History of Bowling Green


Founded in 1798, on the more than 30 acres of land donated by Robert Moore, Bowling Green is the third largest city in Kentucky. In the 1800s, Bowling Green experienced rapid urbanization due to the growth in its steamboat commerce and the building of railroads which connected Bowling Green to northern and southern markets. This urbanization made Bowling Green a coveted city among fighting Union and Confederate troops during the Civil War. Eventually, the Confederate army occupied the city and – along with it – control of the river and railroad. Although the Confederate troops destroyed parts of the city after their defeat at the hands of the Union army, Bowling Green's business district began to prosper as the county rebuilt and entered the Industrial Revolution.

In 1906, Henry Hardin Cherry, president and owner of the Southern Normal School, donated his beloved school to the state of Kentucky. This institution stands today and is known as Western Kentucky University. As industries began to profit and the popularity of the university increased, the city began to feel the strain of the increased traffic. In 1949, U.S. Route 31 -W By-Pass was built in an effort to reduce traffic problems, and in turn became a hot spot for new businesses.

As a 1954 advertisement read, "Your business can grow in the direction Bowling Green is growing-to the 31-W-By-Pass." The 1960s and 1970s saw the completion of Interstate 65 and the Green River Parkway, which is now the William H. Natcher Parkway.

The completion of these roads helped the city welcome new industries including General Motors' Bowling Green Assembly Plant, where the Corvette is made, in 1981. Bowling Green is now home to many industries including GM, Fruit of the Loom, International Paper and Houchens Industries.

In 2015, Bowling Green appeared in Forbes Magazine as one of the "Top 25 Places to Retire" and as one of the "Best Small Places for Business and Careers." Along with its increased recognition as a hub of business venture and growth, Bowling Green offers tourists and citizens a wide array of activities including numerous parks, museums, caves, cultural events and sporting venues. This coincides with the city's efforts to preserve and restore the historical downtown district, thus allowing for the modern conveniences of a large city with the traditional feel of a small town.