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Paducah’s Art Deco Coke Plant

The former Coca Cola bottling plant located just west of downtown Paducah, Kentucky, is a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit, past and present.

The building traces its origins to a 1937, when the Ohio River flooded, submerging much of downtown Paducah. Luther S. Carson was a businessman who owned a bottling plant downtown, which was lost in the disaster. The story goes that Carson was rescued from the building and brought to the nearest dry land, and he vowed to rebuild on that very spot.

In 1939, that building was completed, and the art deco style of the era is still evident in its design and details. The rotunda features a terrazzo tile floor and a sweeping staircase that is believed to be one of the best examples of the art deco style cast-in-place staircases remaining today.

The iconic building remained in operation as a bottling plant and then a distribution center until 2005. It sat vacant for years. The roof was deteriorating, and the Coke building seemed bound for destruction.

“The building sat empty until we purchased it in 2013, and it was the summer of 2013 when it was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places,” says building co-owner Meagan Musselman. “We were proud to do that, and we just kind of went to work on getting the new roof. We restored all of the original windows. We were getting the building secure and dry.”

Meagan Musselman says the vision for the building came from her husband and building co-owner, Ed Musselman.

“He wanted the building to be a snippet of what Paducah had to offer,” she says. “He wanted businesses in the building that either weren’t in Paducah currently, or that showcased some of the best of what Paducah had to offer.”

“Today it’s very much a cultural hub,” says Laura Oswald, director of marketing for the Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau. “There is so much activity in this building, from the restaurants, the coffee shop, the brewery, on to the yoga studio and the music studio, the makerspace. There’s so much activity and so many reasons for the community to come inside and really to be a part of Paducah’s creative culture, which is really illustrated here.”

The 80-year-old structure, long a landmark in western Kentucky, is now changing the town in positive ways for residents.

“We have crosswalks now,” says Musselman. “It’s a very walkable community that we’re in. People just didn’t really have much of a reason to walk in this area before all of the businesses came into the building. That’s very rewarding, and it kind of helps keep our momentum up.”

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2506, which originally aired on November 9, 2019. Watch the full episode.