The city of Kuttawa, which was named for the Shawnee Indian word meaning 'Beautiful' was founded by Governor Charles Anderson in 1871 and chartered by the State of Kentucky on February 5, 1872. Anderson was born June 1, 1814 in the small Jefferson County, Kentucky community called Soldier's Retreat. He eventually moved to Ohio and became the governor of that state. He loved all forms of art and was an avid nature enthusiast. Combining these two interests, he became one of the earliest landscape architects in the area.
He demonstrated his talent in this field when he drew the plans laying out the new city of Kuttawa, using the natural beauty of its surroundings as an inspiration for his plan. From the tall oak trees which grew In the parkway dividing the central street to the breath-taking view atop Vista Ridge, the town possessed a beauty which soon became known far and wide. Health seekers traveled hundreds of miles to drink water from the city's mineral springs. These springs were numerous and their waters contained medical properties which were eagerly sought after for many ailments.
Perhaps the most popular spot during the first half century or so of Kuttawa's existence was the Kuttawa Mineral Springs Park, which boasted several large springs, a hotel, a large spring-fed swimming pool, food stands, cabins and a large pavilion where an annual "Camp Meeting" was held during the month of August.
Kuttawa was also the location for Lake Clough, the beautiful artificial lake built by energetic citizens. It covered more than 30 acres and the view out over its crystal clear water lily adorned waters was a favorite spot for many. Silver Cliff Park. also in the city limits, was situated on high limestone cliffs above the Cumberland River. Its rugged beauty was well known to all nature lovers of the area.
Kuttawa was not only known for Its beauty, but also for its industrial enterprise and commercial progressiveness. The iron ore found in and around Kuttawa was the source of a boom; many furnaces were located in or around the town. The most famous one was Suwanee Furnace, a mile west of Kuttawa. It was while working at this furnace that William Kelley discovered the steel process which revolutionized the metal industry for all time. The process is known world over as the Bessemer Process of Steel. The factories which sprung up almost from its beginning were among the largest in the South. Kuttawa was the home of the largest spoke factory In the world. The local merchants were known for their thrift and enterprise. The business life of Kuttawa continued to prosper for the first half of the twentieth century, shifting from one emphasis to another as the times demanded.
In the late 1940’s, rumors began to circulate that the United States Corps of Engineers were considering the construction of a dam on the Cumberland River just below Kuttawa. The dam was to flood a large part of the town if impounded. In 1954, authorization for this dam was given by Congress. Acquisition of property began that same year. Eventually, after a long, drawn-out process, the entire business district and a good portion of the residential area was purchased by the government. Residents whose families had lived in this beautiful little city for generations were uprooted, and the entire pattern of life for the people of Kuttawa was dead. Much confusion and heartache followed. However, great determination was shown by a group of citizens who formed a non-profit organization called the Kuttawa Relocation Corporation. With their combined efforts and finances, new land was purchased and plans were drawn for a new business district and residential area which were annexed to the remaining portion of the original Kuttawa. When the buildings were removed and the waters of the new lake were impounded, most of the older part of Kuttawa and many of the new residential lots faced beautiful Lake Barkley.
Thus, after the final impoundment of Lake Barkley in August 1966, Kuttawa had a new beginning. It will have to rebuild its business and industrial life, but it has a good start on the road to growth. A new trade, tourism, has become an important addition to the business life of the community. Diversified Decorative Plastics, Marathon Ashland Petroleum L.L.C.. Kuttawa Harbor, Tarryon Resort Motels, Restaurants. Bend of the Rivers. Inc., Days Inn, Hampton Inn, Sunshine Travel Center, Shell stay, Wendy's, Burger King and increasing numbers of other small and large industries are locating in the community.
Time will tell what the relocation of Kuttawa will mean to its future. It can never be the same as it was before the lake came: but then what city, large or small, is the same as it was 15 years ago. It is assured, however, that with the determination and love that both the old and new citizens are showing for this little city, Kuttawa will have a future filled with growth, community spirit, and pride.