“A small town experience with world-wide connections” is the motto of Wilmore, Kentucky. Located in Jessamine County, the pleasant town has a population of just under 6,000. It is part of the breathtaking Bluegrass Region.
The town got its beginning when a post office was established in 1877. It was called “Wilmore”, named after John R. Wilmore who was a former slave owner and a local landowner within the community.
By 1876, the Cincinnati Southern Railroad formally established the town when it was set as a flag stop for the High Bridge trestle construction that was taking place on the Kentucky River. At that time, the bridge was the world’s highest bridge. The actual train stop, as well as the town, was named “Scotts Station” after a land owner nearby.
A dispute between the land owner and the railroad instigated the change of the town’s name to “Wilmore” as it is known today. A general store was constructed and opened for business in 1882 and by 1898, there were other community businesses joining in as well.
In July of 1891, the Glass Milling Company opened. Although the location had been home to several other milling operations, none were as significant. The mill moved to Wilmore in 1914 in order to be closer to the railroad. A dynamo was operated from the milling company as well which was an electrical power manufacturer. That remained Wilmore’s sole source of electricity until Kentucky Utilities began supplying it in 1925.
Ashbury College is la Christian Liberal Arts University that is located in Wilmore. It is a big part of the town’s history and plays a huge role in its present day life as well. John Wesley Hughes established a school in the town in 1890 which was named Asbury University. He had gone to the community members to challenge them to raise $1600 in just one week. If they could do so, he would build a college there. They did their part and John Wesley Hughes kept his part of the bargain too.
The school began humbly with just eleven students and three members of the faculty. Today it is a full size university. The spirit of meeting a challenge and overcoming adversity rings true with the way in which the college came to be when the town stepped up to answer the call of Hughes. The school offers fifty majors and is now a nondenominational school. It has seventeen departments and is basically a four year college. It once had a Theological section but that is separate from it today. There are around 1800 students and 20,000 living alumni.
Dating back as far as 1909, the town has experience its fair share of setbacks and challenges. A fire swept through Main Street and destroyed many of Asbury College’s buildings and other buildings as well. The college relocated to its present day location. There were other fires too, one in 1911 that hit the main business district and other in 1924. After the 1924 fire, a fire department was organized.
Churches played a part in the town’s heritage too. The first one was a Presbyterian Church that was erected in 1884 and still stands today in the same structure and location. Methodist church members built a building in 1889. Cedar Top Baptist was established in 1901.
In the 1890’s, the town was quite prosperous with the railroad station and with other resources as well. Carriage repair shops, hogs, grain, cattle, drug stores and a hardware stores could all be found within Wilmore. There were even three doctors which was not the norm in a town of its size which was about six hundred residents.
Wilmore has a number of locations that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Asbury Administration Building is one and the East Main Street Historic District and the Morrison-Kenyon Library are others that are listed as well. The Kenyon Avenue Historic District, Main Historic District and Lexington are even more that are noted.
Many come to Wilmore to take a look at the awesome scenery and to see the historic areas in the town such as Main Street. There is a sense of old-meets-new that make locals and visitors feel right at home.
There are a good many things to enjoy in the small town. High Bridge Park is one of the most popular. It sports the beautiful view of the site of the railroad trestle that is above the Kentucky River. There are picnic tables and room for large outdoor gatherings.
The Wilmore Cemetery is another place where locals and tourists frequent. It is a gorgeous and serene place with a variety of Kentucky trees that are native to the land and annuals, perennials and shrubbery that boast beauty around the entire year.
Wilmore is proud of the horses in its heritage. Horse farms can be viewed and some offer touring in or around the town. The Bluegrass the area is so rich in makes it a prime spot to raise and breed horses and to enjoy riding and racing them as well.
There are festivals held within Wilmore that many love to attend. The Highbridge Film Festival is held annually. The Ichthus Festival is a Christian festival that takes place annually as well in which Christian speakers and musicians entertain the large crowds that flock in.
Wilmore has a number of employers in the town that bring to it a nice economy. The Veterans Center and Wesley Village (a senior living facility) provide medical based jobs. The University of Alsbury employs a good many of the town’s residents.
The Bluegrass Airport is a little over seventeen miles from Wilmore in Lexington. Transportation for Louisville International Standiford Field Airport is also nearby in Louisville.
With over 140 years of history behind it, Wilmore is still the desirable community it was when it first began. It is a fabulous place to work and live with its unique mix of both new and old and the ability to embrace both.