Historic Preservation Pays Off in Boyle County, KY

Danville's Main Street programs and adaptive reuse of historic buildings help boost economic development.

By Laura Hill on Wed, 12/11/2013 - 17:14

If the thought of historic downtown buildings conjures up images of dusty museums and derelict houses, come to Boyle County – and rethink your perception of historic preservation. Danville and Perryville have turned what might have been discarded bits of history into beautiful, interesting and useful buildings brought to modern life.

“Historic preservation is an important part of economic development in Boyle County,” says Jody Lassiter, president/CEO of the Danville/Boyle County Economic Development Partnership, which in 2013 relocated to an innovative economic development “campus” in Constitution Square Park.

Danville EDP Campus

The new downtown campus’s historic buildings, which have long been tourist attractions, were recently restored to serve as offices for EDP partner organizations. Heart of Danville, the city’s major historic preservation organization, is housed in the Goldsmith House. The Convention and Visitors Bureau remains in Grayson’s Tavern, while the Danville-Boyle Chamber of Commerce, the Boyle County Industrial Foundation and EDP central offices have moved into Fishers Row.

The old schoolhouse has been adapted for use as the Harold McKinney Conference Center, and additional meeting facilities are housed in the Watts-Bell House.

The new campus came about after the state offered the park to Boyle County in 2012. The timing was perfect, as the EDP was looking for a new location.

Even better, the Boyle County Fiscal Court received a $500,000 federal grant that paid for the renovation. EDP partners moved to their new digs in summer 2013, and have been enjoying their new headquarters.

“It’s so much easier when you are located in essentially the town square of Danville, a spot that people automatically recognize,” Lassiter says. “I think the Constitution Square project uniquely demonstrates our community’s creativity and ‘can-do’ attitude to our business prospects.”

Preservation an Economic Plus

That creative approach to historic preservation has set Danville and Boyle County apart for many years. Heart of Danville, established in 1986, has undertaken more than 100 preservation projects.

In 2001 it became the first Kentucky Main Street program to earn the Great American Main Street award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. While saving buildings and hosting events has been an important part of the program’s work, Heart of Danville Executive Director Bethany Rogers says the focus now is on helping sustain the economic vitality of Main Street.

“It takes a lot of money to bring these downtowns back to life,” Rogers says. “A lot of what we do these days is really try to help small business owners. We want our businesses to do well and remind people they don’t have to drive to the big city to shop.”

Perryville Preserves Its History

Neighboring Perryville is all about raising awareness too. Site of a bloody 1862 Civil War battle, the town recently commemorated the battle’s anniversary with educational activities and reenactments of the fighting. The celebration capped major, continuing efforts to restore the Perryville Battlefield.

Its downtown Main Street program, in its seventh year, has been hard at work restoring and revitalizing one of the oldest commercial districts in the U.S., helping adapt buildings for modern use, undertaking streetscape upgrades along Main Street and letting visitors and residents alike know about this gem of a downtown.

“Economic stability is what Main Street is all about,” says Main Street director Vicki Goode. “We’re saving the past to ensure the future.”

Learn more about the historical sites in Danville, KY.


Laura Hill is a former reporter/columnist for the Tennessean and a contributor to Journal Communications publications since 1996. She enjoys travel, food, jazz, Titans football, her grown kids and the...

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