Wheelwright Residents Looking To Revitalize City

By: Angela Sparkman Email
By: Angela Sparkman Email

Revitalizing downtown. It's a phrase we hear all too often in rural America but now, one Eastern Kentucky town is taking it seriously.

The city of Wheelwright is trying to restore downtown to its former splendor as a booming coal town.

Wheelwright residents held a meeting with state and federal officials to make the town a "Preserve America" status meaning they can get grant money to restore the buildings and then can offer incentives for businesses to locate there.

By the looks of it today, it's hard to believe the old Wheelwright Clubhouse building was once a happening place to be in Eastern Kentucky.

"We'd have dances upstairs in the restaurant," Charles Collins, Wheelwright Fire Chief.

For decades the building was a hotel, restaurant, and movie theater.

"I remember playing in all the buildings," Cindy Stewart.

The inland coal company left in the 1960's taking away the booming economy and the businesses. Now the town once featured in Life Magazine as a model city is of the past. The nearly 100 year old buildings are falling apart and there are no jobs.

"I think it's great. I think it's something that we need," Stewart said.

There's also plans to turn one building into an educational center offering GED classes, college courses, and a library. Wheelwright's life long residents can't wait to see it happen.

"It's gonna make a big difference on all of us," Collins said.

And perhaps the clubhouse building will once again be the center of a bustling town.

With the grant money, taxpayers won't have to foot the renovation bills, but residents are already signing up to help with clean-up efforts and building. A lot of excitement in the town with this project.

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