What is the Capital of Kentucky?

Frankfort, Kentucky, USA with the Kentucky State Capitol at dusk.
Frankfort, Kentucky, USA with the Kentucky State Capitol at dusk.

The capital of the state of Kentucky is Frankfort, having become the permanent capital in 1792.

Within this post, we will talk about where exactly the capital of Kentucky is located, a brief history of Frankfort, when and why it became the capital, and some fun things to do in the area.

Where Is The Capital Of Kentucky Located?

Where Is The Capital Of Kentucky Located
Where Is The Capital Of Kentucky Located

The capital of Tennessee is located in Frankfort.

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It is geographically located along the west side of the Appalachian Mountains in the east south-central region known as the Upland South. It is bordered by Virginia to the southwest and Tennessee to the south.

The closest city to Frankfort is Lawrenceburg (17.1 kilometers away), with the nearest major cities being Lexington (54.5 kilometers away), Louisville (77.2 kilometers away), and Cincinnati (105.7 kilometers away). 

The largest city in Kentucky is Louisville, although the capital city of Kentucky is Frankfort.

Brief History of Frankfort

Frankfort, Kentucky, USA town skyline on the Kentucky River at dusk.
Frankfort, Kentucky, USA town skyline on the Kentucky River at dusk.

Frankfort was originally one of several fords located on the Kentucky River. It was part of the many great buffalo trails that would help settlers, functioning as early highways. In the early 1750’s, the first English settlers began to explore the area, putting down roots and making the area into their home. In the Indian skirmish in 1780, a settler called Stephen Frank was killed – as such, the area was named Frankfort, a shortened version of ‘Frank’s Ford’.

The state of Kentucky was still a part of Virginia when in 1786, 100 acres of land where designated to be the town of Frankfort.

Over the next century, Frankfort would become a hub for turnpikes, the railroad, and steamboats, and by 1800 the town already had a small population of 628, which was second in the whole of Kentucky only to Lexington. By 1810, the population had grown to 3,702.

In 1849 the area reached the status of city. 

The next few years were troublesome, with an invasion of Confederate troops, racist violence and the Ku Klux Klan, and a fraud-filled gubernatorial election; not to mention the devastation that was prohibition and the Great Depression. But eventually, Frankfort developed and grew into the city that it is today. 

When did Frankfort become the Capital of Kentucky?

Frankfort became the capital of Kentucky in 1792, when the city outbid others to become the capital of the new state.

In 1794 the first state house was built in Frankfort, but less than 20 years later it burnt down. In 1816 a new state house was built, which also then burnt down less than 20 years later.

Eventually, the Old Capitol (as it is now known as) was designed by an architect called Gideon Shryock. In 1830 the building was complete, and it would stay the Capitol building for the state for the next 80 years.

In 1910 a new state capitol building was completed, due to the fact that the area where the Old Capitol was located was considered to be too small. This new building is located in South Frankfort and it is only 10 blocks from the river and Main Street.

Why is Frankfort the Capital of Kentucky?

Capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky
Capitol building in Frankfort, Kentucky

The main reason why Frankfort is the capital of Kentucky is the fact that it outbid other cities for the privilege of being the state capital. It won because it pledged more ‘manpower’ to complete construction of a statehouse than the competition. 

Frankfort was able to buy its spot as the state capital with ’10 boxes of glass, 1,500 pounds of hard nails, stone and scantling for the building, and around 50 pounds of locks and hinges.’

Along with that, Frankfort offered seven years of rent  from a warehouse producing tobacco, along with several small town lots, and $3,000 in cash.

Features of Frankfort

The size of Frankfort is approximately 39.03 km², with a population of around 27,705 (as of 2020).

One of the most recognizable features of Frankfort is the Capitol building – in fact, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the country. Both the architecture and the grounds are stunning, and this is the one site that you are sure to spot on every postcard.

Along with that, Frankfort is the ‘Public Art Capital of Kentucky’. Walking around the city, you will notice an endless vibrant display of colorful murals, with eye-catching sculptures and architecture which seems to be unique to Frankfort.

Best Places to Visit in Frankfort

There are many historic and beautiful places to visit in Frankfort, from the Old State Capitol to Cove Springs Park. During tour time in the city, make sure to indulge yourself in the history surrounding Kentucky’s capital.

Old State Capitol 

Of course, it should come as no surprise that one of the best things to do in Frankfort is visit the Old State Capitol. Currently serving as the home for the Kentucky Historical Society, this building is now part of the National Register of Historic Places. For those who want to learn more about the history of Frankfort, this is one place not to be missed.

Salato Wildlife Education Center

The wildlife center is one of the best places in the whole of Kentucky to learn about native animals and plants. You can experience a range of Kentucky habitats from marshes to hilly prairies, and meet the animals that make these places their homes. Filled with giant turtles and live snakes, this is a great place to visit with the family. 

Kentucky’s Governor’s Mansion

This mansion is the official residence of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, having housed a grand total of 26 Kentucky governors since 1914. Built in the Beaux-Arts design, this is a building which is both deeply historical and aesthetically pleasing to look at.

Cove Springs Park

For those who love to hike and immerse themselves in nature, Cove Springs Park is the perfect place to visit. Filled with ravines, waterfalls, and wetlands, it offers an insight into the deep beauty of Frankfort. Plus, with ruins of an old stone dam and the limestone overflow tower, you can get a further glimpse into Frankfort’s history.

See Also

Capital Cities 

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!