Skip to main navigation Skip to main content

Kentucky Historic Resources Survey

Kentucky Historic Resources Survey has actively documented historic places across the Commonwealth for more than 50 years. Historic resources are surveyed through fieldwork and research, then this information is catalogued in the Kentucky Historic Sites Database, which currently encompasses more than 100,000 surveyed buildings, sites and other structures. The process is designed to answer the questions "what historic sites exist and where are they?"

Each historic site is documented with photographs, mapping, and a written description logged on a standardized form, and each is recorded as an entry in the survey database. The survey files are maintained at the Kentucky Heritage Council office at the Barstow House, 410 High Street, Frankfort.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 requires states and territories across the nation to establish this record, calling for the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) to "conduct a comprehensive statewide survey of historic properties and maintain inventories of such properties." The survey is used to help select resources for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. National Register listing establishes a site’s eligibility for grants and tax benefits, and provides planning data for federal, state, and local projects.

By examining historic resources (buildings, structures, sites and objects), gathering data from those examinations, conducting related research, and maintaining records of that research, state historic preservation offices establish the baseline data needed to help make informed decisions about historic properties. States, including Kentucky, also inventory archaeological resources, preserving a record of both prehistory and the early historical period. In Kentucky, the archaeological survey database is maintained by the Office of State Archaeology and the Kentucky Archaeological Survey.

Survey is an ongoing process to identify and update the status of historic sites in all 120 counties. In general, the first survey projects concentrated mainly on houses associated with high architectural style, homes of Kentucky's wealthiest or most famous residents, and the oldest structures. In the 1970s, KHC began a comprehensive statewide architectural survey, typically undertaken at the city or county level.

Today the focus of survey activities has broadened to better reflect the ethnic and cultural diversity of Kentucky's historic resources. This required a shift to a more comprehensive view of the types historic properties and sites that make Kentucky unique, including not only houses but barns and outbuildings, commercial buildings, industrial sites, cemeteries, monuments, objects such as stone fences, and landscapes. This approach continues to expand our view of the state's rich past, as surveying historic resources is an ongoing process of discovery and learning.

The survey database was compiled with the assistance of numerous local groups and individuals, and many of the records contain multiple historic resources  that range from neighborhoods to battlefields, agricultural and industrial complexes, even entire streetscapes of commercial buildings. They also range in size from very small, such as a war monument or highway marker, to quite large, such as a distillery complex or a lock and dam. They resources also cover a broad period from Kentucky's settlement in the 18th century to the recent past.

Do you have a historic site you would like to know more about? Kentucky Heritage Council staff will be glad to assist you.

Field Work Tools and Instruction

Historic resource site numbers are assigned by the Kentucky Heritage Council's Survey Coordinator. To obtain a site number or sequence for work you are doing, please email Amanda Graham Kincaid the following information:

  1. The county or counties where your project is located. If the project is within the incorporated boundaries of a town or city, please include that information in your request.
  2. A site map showing the field site properties on an aerial or topographic map.
  3. The name(s) of the topo maps in your project area.
  4. If the site number request is for a Section 106-related project, please include your KHC project registration number, e.g. FY16-2222.

For Information:

Amanda Graham Kincaid
Survey Coordinator
(502) 564-7005, ext. 4569