Benham (population 599) was founded in 1911 as a coal mining company town by Wisconsin Steel, a subsidiary of International Harvester. The last mine closed in the 1970s, and Benham has been forging a new identity that capitalizes on its history and its well-preserved historic assets.
Several of the city's public buildings are already listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and efforts are underway to nominate the entire community for listing.
The Kentucky Coal Museum, housed in the former commissary building (1923), is a major regional tourist attraction. Three stories of exhibits feature the history of coal mining in Kentucky and the life of coal miners and their families. Miners are further celebrated in the nearby Coal Miner's Memorial Park, located on the former site of the coal company's processing, shipping, and rail yard.
Visitors to Benham can stay at the Schoolhouse Inn (1926), which was built by the company as a school for coal camp children. Benham encourages heritage tourism through its participation in the Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association and the Kingdom Come Scenic Parkway.
The Coal Miners Memorial Theatre is a new community amenity and tourist draw that is under development. The original company-built theatre (1921) is being rehabilitated as a multi-function facility. It will be used for community meetings, concerts, movies, and performances, including a play depicting the history of Benham that will be presented regularly during tourist season.
Designated a Preserve America Community in April 2005.
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