A BRIEF HISTORY OF WILMORE, KENTUCKY
Wilmore was established in 1876 by the Cincinnati Southern Railroad as a flag stop with the construction of the nearby High Bridge Railroad trestle on the Kentucky River. The bridge was the highest in the world in 1877, an engineering marvel of its time. The train stop was named Scotts Station for a large land owner near the new railroad track, but a dispute between the owner and the railroad resulted in the name being changed to Wilmore in honor of another land owner. In 1882 a general store was begun and by 1898 there were several businesses in town.
Glass Milling Company opened July 1, 1891, on a site which had been home to other milling operations since 1782. In 1914 the milling operation was moved from Glass Mill Road into Wilmore to be near the railroad. It also operated a “dynamo” which manufactured electrical power for Wilmore until 1925, at which time Kentucky Utilities began supplying electrical current to the community.
While Wilmore has several churches within its city limits, almost all were established prior to the existence of Wilmore and were located in rural areas. The first church building erected in Wilmore was the Presbyterian Church in 1884, which still meets in the same location and structure. The Methodists dedicated their building in 1885. The Christian Church moved to Wilmore in 1889, Cedar Top Baptist in 1897, Mt Freedom Baptist in 1901 and Perkins Chapel AME in 1905.
In the summer of 1890, John Wesley Hughes came to Wilmore looking for a location to establish a religious school. Impressed with the area, he challenged the citizens to raise $1600 within a week and he would return to open such a school. On September 2, 1890, Asbury College (becoming Asbury University in 2010) opened the doors to a two-story frame building, with 11 students and 3 faculty members. In 1923 a graduate department in Theology opened and by 1926 Asbury Theological Seminary was a separate institution, relocating to its current campus in 1939.
In the early years, fires brought destruction and setbacks. On March 18, 1909, Asbury College’s buildings on Main Street were destroyed, resulting in the College moving to its current location. On February 25, 1911, fire swept through the main business district, destroying most businesses. Asbury College experienced another major fire in 1924. Citizens relied on bucket brigades for firefighting but without success. After the 1924 fire, the City purchased a fire truck and organized a fire department. On November 21, 1950, there was another fire on East Main Street which destroyed a two-story frame building housing several businesses. Today many of the East Main Street buildings are unchanged from their construction after the devastating 1911 fire.
By 1896, Wilmore’s public school system enrolled 75 students. Over the next century there would be several school construction projects and related demolitions, all located on the original grounds. Wilmore High School ceased when the county consolidated high schools in 1957 but the elementary school continued. In 2000 a new school was built on land acquired from the old campground site. The old campus became The Early Learning Village and then The Providence School, both part of the Jessamine County school system. One original cut stone building, The Roberts Building constructed in 1939, is still in use at The Providence School and is much treasured by those who attended classes in it over the decades.
The 1990’s brought two major developments to Wilmore: The Thomson-Hood Veterans Center and Wesley Village. The Center, a 285-bed long-term care facility, opened August 25, 1991, the largest facility operated by the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. In June 1995, Wesley Village opened as the first senior living facility in Central Kentucky. Since opening, the Village has added personal care facilities, a senior community center and a memory care facility. These two employers along with the public-school system and the two higher education institutions provide an economic backbone for Wilmore.