Whitesburg, Kentucky

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Whitesburg is a city in Letcher County, Kentucky, United States. The population was 1,600 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Letcher County[1].



Whitesburg is home to Appalshop, a multi-disciplinary arts and education center founded in 1969 which produces original films, video, theater, music and spoken-word recordings, radio, photography, multimedia, and books. WMMT 88.7 FM (Mountain Community Radio), also located in Whitesburg, was founded by Appalshop in 1985.

Whitesburg's major newspaper is The Mountain Eagle. Founded by Nehemiah Webb in 1907, the weekly paper has been owned by the Gish family of Letcher County since 1956. The Eagle has won numerous awards for its coverage of strip mining and its environmental effects, education, and political corruption.[2]

Whitesburg is known for its ubiquitous cut stone. The city was home to a community of Italian stone masons who moved there with the coming of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1911-1912. Those masons left their mark on the city and the surrounding county of Letcher. The city includes numerous ashlar stone retaining walls, foundations and bridge abutments, as well as several buildings covered entirely in sandstone pulled from the Kentucky River.

One of its best-known features is an arched stone bridge designed by Roy Crawford, a local mining and civil engineer and land surveyor who was educated through the International Correspondence School and in about 1925 founded R. R. Crawford Engineering, a company that remains family owned and operated. The bridge was built in 1938 across the North Fork of the Kentucky River. The downtown historic district includes many buildings built between 1914 and 1925, a time of incredible expansion in the town. By 1921, all of the pre-Civil War buildings had been razed to make way for new, brick-and-stone edifices. Among the oldest commercial buildings are the former Lewis Wholesale building, built in 1914, which is now used as City Hall; the Fields Building, built 1911-1914, which now houses a restaurant, bookstore and law offices; and the Daniel Boone Hotel, a fine brick building with stone foundations and pressed metal cornice thought to have been built about 1915. It includes several distinctive residences such as the Judge Ira Fields home (1897); the cut stone Palumbo House, and Italian villa-inspired house built by master stone mason John Palumbo; the stately Salyers House Bed and Breakfast, built for Confederate States of America Col. Logan Henry Neal Salyer in the early 20th century; and a Dutch Colonial style home ordered from the Sears Modern Home Catalog and delivered to its owner, in pieces, by railcar in 1928.

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