Fun With Flags: Kentucky Edition

I’m kind of a flag nerd. I’ve always had a thing for flags. When I was little, I’d always get the flag for the state or country I was visiting. Sometimes, I’d even correct an improper flag display. And I love Dr. Sheldon Cooper Presents Fun With Flags segments on CBS’ Big Bang Theory!

So when I saw the cover of today’s Herald-Leader, I was excited to see the prominent display of the flag for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government prominently placed above the fold. And below the fold was the headline: “Does Lexington need a memorable city flag?

The short answer is a resounding YES! But the longer answer is, of course, more interesting. The article notes two groups (Lexington firefighters and 8th graders at Lexington Christian Academy) that  are pushing for a new flag and promoting a few of their own designs.

The H-L article prompted me to watch an 18-minute TED talk by Roman Mars which I’ve embedded below.  Mars discusses the elements of a good flag and gives examples of both good and bad flags. Countries are pretty good at making strong banners, but American cities are pretty horrible at the task. Mars even featured Lexington’s own flag as a “bad flag” example, which is what prompted the firefighters mentioned above to take on their effort.

What makes a good flag? According to the North American Vexillogical Association, or NMVA, (far bigger flag nerds than I), there are five key principles:

1. Keep it Simple
2. Use Meaningful Symbolism
3. Use 2 or 3 Basic Colors
4. No Lettering or Seals
5. Be Distinctive or Be Related.

All of this makes sense. In fact, these are pretty good design principles overall. So how do Kentucky flags stack up on this scale? The Kentucky flag itself is, like the Lexington flag, an SOB (seal on a bedsheet). It’s just a blue background with the state seal on it. Pretty boring, indistinctive, and not simple (in that the details of the seal itself are complex).

Other cities in Kentucky vary…


In 2004, the NMVA conducted a survey ranking the flags of American cities. The two best were Washington DC and Chicago, but I was really surprised to see that Louisville was ranked #9! Go Louisville!! (In case you were wondering, Lexington ranked #112 in the same survey.)

Really, it is a great looking flag! But wait… Louisville merged with Jefferson County in 2003 to form a Metro Government.

Louisville’s old flag

Surely wisdom (and better design) prevailed and the old flag was retained? Nope. Instead, the ‘Ville now flies this lesser banner which is, predictably, another SOB:

Louisville-Jefferson County Flag

Ugh. Another example of Kentucky just not being able to have nice things.


Frankfort also makes the NMVA Survey at #140 (out of 150). I can see why.

Bowling Green

Bowling Green didn’t make the NMVA Survey. It’s current flag isn’t an SOB, but it is close. If it were just the fountain, it might work. But I’m not so sure you could read the text if it were flying in the breeze at 100 feet away.

Like Lexington, Bowling Green is contemplating a new flag. There’s a movement afoot to change the flag to this distinctive banner:

The green background is self-explanatory for a town called Bowling Green. The gold represents prosperity, the blue the Barren River, and the grey represents the roads that connect in Bowling Green. It’s a good, distinctive flag that follows the 5 Principles.

Hopefully, something good will come Lexington’s way. The Portland (OR) Flag Association maintains a list (including Bowling Green) of municipalities in America looking at improving their flags. I imagine Lexington will soon make the list!

(and here’s that TED talk from Roman Mars I promised…)

The Southern KY Book Fair is Tomorrow in Bowling Green

Named by the Kentucky Travel Industry Association as one of the Top 10 Spring Festivals & Events, the Southern Kentucky Book Fair is this Saturday in Bowling Green! It is a free event where 150 authors and illustrators from Kentucky and beyond are available to discuss their books. There will be panel discussions and, of course, you can purchase copies of the great books there at the event and get them autographed!

I’ll be there at Booth #58 with Lost Lexington so be sure to come and say hello! And if you have friends or colleagues in Bowling Green or in the western Kentucky region who are interested in books, history, or historic preservation — be sure to send them along!

If you go:
Southern Kentucky Book Fair
April 18, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Knicely Convention Center, Bowling Green
Admission is free.

More details about the Book Fair are available at and you can learn more about Lost Lexington by clicking here.

Rose-Daughtry Farmstead in Bowling Green Added to the National Register

Rose-Daughtry Farmstead – Bowling Green, Ky.
Photo: Nat’l Reg. Application (KHC)

Northeast of Bowling Green on the Louisville Road sits the old community of Bristow. There stands the most recently listed Kentucky property on the National Register of Historic Places. The principal building on the Rose-Daughtry Farmstead, the residence, dates to circa 1880. Six other contributing structures are now included on the Register which exemplify the “overall character … of a prosperous farmstead that had its origins in the late-nineteenth century.”

Judge Rose’s residence, ca. 1880, is T-shaped with both a front and back porch. Though architectural plans were widely available through catalogues of the day, Judge Rose clearly did not adopt this approach as the house is unique and avoids and specific traditional design. “The round-headed windows, brick arches and brackets are typical of Italianate style,” but the “porch roof on the façade … topped by a balustrade … is not style-specific.”

The ‘jail’ at the Rose-Daughtry Farmstead
Photo: Nat’l Reg. Application (KHC)

One contributing structure is the one-pen ‘jail’ having a high rock-faced stone foundation and brick walls surrounding a dirt floor and front gabled roof. Oral histories suggest that Judge Rose kept prisoners here due to the distance (six miles) from town. It has been suggested that Judge Rose also utilized the prisoners as farmhands.

The property remained in the hands of the Rose family until 1949. Today, the property is located within the Ephram White Park owned by the Warren County Fiscal Court. It was listed on the National Register on March 13, 2013.

The National Register application is available from the Kentucky Heritage Council (the Kentucky state agency charged with recommending sites for inclusion to the Interior Department) shows an interesting history to the Rose-Daughtry application itself. Originally recommended for inclusion in 2008, the application was returned to KHC for additional information. Apparently, the original application had both “technical and substantive” deficiencies. A major part that was lacking was the comparison and contrast between the typical features of regional farming sites and the applicant property. The application contains good insight for those preparing National Register applications.

‘Hearsay’ at Bowling Green’s Warren County Courthouse

Warren County Courthouse – Bowling Green, Ky.

Bowling Green is much larger than you think it is. My usual method of heading downtown and looking around for something that looked like a courthouse misled me a bit here. I ended up on a street just outside of downtown that had a justice center and the Federal Courthouse. After realizing that there had to be an “old courthouse” I headed further in town and found this jewel. The picture really doesn’t do it justice.

William H. Natcher Federal Courthouse
Bowling Green, Ky.

Unlike most courthouses in the state, Warren County has a plaque on the outside that gives some amazing history. This courthouse was erected in 1867 to 1869 at the cost of $125,000. Designed by D.J. Williams, it contains elements of both the Greek Revival and Italianate styles. It is the fourth courthouse for Warren County. According to the plaque, the courthouse looks much as it did in 1869.

Perhaps my favorite part is the original Victorian iron fence that surrounds the courthouse lawn and remains intact. Interior changes have been drastic and unique. Before the advent of automobiles, the courtroom was moved from its original location in the front of the building to the back to muffle out the sounds of animal hooves on Bowling Green’s cobblestone streets. When these hooves were no longer an issue, the courtroom was moved back to its original location in the front of the courthouse.

Perhaps my favorite part of the plaque is a “hearsay” portion, that notes a few local legends about the courthouse. My favorite is that prominent lawyers would frequently climb in the windows after dark to gather in the empty courtroom to play cards, and that nails can still be seen in the main wall of the building where old campaign flyers and event posters used to hang.

This courthouse is the jewel of a beautiful downtown area. I definitely need to make another trip.

kernel: Eight New Kentucky National Register of Historic Places Sites

Livingston County Courthouse and Clerk’s Office
(Photo: Dr. Dianne O’Bryan, 2010)

In minutes released last week, the National Register of Historic Places has accepted eight Kentucky sites from the thirteen recommended by the Kentucky Heritage Council. Those approved include historic district, rural groceries, and civic buildings. Remarkably, three of the accepted sites were motels in the Bardstown area:

CALLOWAY COUNTY  (#11000792)

704 Vine St., Murray
LAUREL COUNTY (#11000793)
Main St. between W. 6th & W. 5th Sts., London
351 Court St., Smithland
NELSON COUNTY (#11000797)
321 W. Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown
NELSON COUNTY (#11000799)
414 Stephen Foster Ave., Bardstown
NELSON COUNTY (#11000800)
530 N. 3rd St., Bardstown
TODD COUNTY (#11000801)
Roughly bounded by Ewing, Park & Cherry Sts., Guthrie
WARREN COUNTY (#11000802)
7286 Cemetery Rd., Bowling Green

America’s First Zero Energy School

Artist’s Rendering

So, we haven’t seen it…but this is just downright cool. And something to make Kentucky proud!! America’s First Zero Energy School isn’t in California or Florida or Texas, it is in Richardsville, Kentucky (which is north of Bowling Green in Warren County). As Tom Eblen writes,

the 500 students and teachers of Richardsville Elementary will leave their 1930s building for a new one next door that is the latest in environmentally friendly 21st-century design. It will be the first school in Kentucky, and one of the first in the nation, to be “net-zero” — generating as much energy as it consumes.

Inhabitat has a good write up on the school with more pictures. Hopefully, we can visit Richardsville when we head out to western Kentucky!