattended Cattle on Main Street

The Williamsburg school system was established in 1909 when the town voted to consolidate the multiple single-room schools in the area into one unified school district. This building would be destroyed by fire in 1926 and rebuilt into what would eventually be remodeled into the Anderson Building currently in use by the University of the Cumberlands. Finally, the district would move to its current location in 1983.

Similarly, the county courthouse would be destroyed by fire in 1931, rebuilt, and then renovated 40 years later in 1971. Finally, in 2011 the courthouse was moved to the newly constructed Whitley County Judicial Center located adjacent to the old courthouse.


Williamsburg is located at 36°44′12″N 84°09′53″W / 36.736576°N 84.164713°W / 36.736576; -84.164713, within the Eastern Mountain Coal Fields and the Appalachian Plateau regions. It rests along the I-75 corridor at exits 11 and 15. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.8 square miles (12 km2), of which 4.7 square miles (12 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (2.10%) is water.

Percent of U.S. within 600 miles (970 km) of Williamsburg:

  • Population: 52%
  • Personal Income: 50%
  • Retail Sales: 49%
  • Manufacturing Employment: 57%

Points of interest

Williamsburg is home to the Kentucky Splash Waterpark (located within the Hal Rogers Family Entertainment Center). The $5 million facility also houses a go-cart course, a miniature golf course, and a five-station batting cage. The park opened on Memorial Day weekend 2001 and is the largest family entertainment center in Kentucky with a capacity of up to 3,000 guests.

Williamsburg is located 18 miles (29 km) away Cumberland Falls State Resort Park within the Daniel Boone National Forest. The park is the home of Cumberland Falls, sometimes called the Little Niagara, the Niagara of the South or the Great Falls and is the only venue in the Western Hemisphere where a moonbow or lunar rainbow is regularly visible on a clear night with a full moon. On average the falls, which flow over a resistant sandstone bed, are 68 feet (21 m) high and 125 feet (38 m) wide, with an average water flow of 3,600 cubic feet (100 m3) per second (100 m³/s).Trails winding downstream from the park on either side of the river lead to the smaller Angel Falls and Dog Slaughter Falls. Angel Falls is located 1.5 miles (2.4 km) from the park on the McCreary County side and Dog Slaughter Falls is located 3.5 miles (5.6 km) from the park on the Whitley County side. The Below the Falls section of the river includes a five-mile (8 km) long class 2-3 run that is ideal for families and beginner stage white water rafters and kayakers.

Williamsburg is located 20 minutes away from the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, a major tributary of the Cumberland River system and a class 3-4 whitewater canoeing and kayaking stream. The Big South Fork is also home to Yahoo Falls, which stand 113 feet (34.8 m) high. Further along, the trail leads to the Yahoo Arch.

Williamsburg is also home to one of the number one bluegrass festivals in the state of Kentucky (the Sally Gap Bluegrass Festival). Other events are the Jeep Jamboree (an off-road sporting event), and the Border Bowl, an annual event for two teams of high school footballers representing Kentucky and Tennessee.


As of the 2000 census Whitley County, Kentucky of which Williamsburg is the county seat consisted of 22,645 Evangelical Christians, 1,741 Mainline Christians, 130 Catholics, and 11,394 individuals who are not members of the 188 groups included in the Churches & Church Membership Data. As of the same date 69.4% of individuals in Whitley County were members of the Southern Baptist Convention. Williamsburg boasts 21 religious institutions or one religious institution per 243 citizens, and as of the year 2000 the region that contains the town has been designated the second densest region of the bible belt. University of the Cumberlands, located in the town is a private Christian college affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 123
1870 139 13.0%
1880 208 49.6%
1890 1,376 561.5%
1900 1,495 8.6%
1910 2,004 34.0%
1920 1,767 −11.8%
1930 1,826 3.3%
1940 2,331 27.7%
1950 3,348 43.6%
1960 3,478 3.9%
1970 3,687 6.0%
1980 5,560 50.8%
1990 5,493 −1.2%
2000 5,143 −6.4%
2010 5,245 2.0%
Est. 2015 5,293 0.9%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 5,143 people, 1,928 households, and 1,127 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,102.5 people per square mile (426.1/km²). There were 2,118 housing units at an average density of 454.0 per square mile (175.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.46% White, 1.73% African American, 0.21% Native American, 0.35% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.12% from other races, and 1.11% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.66% of the population.

There were 1,928 households out of which 26.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.9% were married couples living together, 16.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.5% were non-families. 35.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.87.

In the city, the population was spread out with 19.5% under the age of 18, 24.9% from 18 to 24, 22.2% from 25 to 44, 18.4% from 45 to 64, and 15.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 85.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $18,114, and the median income for a family was $25,996. Males had a median income of $31,905 versus $17,339 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,224. About 29.3% of the population and 35.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 49.0% of those under the age of 18 and 15.1% of those ages 65 and older.


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

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