Hamlets, Houses, and Highways: Digitizing the Built Environment

Material Description

The Kentucky Heritage Council’s Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory (KHRI) includes unique surveys of all known historic buildings, structures, and sites in the Commonwealth, the earliest dating back to Kentucky’s prehistory. The KHRI documents the built environment of all 120 counties, from Appalachia in the east to the Purchase Region in the west. They encompass river towns and railroad towns, historic neighborhoods and courthouse squares, African-American hamlets and prehistoric Native American villages, coal mining camps, vernacular and roadside architecture. Every state has a federally-mandated State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) responsible for documenting and preserving sites of historical and cultural significance. As the Commonwealth’s SHPO, the KHC has been creating surveys since the National Historic Preservation Act in 1966. Their work gives future generations the opportunity to study the rich cultural heritage of the U.S. in the face of the ever-increasing expansion of urban areas, highway systems, and industry. Therefore, the KHRI documents not only Kentucky’s varied historic places, but also the effect of time and development on our built environment. Additionally, they document the migration of populations into, within, and out of Kentucky and the Appalachian Region through the dwellings and businesses they built. These groups include Jewish, Irish, Latin, Eastern European, and African-Americans. The surveys range from a single page to several folders and note the site’s location, architectural styles, construction materials, original functions, site condition, and much more. Survey forms often include supplemental documentation like photographs, maps, and architectural plans.


Over the course of two years, UK Libraries will digitize the Kentucky Heritage Council (KHC) Kentucky Historic Resource Inventory. Started in 1966, the KHC has conducted an ongoing survey of historic sites in all 120 Kentucky counties. The inventory serves as a permanent written and photographic record of all known historic buildings, structures, and sites in the commonwealth. In partnership with the KHC, UK Libraries will make 100,000 surveys and associated metadata available in an online database. Kentucky’s historic places dot the landscape from Appalachia in the east to the Purchase region in the west, encompassing river towns and railroad towns, historic neighborhoods, courthouse squares, African-American hamlets, Native American villages, coal mining camps and roadside architecture – urban and rural landscapes that define our sense of place and tell the story of who we are as Americans. Online access to the surveys will increase research opportunities across numerous disciplines.


Digitizing Hidden Collections

Amount Awarded


Year Added



University of Kentucky Research Foundation


  • Ms. Deirdre Scaggs (UK Libraries)
  • Ms. Sarah Dorpinghaus

Date Range

1966 - 2017

Geographic Scope

The inventory documents all 120 Kentucky counties, 54 of which belong to the Appalachian cultural region. Other regions include the Bluegrass and the Western and Eastern Coal Fields. The southcentral Pennyroyal Plateau is known for its limestone bedrock, rich farmland, and Mammoth Cave- the world’s most extensive cave system.


  • 260 Mixed Archival Collections