Throwback Thursday – The ghost town of Kyrock, the boomtown that once was

They say ghost towns are a thing of the Old West, the skeletons of communities that once thrived. Nearby Edmonson county has its own ghost of a community. All that’s left of Kyrock, established in 1918 and disappeared by 1957, is the concrete foundation of a swinging footbridge over Pigeon Creek.

The Kentucky Rock Asphalt Company founded the town. The company itself started just a year prior, in 1917, when two companies in rock mining and paving merged. Eight rock quarries and an asphalt processing plant opened here, creating silica sand, the first material ever used for paving roads. The asphalt produced here first paved many of our area’s modern roadways, even the Indy Motor Speedway, and to roads as far away as Cuba and Brazil. 

An entire town popped up out this wilderness of the Mammoth Cave area, with about 2,000 people living here during its heyday. Superintendent Harry St. George Tucker Carmichael led the company during most of its years. There was an elementary and high school, churches, post office, and hospital. Though entire neighborhood camps were built overnight, families still found time to enjoy picnics and baseball games.

The Kentucky Rock Asphalt Company mined, processed, and shipped hundreds of tons over the Green and Nolin Rivers, utilizing some of the best steamboats of its time, including the Helen H and McGhee. It was the state’s most successful asphalt mine for the 40 years it operated, but petroleum-based asphalt’s lower production costs meant the end of Kyrock.

Superintendent Carmichael passed in 1949, and the company closed its doors by 1957. Kentucky native Ernie Elmore published A Pictorial History of Kyrock a few years ago, telling the story of the company and town that once was. With over 60 years of fading memories, all that survive now with a Kyrock name are an elementary school in nearby Sweeden, a couple roads, and a rural fire department. A place lost to the modernization of men, Kyrock’s historic marker tells the tale.