Frankfort, Kentucky

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KY State Capitol.jpg
The Kentucky State Capitol is one of 45 sites in Frankfort listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Franklin County Kentucky Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Frankfort Highlighted 2128900.svg
Location of Frankfort in Franklin County, Kentucky
USA Kentucky location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location of Frankfort in Franklin County, Kentucky
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Red pog.svg
Frankfort (the United States)
Coordinates: 38°12′N84°52′W / 38.200°N 84.867°W / 38.200; -84.867 Coordinates: 38°12′N84°52′W / 38.200°N 84.867°W / 38.200; -84.867
CountryUnited States
State Kentucky
County Franklin
Incorporated February 28, 1835
   Mayor William May
  Total15.07 sq mi (39.02 km2)
  Land14.77 sq mi (38.25 km2)
  Water0.30 sq mi (0.78 km2)
509 ft (155 m)
(2019) [2]
  Density1,879.53/sq mi (725.71/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern (EST))
  Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
ZIP Code
40601-40604, 40618-40622
Area code(s) 502
FIPS code 21-28900
GNIS feature ID 517517
Website City website

Frankfort is the capital city of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the seat of Franklin County. [3] It is a home rule-class city [4] in Kentucky; the population was 25,527 at the 2010 census. Located along the Kentucky River, Frankfort is the principal city of the Frankfort, Kentucky Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Franklin and Anderson counties.




The town of Frankfort likely received its name from an event that took place in the 1780s. Native Americans attacked a group of early European-American pioneers from Bryan Station, who were making salt at a ford in the Kentucky River. Pioneer Stephen Frank was killed, and the settlers thereafter called the crossing "Frank's Ford". This name was later elided to Frankfort. [5]

In 1786, James Wilkinson purchased the 260-acre (110 ha) tract of land on the north side of the Kentucky River, which developed as downtown Frankfort. He was an early promoter of Frankfort as the state capital.

After Kentucky became the 15th state in 1792, five commissioners from various counties were appointed, on 20 June 1792, to choose a location for the capital. They were John Allen and John Edwards (both from Bourbon County), Henry Lee (from Mason), Thomas Kennedy (from Madison), and Robert Todd (from Fayette). A number of communities competed for this honor, but Frankfort won. According to early histories, the offer of Andrew Holmes' log house as capitol for seven years, a number of town lots, £50 worth of locks and hinges, 10 boxes of glass, 1,500 pounds of nails, and $3,000 in gold helped the decision go to Frankfort. [6]

Downtown Frankfort is seen in the foreground, while South Frankfort lies across the river in the background. Fort Hill is in the lower left hand corner, 1871. Frankfort bird eye.jpg
Downtown Frankfort is seen in the foreground, while South Frankfort lies across the river in the background. Fort Hill is in the lower left hand corner, 1871.

Frankfort had a United States post office by 1794, with Daniel Weisiger as postmaster. On 1 October 1794, Weisiger sent the first quarterly account to Washington. [7]

John Brown, a Virginia lawyer and statesman, built a home now called Liberty Hall in Frankfort in 1796. Before Kentucky statehood, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress (1777−78) and the U.S. Congress (1789−91). While in Congress, he introduced the bill granting statehood to Kentucky. After statehood, he was elected by the state legislature as one of the state's U.S. Senators. [8]

In 1796, the Kentucky General Assembly appropriated funds to provide a house to accommodate the governor; it was completed two years later. The Old Governor's Mansion is claimed to be the oldest official executive residence still in use in the United States. In 1829, Gideon Shryock designed the Old Capitol, Kentucky's third, in Greek Revival style. It served Kentucky as its capitol from 1830 to 1910. The separate settlement known as South Frankfort was annexed by the city on 3 January 1850. [9]

The Argus of Western America was published in Frankfort from 1808 until 1830. [10]

During the American Civil War, the Union Army built fortifications overlooking Frankfort on what is now called Fort Hill. The Confederate Army also occupied Frankfort for a short time, starting on 3 September 1862, the only such time that Confederate forces took control of a Union capitol. [5]

1900 to present

Hilltop view of modern-day Frankfort and the Kentucky River (on left) Frankfort kentucky.jpg
Hilltop view of modern-day Frankfort and the Kentucky River (on left)

On 3 February 1900, Governor-elect William Goebel was assassinated in Frankfort while walking to the capitol on the way to his inauguration. Former Secretary of State Caleb Powers was later found guilty of a conspiracy to murder Goebel. [11]

Frankfort grew considerably in the 1960s. A modern addition to the State Office Building was completed in 1967. The original building was completed in the 1930s on the location of the former Kentucky State Penitentiary. Some of the stone from the old prison was used for the walls surrounding the office building. [12]

The Capitol Plaza was established in the 1960s. It comprised the Capitol Plaza Office Tower, the tallest building in the city, the Capitol Plaza Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn, Frankfort), and the Fountain Place Shoppes. The Capital Plaza Office Tower opened in 1972 and became a visual landmark for the center of the city. By the early 2000s, maintenance of the concrete structures had been neglected and the plaza had fallen into disrepair, with sections of the plaza closed to pedestrian activity out of concerns for safety. In August 2008, city officials recommended demolition of the Tower and redevelopment the area over a period of years. Ten years later, the demolition of the office tower was completed on Sunday, 11 March 2018, at 1:30 PM EST, [13] and was televised by WKYT-TV on The CW Lexington as well as streamed live on Facebook. Demolition of the nearby convention center, which opened in 1971 and has hosted sporting events, concerts, and other local events, was completed in Spring 2018. [13]

City officials intend to replace the outdated office tower with a smaller, four- or five-story building in order to create a more pedestrian-oriented scale at the complex, to encourage street activity. [14]

Frankfort is home to several distilleries including the Buffalo Trace Distillery (Kentucky Bourbon), Castle & Key Distillery (spirits), and Three Boys Farm Distillery (bourbon and whisky). [15]

Although there was some rapid economic and population growth in the 1960s, both tapered off in the 1980s and have remained fairly stable since that time.[ citation needed ]

In 2018, several teachers protested at the city in response to Senate Bill 151 having been passed on 29 March 2018. [16]


Astronaut photography of Frankfort, Kentucky, taken from the International Space Station (ISS) Frankfort Kentucky.jpg
Astronaut photography of Frankfort, Kentucky, taken from the International Space Station (ISS)

Frankfort is located in the (inner) Bluegrass region of Central Kentucky. The city is bisected by the Kentucky River, which makes an s-turn as it passes through the center of town. The river valley widens at this point, which creates four distinct parts of town. The valley within the city limits contains Downtown and South Frankfort districts, which lie opposite one another on the river. A small neighborhood with its own distinct identity, Bellepoint, is located on the west bank of the river to the north of Benson Creek, opposite the river from the "downtown" district. The suburban areas on either side of the valley are respectively referred to as the "West Side" and "East Side" (or "West Frankfort" and "East Frankfort").

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.6 square miles (37.8 km2), of which 14.3 square miles (37.0 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) is water.

Frankfort does not have a commercial airport and travelers fly into Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport near Covington or Louisville International Airport in Louisville. Capital City Airport serves general and military aviation.


Frankfort has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. Winter is generally cool with some snowfall. Spring and fall are both mild and relatively warm, with ample precipitation and thunderstorm activity. Summers are hot and humid.

Climate data for Downtown Frankfort, Kentucky
Record high °F (°C)80
Average high °F (°C)41.5
Daily mean °F (°C)31.7
Average low °F (°C)21.9
Record low °F (°C)−27
Average precipitation inches (mm)3.70
Average snowfall inches (cm)3.4
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)1110111111109877910114
Average snowy days8.
Source: NOAA (normals 1981–2010), [17] Southeast Regional Climate Center (precipitation, snow and extremes 1895–2002) [18] and [19]


Historical population
1800 628
1810 1,09975.0%
1820 1,67952.8%
1830 1,6820.2%
1840 1,91714.0%
1850 3,30872.6%
1860 3,70211.9%
1870 5,39645.8%
1880 6,95828.9%
1890 7,89213.4%
1900 9,48720.2%
1910 10,46510.3%
1920 9,805−6.3%
1930 11,62618.6%
1940 11,492−1.2%
1950 11,9163.7%
1960 18,36554.1%
1970 21,90219.3%
1980 25,97318.6%
1990 25,9680.0%
2000 27,7416.8%
2010 25,527−8.0%
Est. 201927,755 [2] 8.7%
U.S. Decennial Census [20]

As of the 2010 Census, [21] there were 25,527 people, 11,140 households, and 6,053 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,746.3 per square mile (674.3/km2). There were 12,938 housing units at an average density of 885.1 per square mile (341.7/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 77.1% White or European American (75.6% non-Hispanic), 16.5% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 1.4% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.8% from other races, and 2.9% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 1.48% of the population.

There were 11,140 households out of which 27.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 32,6% were married couples living together, 16.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.1% had a male householder with no wife present, and 45.7% were non-families. 38.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.14 and the average family size was 2.83.

The age distribution was 20.8% under 18, 13.1% from 18 to 24, 26.6% from 25 to 44, 25.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.0% who were 65 or older. The median age was 36.7 years. For every 100 females, there were 92.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $40,009, and the median income for a family was $43,949. Full-time male workers had a median income of $37,445 versus $34,613 for females. The per capita income was $22,299. About 19.8% of families and 22.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 38.7% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.

Frankfort is the focal point of a micropolitan statistical area consisting of Frankfort and Franklin County as well as adjacent Lawrenceburg and Anderson County. The city is also classified in a combined statistical area with Lexington and Richmond to the east.

Frankfort's municipal population makes it the fourth smallest capital city in the United States.

Parks and recreation

The city operates nine parks: [22]

Other recreation in the area:


Kentucky State University is located with the Frankfort city limits. KSU (also known as KYSU) is a public historically black university and an 1890 land-grant institution. [29]

Two public school districts serve the city, with three public high schools within the city limits. [29]

Frankfort Independent School District serves the downtown neighborhoods including Downtown, South Frankfort, Bellepoint and Tanglewood. FIS operates The Early Learning Academy (a preschool), Second Street School (primary and middle grades), Frankfort High School, and Panther Transition Academy (a non-traditional high school program). [30]

Franklin County Public Schools serves the rest of the city and county, including seven elementary schools (Bridgeport, Collins Lane, Early Learning Village, Elkhorn, Hearn, Peaks Mill, Westridge), two middle schools (Bondurant, Elkhorn), and two high schools (Franklin County High School and Western Hills High School). [31]

There are several private schools in the area, including Capital Day School, Frankfort Christian Academy, and Good Shepherd Catholic School.

Frankfort has a lending library, Paul Sawyier Public Library, named in 1965 after the watercolor artist Paul Sawyier whose many paintings document the history of the area. [32] [33] [34]

Points of interest

Old State Capitol building and museum Kentucky Old State Capitol - DSC09284.JPG
Old State Capitol building and museum

Notable people

Paul Sawyier, Frankfort's most revered artist 02Sawyier.jpg
Paul Sawyier, Frankfort's most revered artist

Sister cities

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