London (population 5,692) is the county seat of Laurel County. The community began as a settlement on the Wilderness Road running north from the Cumberland Gap. The town was formed and named for London, England, in 1826. Due to its position on the Wilderness Road, London was along the route of warring armies during the Civil War, and the Battle of Camp Wildcat took place a short distance from town. It was the first Union victory in Kentucky.
The Camp Wildcat Battlefield has become a focal point for London’s promotion of heritage tourism. Now part of the Daniel Boone National Forest, the battlefield has some of the best preserved Civil War battlefield trenches in the nation. Local, State, and Federal partners have partnered to maintain and interpret the site, hold an annual reenactment, and bring visitors to the battlefield as part of the annual Central Kentucky Civil War Heritage Trail showcase.
London’s heritage tourism will receive a further boost through development of the planned Kentucky Hills Heritage Park, which is being developed by the London-Laurel Tourism Commission. The park will house museum buildings devoted to local history and will be connected to London’s historic downtown by a hiker/biker trail. Efforts to revitalize London’s historic commercial core are led by London Downtown, a Kentucky Main Street organization.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2005.