Throwback Thursday – The Kentucky Building Turns 80

Throwback Thursday has featured many interesting segments about the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University over the past three years. A milestone anniversary of the museum’s home itself is being celebrated this year. Dedicated in 1939, the Kentucky Building is 80 years old.

Construction began in 1931 under university President Cherry. Designed by Brinton B. Davis, the Kentucky Building was initially a 40,000-square-foot Georgian-Revival style structure with reception areas, classrooms, galleries and a library. When the Great Depression hit Bowling Green, construction halted and only the exterior was completed.

University President Paul Garrett hired architect James Ingram to complete the interior after new fundraising efforts were completed in 1937. At a cost of $300,000, the Kentucky Building officially opened on November 16, 1939, former President Cherry’s birthday. 

Kentuckians statewide were invited to donate items and money for the building’s existence. Between fundraising and artifacts preserving the state’s history, everyday citizens were encouraged to submit everything from newspapers to magazines, letters and diaries, and even clothing. 

The Kentucky Building’s reception room features high ceilings, grand woodwork, large fireplaces and portraits of notable Kentuckians. In 1977 the building doubled in size after a massive $2,700,000 renovation. Now the building is home to the museum, Library Special Collections and WKU archives.

The museum hosts rotating exhibits, community events, field trips for students of all ages, and is a Bowling Green cultural staple.