Kentucky Becomes Home to an Abandoned Town You Need to Know About

Kentucky, known for its rich history and stunning natural beauty, conceals a darker aspect beneath its picturesque rolling hills and landscapes. Paradise is a ghost town that was once a thriving coal mining community, now forgotten and left behind by time.

The Rise and Fall of Paradise

Located in Muhlenberg County, about 10 miles east of Greenville, Paradise was established in the early 1800s, named after the beautiful green environment. With a peak population exceeding 2,000, the town had a school, a church, a post office, a hotel, a bank, and various stores and businesses.

Coal mining became the main economic force in Paradise starting in the late 1800s. The town’s convenient location by the Green River helped in transporting coal to different markets. Furthermore, a railway station linked Paradise to nearby towns and cities, transforming it into a vibrant center of activity and trade.

However, in the 1950s, shifts started to occur due to a decrease in coal demand and increased awareness of the environmental impact of mining. The town’s air and water quality declined as the river got polluted by coal ash and waste. Paradise continued to face frequent floods, landslides, and fires, leading many residents to look for better opportunities elsewhere. By the 1960s, the town was almost empty.

The End of Paradise

Paradise suffered a major setback in the late 1960s when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) chose to build a coal-fired power plant close to the town. In order to lower the temperature of the plant, the TVA had to build a reservoir, which meant flooding the town and nearby area. Most of the remaining residents and businesses were bought out, leading to the demolition of the majority of buildings. Only the cemetery and a handful of historic landmarks remained untouched. Paradise was submerged underwater in 1967, and the power plant was finished in 1970.

Today, only the smokestacks of the power plant remain visible in Paradise, standing tall above the lake that hides the town. The power plant continues to operate and is considered one of the biggest coal-fired plants in the nation. Although you can enjoy fishing and boating on the lake, you cannot access the town. The cemetery and historic landmarks, located on elevated terrain, are accessible to the public. Every year, past residents and their offspring come together for a yearly reunion and memorial ceremony.

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Exploring the Rich History of Paradise

Even though Paradise may have disappeared, it is still very much remembered. The town has been a source of inspiration for many artists and writers, including the iconic song “Paradise” by John Prine. Originating from Illinois, Prine, a folk singer, reflects on the town and its people in his song, lamenting the disappearance of nature and culture. Various artists, including Johnny Cash, John Denver, and Dwight Yoakam, have performed the song.

Paradise’s story has been featured in books, documentaries, and films. One of these is the 1981 movie “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” which tells the story of Loretta Lynn, a country singer from a neighboring town, whose father was employed in the Paradise mines. The movie received seven Academy Award nominations and won one for Best Actress, which went to Sissy Spacek for her role as Lynn.

Paradise is a lesser-known ghost town in Kentucky, serving as a significant part of the state’s history. It acts as a contemplation of the past and a warning for the future, a location where paradise was lost but not completely forgotten.

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