By Frances Baccus
Republished by permission
October 20, 1999
Following the completion of Kentucky Dam in the 1940s, rumors began flying that a dam would be built on the lower Cumberland. This would mean relocating Eddyville and Kuttawa. By the mid 1950s the people's fears were confirmed. The [U.S. Army] Corps of Engineers began surveying for the construction of Barkley Dam. The entire population of Eddyville was in a turmoil with decisions to be made. Where would they move? Were they getting a fair price? This ordeal caused many angry feelings between some of the residents, which lasted a lifetime.
About this time Lee S. Jones entered the picture. Jones was a native of Lyon County who had attended law school and settled in Louisville, where he had gained a reputation as one of the best "tax lawyers" and also had accumulated enough money to be considered quite wealthy. Jones had purchased farms in the Fairview community (which is now the site of Eddyville). He came to the Eddyville City Council and presented his plan: each person owning land in the towns (Eddyville and Kuttawa) to be flooded would receive a free lot in the new Eddyville site. This also applied to businesses.
Eddyville residents accepted his offer and on August 13, 1959, the official plat for the new town was filed with the county court clerk. The plat included 254 residential lots, 46 business lots, 28 acres for construction of a school and campus, city park, courthouse, health office, water works, and location of streets.
August 28, 1959 was designated as "Dedication and Free Deed Day" at the new site. A large group of people gathered for the event which was held in a field (in front of where the post office is now located). Mr. Jones handed the first deed to Boyce and Lillian Yates, then presented approximately 60 more residential lots.
The first house to be built in the new town was the home of Mr. and Mrs. J. I. Moore. The first business to be built was the Kentucky Utilities office.
During the time of building, Eddyville was "booming", and with the impoundment of Lake Barkley, tourists began making their way into the area for the abundance of fish and boating.
The influx of tourist did not happen as rapidly as most people had envisioned. Although campgrounds and marinas were springing up around the lake, the city was still struggling.
December 1988 brought the ground breaking for the West Kentucky Outlet Mall. Three brothers, Bob, Darrell and Ben Jent purchased a tract of land in the city limits of Eddyville and started construction of a mall, which opened the following fall with ten stores. Within a short time the mall could boast a total of nearly 50 stores.
The opening of the mall brought a surge of progress to Eddyville, all types of businesses began to move into the city. For the first time in history, people could choose their favorite restaurant, motel, clothing store or other places to shop without leaving town.
[It has been said] the mall did more for the progress of Eddyville than any other endeavor since the establishment of the town in 1799. The town was listed as the second fastest growing area in Kentucky in 1997 by tourism.
Pictured Top: An aerial view of Old Eddyville before Lake Barkley was created (the large building is the Kentucky State Penitentiary). Middle: Eddyville had a small lock and dam near the penitentiary before Lake Barkley was created. Here, workers are constructing this dam in an undated photo. Bottom: A shot of Eddyville's Main Street from the early 1900s. Click on pictures for larger view.