Historic District in downtown Owensboro
|Nickname(s): BBQ Capital of the World|
|Motto: "Progress 1817"|
Location of Owensboro in Daviess County, Kentucky.
|Settled (as Yellow Banks)||1797|
|Established (as Owensborough)||1817|
|o Mayor||Tom Watson|
|o Mayor Pro Tem||Bob Glenn|
|o City Manager||William Parrish|
|o City||20.4 sq mi (52.9 km2)|
|o Land||19.1 sq mi (49.5 km2)|
|o Water||1.3 sq mi (3.4 km2) 6.47%|
|Elevation||394 ft (120 m)|
|o Estimate (2016)||59,273|
|o Density||3,057/sq mi (1,180.4/km2)|
|Time zone||CST (UTC-6)|
|o Summer (DST)||CDT (UTC-5)|
|Area code(s)||270 & 364|
|GNIS feature ID||0500082|
Owensboro is a home rule-class city in and the county seat ofDaviess County, Kentucky, United States. It is the fourth-largest city in the state by population. Owensboro is located on U.S. Route 60 about 107 miles (172 km) southwest of Louisville, and is the principal city of the Owensboro metropolitan area. The 2015 population was 59,042. The metropolitan population was estimated at 116,506.
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Evidence of American Indian settlement in the area dates back 12,000 years. Following a series of failed uprisings with British support, however, the last Shawnee were forced to vacate the area before the end of the 18th century.
The first European descendant to settle in Owensboro was frontiersman William Smeathers or Smothers in 1797, for whom the riverfront park is named. The settlement was originally known as "Yellow Banks" from the color of the land beside the Ohio River. The Lewis and Clark Expedition wintered at what is today's Owensboro prior to departing on their famous travels. In 1817, Yellow Banks was formally established under the name Owensborough, named after Col. Abraham Owen. In 1893, the spelling of the name was shortened to its current Owensboro.
In August 1864, Owensboro was subject to a raid by a band of Confederate guerrillas from Tennessee led by Captain Jack Bennett, an officer in Stovepipe Johnson's Partisan Rangers. Bennett's men rode into Owensboro, tried and failed to rob a local bank, took 13 Union soldiers of the 108th Colored Infantry prisoner, executed them, burned the bodies on a supply boat, and escaped back to Tennessee, having covered a total of 300 miles (480 km) on horseback in six days. Another major battle occurred 8 miles (13 km) south of Owensboro and is today signified by a monument marking the battle located beside US Highway 431.
Several distillers, mainly of bourbon whiskey, have been in and around the city of Owensboro. The major distillery still in operation is the Glenmore Distillery Company, now owned by the Sazerac Company.
On August 14, 1936, downtown Owensboro was the site of the last public hanging in the United States. Rainey Bethea was executed for the rape and murder of 70-year-old Lischa Edwards. The execution was presided over by a woman sheriff, Florence Shoemaker Thompson, who gained national media attention for her role in the process.
The end of the Second World War brought civil engineering projects which helped turn Owensboro from a sleepy industrial town into a modern, expanding community by the turn of the 1960s. Many of the projects were set in motion by Johnson, Depp & Quisenberry, a firm of consulting engineers then engaged in a runway redesign at the County Airport; the "Depp" in question was a member of an old and prominent Kentucky family which includes the town's most famous son, actor Johnny Depp.
The Owensboro Wagon Company, established in 1884, was one of the largest and most influential wagon companies in the nation. With eight styles or sizes of wagons, the company set the standard of quality at the turn of the 20th century.
Frederick A. Ames came to Owensboro from Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1887. He started the Carriage Woodstock Company to repair horse-drawn carriages. In 1910, he began to manufacture a line of automobiles under the Ames brand name. Ames hired industrialist Vincent Bendix in 1912, and the company became the Ames Motor Car Company. Despite its product being called the "best $1500" car by a Texas car dealer, the company ceased production of its own model in 1915. The company then began manufacturing replacement bodies for the more widely sold Ford Model T. In 1922, the company remade itself and started to manufacture furniture under the name Ames Corporation. The company finally sold out to Whitehall Furniture in 1970.
The start of the Kentucky Electrical Lamp Company, a light bulb manufacturing company was in 1899; it eventually was acquired by Kentucky Radio Company (Ken-Rad) in 1918 and later acquired by General Electric in 1945 and in 1987 acquired by MPD, Inc., created the light bulbs that illuminated the first night game in the history of Major League Baseball on May 24, 1935, between the Reds and Phillies at Cincinnati's Crosley Field. The Owensboro plant was a major part of General Electric's vacuum tube manufacturing operations, producing both receiving types and military/industrial ceramic types. In 1961, engineers at the General Electric plant in Owensboro introduced a family of vacuum tubes called the Compactron.
In June 1932, John G. Barnard founded the Modern Welding Company in a small building located near the Ohio River at First and Frederica Streets where the Commonwealth of Kentucky office building sits today. Today, Modern Welding Company has nine steel tank and vessel fabrication subsidiaries located throughout the United States, and five welding supply stores located in Kentucky and Indiana. The company is the country's largest supplier of underground and aboveground steel storage tanks for flammable and combustible liquids. The company celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2007.
Texas Gas Transmission Corporation was created in 1948 with the merger of Memphis Natural Gas Company and Kentucky Natural Gas Corporation and made its headquarters in Owensboro. Since that time, Texas Gas changed ownership four times. The company was bought by CSX Corp. in 1983, by Transco Energy Corp. in 1989, by Williams in 1995, and by Loews Corporation in 2003.
According to Owensboro's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city were:
|#||Employer||# of Employees|
|1||Owensboro Medical Health System Hospital||4,125|
|2||U.S. Bank Home Mortgage||2,120|
|3||Owensboro Public Schools||778|
|5||Specialty Foods Group||600|
|8||City of Owensboro||481|
|9||Commonwealth of Kentucky||471|
In 1937, Pope Pius XI established the Roman Catholic Diocese of Owensboro, which spans approximately the western third of the state. It includes 32 counties and covers approximately 12,500 square miles (32,000 km2). Though the area has been considered by many to be predominately Catholic, evangelical denominations such as Southern Baptists have increased dramatically over the past several decades. The Kentucky Baptist Convention has many churches in the area. Owensboro is also home to Temple Adath Israel, which is among the oldest synagogues in the United States.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Owensboro has a total area of 20.4 square miles (52.9 km2), of which 19.1 square miles (49.5 km2) is land and 1.3 square miles (3.4 km2), or 6.47%, is water.
Owensboro has a humid subtropical climate which is characterized by hot, humid summers and moderately cold winters. Day-to-day temperature differences can be high during the winter. Summers, in comparison, are much more stable. Severe weather, including the threat of tornadoes, is not uncommon throughout much of the year, with several notable events occurring throughout the city's history.
|Climate data for Owensboro, Kentucky|
|Average high °F (°C)||41.2
|Average low °F (°C)||23.2
|Average precipitation inches (mm)||3.3
As of the census of 2012, there were 58,083 people and 23,380 households within the city. The population density was 2,999.1 people per square mile (1,198.4 per km2). There were 26,072 housing units at an average density of 1,394.7 per square mile (538.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.5% White, 7.3% African American, 0.9% Asian, 0.1% Native American, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.55% from other races, and 2.5% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.2% of the population.
There were 23,380 households out of which 23.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.7% were married couples living together, 13.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.8% were non-families. 33.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.91.
In the city, the population was spread out with 23.7% under the age of 18, 9.8% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 22.4% from 45 to 64, and 16.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 87.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $37,289, and the median income for a family was $41,333. Males had a median income of $33,429 versus $21,457 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,183. About 12.2% of families and 18.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.9% of those under age 18 and 12.4% of those age 65 or over.
Owensboro has operated under a City Manager form of government since 1954. Citizens elect a mayor and four city commissioners who form the Board of Commissioners. The Board of Commissioners is the legislative body of the city government and represents the interests of the citizens. The Board of Commissioners hires a city manager who administers the day-to-day operations of the city.
The mayor is elected for a term of four years. Each city commissioner is elected for a term of two years. The term of the city manager is indefinite and based on performance.
Owensboro is home to two private, four-year colleges, Brescia University (Catholic) and Kentucky Wesleyan College, and one public community college, Owensboro Community and Technical College. A campus of Daymar College is also located in Owensboro, and Western Kentucky University has a regional campus there.
In 2006, plans were announced for a research center operated by the University of Louisville to be located at the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center, a part of the Owensboro Medical Health System, to study how to make the first ever human papilloma virus vaccine, called Gardasil, from tobacco plants. U of L researcher Dr Albert Bennet Jenson and Dr Shin-je Ghim discovered the vaccine in 2006. If successful, the vaccine would be made in Owensboro.
US 60 and US 431 serve Owensboro, with US 431 terminating at the former US 60 Bypass (now signed US 60). US 231 and US 60 form a partial beltway around Owensboro. KY 81, KY 56, KY 331, KY 298, KY 54, and KY 144 also serve the city.
The Owensboro Transit System (OTS) offers bus transit to residents, and the Green River Intra-County Transit System (GRITS) offers specialized bus services to residents with disabilities who are not able to ride fixed-route public transportation buses.
Owensboro was named an All-American City in 2013. Owensboro placed fourth on Area Development's Top 20 Southern Cities, with a 9th-place ranking for its "recession busting factors" among the Top 25 Small Cities.
Although no television stations are based in the city, it is part of the Evansville television market, which is the 100th-largest in the United States, according to Nielsen Media Research. However, in early 2007, WFIE-TV opened a bureau in Owensboro which covers news on the Kentucky side of the market. Many of the local television stations often promote themselves as serving Evansville, Indiana, Owensboro, Kentucky, and Henderson, Kentucky.