The earliest settlers of Ashland (population 21,981) were the Poage Family in 1786. More than 60 years later, members of the family joined with Ohio industrialists to found the Kentucky Iron, Coal, and Manufacturing Company. Among the company's ventures was the development of Ashland in 1854.
Iron, coal, and related industries continued to shape Ashland during the 19th and 20th centuries. The substantial homes of industrial owners and managers remain today in the West Bath Avenue Historic District, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The downtown commercial area of Ashland is also listed in the National Register as a historic district.
Ashland promotes the area's cultural heritage and the region's economic vitality through active partnership and participation in the Country Music Trail, with the city's Paramount Arts Center as a key destination.
The Paramount (1930) has provided the stage for Boyd County natives Naomi and Wynona Judd, along with Billy Ray Cyrus, Loretta Lynn, and Ricky Scaggs, to "come back home" to share their talents and help preserve and celebrate the area's rich heritage.
Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2004.