Quick Facts

  • Eminence was incorporated in 1851
  • Eminence was the first town in Ky. to publish a financial statement of the town
  • Union soldiers took over the fairgrounds across from the cemetery around 1862 and camped there for 3 years
  • Eminence was the first town in Ky to have an annual combination sale of saddle and harness horses
  • Eminence is the highest point between Louisville and Lexington--900 ft. above sea level
  • Eminence was a "stop" on the L & N Railroad
  • Eminence was the location of:
    • Female College Baptist Academy
    • the Moody House
    • the Blue Ribbon Distillery
    • the Eminence Mill and Elevator Company
  • Eminence is the largest city in the county with an estimated population of 2,231
  • Eminence is the only "wet" city in Henry County

Henry County is located in north-central Kentucky in the outer Bluegrass Region. It has a land area of 289 square miles. The Kentucky River forms the eastern boundary of the County. The population estimates for 1998 are 14,765 persons. Eminence is the largest city in the county with an estimated population of 2,231. Eminence is located 69 miles northwest of Lexington; 38 miles northeast of Louisville; and 65 miles southwest of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Henry County was carved out of a population of Shelby County in 1798. The county was named for Patrick Henry, famous for his "give me liberty or give me death" speech. The city of Eminence was not formally surveyed until April 1854 when a local man named Gideon King gave the right of way through his land for the railroad. The plat was laid 330 feet to the inch and the locations of the New Castle Turnpike, I. C. & I. Railroad, the Christian Church lot; D. Thomson’s lot and G. Kings residence are marked.

When railroads were obtaining their right of ways, it was Gideon King who persuaded the powers that be to run their road over his land. He gave them land, not only in track and station, but also for the freight house and cattle pens. So the road was "detoured" to pass through Gideon King’s Farm. The railroad (completed in 1849) crossing the New Castle-Shelbyville Turnpike on its way from Louisville to Frankfort was the catalyst for the growth of the town.

Eminence, which means "high place", is the highest point along the railroad between Louisville and Lexington and lies 900 feet above the sea level. Bringing the train through Eminence is credited with increasing the population of the city, making it larger than the county seat, New Castle. At one time, the county boasted seven railroad depots. The Eminence passenger depot is still a focal point of the downtown property and only one of two remaining in the County.

Post card of Eminence in a painting style featuring the train station next to the tracks

On Mr. King’s farm, the Moody Hotel was built, providing posh quarters to visitors for many years. Years later, in 1913 when the hotel was being remodeled, the owner dug a tunnel underground from the Hotel, under the railroad tracks to the low ground beyond. Later, when the Louisville Nashville Railroad wouldn’t let them build even a ditch under the railroad, sewer pipes were laid in the previously dug tunnel.

In 1882 an atlas of the County was underway. Both the area originally planned by Mr. King and the population doubled. Eminence Village was listed as having a population of 1,043. Churches had sprung up and the Male and Female Seminary was located in the area as well.

The New Castle-Shelbyville Turnpike was now called Main Street. King Street separated Gideon’s King’s residence from the more central part of town. In 1921, Mr. King’s home was moved to occupy half of the earlier acreage and another home was built on the corner of Main and King Street. An article on Mr. King in an old Kentucky history book does not exaggerate a great deal when stating "His personal history is largely that of the town, there having been few of the interest not connected with his name or influenced by his liberality."

Grain was obviously a major crop for the area, as two industries seem to be an integral part of the local heritage. The Eminence Mill and Elevator and the Eminence Distillery have their own place in the history books. A special edition of the Henry County Local dated May 9, 1902 reports the Eminence Mill and Elevator Company had built a new mill during that year. The company had been in business over 20 years and was owned by the Giltners. Being located in the center of one of the best wheat growing sections of the state, they were able to purchase all needed supplies at their very door. Having the train through town enabled the company to easily export local crops.

Eminence has also been noted through the years for their distilleries. They remain today the only "wet" city within the county. After the Civil War, the Eminence Distillery was built and bottled many brands including "Old Blue Ribbon Whiskey." When Eminence went "dry" the first time (1931-1941) there were two liquor stores in the city. After the second dry spell, in 1952 the Kentucky Legislature made Eminence a Fourth Class City and that enabled the citizens to vote for the sale of alcoholic beverages.

The first bank in Henry County was established in 1867 at the Deposit Bank of Eminence. The first location was a house on North Main Street. According to the Henry County Local newspaper, the banks were the largest employers in the county in 1905.

Eventually, the role of railroads diminished throughout the country, including Henry County. The means of personal travel shifted from train to automobiles, buses and airplanes. With the onslaught of the interstate system, trucks began to siphon an increasing amount of freight business from the railroads. Declining demand for coal reduced coal shipments from Eastern Kentucky. As a result, the movement of rail freight through Henry County came to an end. Today, the community is pleased to garner their economic benefits from local industrial development.

City Hall was relocated to the Old Depot (Formerly Kentucky Utilities local office) and later landscaped and updated to it's current appearance.

For MORE History visit The Henry County Historical Society

City of Eminence

5115 South Main Street
P.O. Box 163
Eminence, KY 40019
Phone: (502) 845-4159
Fax: (502) 845-8066
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Hearing Impaired may contact the City through the Kentucky Relay Service by Voice or TTY at 1-800-648-6056 or 711 in Kentucky.