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Ghost Town:
Cannel City, Kentucky

A hamlet in central Kentucky: 37°47.4N, 83°16.5W.

[image ALT: A gravel-surfaced parking lot, with a 2‑lane asphalt road in the foreground; to the left a large two-story stone building, and to the right a rail car, and more or less in the center, a single-room wooden building, not half the size of the railroad car. It is a view of the main area of Cannel City, Kentucky (central eastern United States).]

The main area of Cannel City:
school on the left, post office, a railcar.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, in the early 20c, the clearing you see was a relatively important place, deserving, with a little optimism, the title of city.

"Cannel" is the clue. A type of coal high in volatile constituents and thus burning brightly, cannel coal was once prized as a fuel used in lighting homes and businesses: and so in 1910, the coal veins in this patch of Morgan County in central Kentucky were a significant commercial commodity, enough to warrant a large mining operation, the importation of hundreds of miners, a special railroad (the Ohio and Kentucky Junction-Cannel City line), and a bit later a major chemical plant operated by the Pearsite Company. With all this, Cannel City prospered: churches, a bank, an elegant hotel.

The usefulness of cannel coal, however, declined once coal gas, then electric lighting, became commonplace. The mine shut down in the mid‑1930s, then the railroad. Today, although the mine superintendent's house can still be seen across the street, the DeLancy Hotel is long gone, and its site is what you see above. The miners scattered; enough of them, however, to the boom town of Jenkins that an area there is still today known as Cannel City Row (1973 interview with Maude Flint). By the 1940's, it was all over; there are now no more than a few dozen people in Cannel City.

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U. S. Post Office • Cannel City, KY 41408:
the smallest free-standing post office I've seen to date.

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Of this massive edifice, only a small part — around the back on the left-hand side in this photo — serves today as the local elementary school. Constructed as a WPA project (cornerstone laid in 1936 completed in 1938), it originally served grades K‑12: elementary, middle, and high school all in one building.

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The Cannel City Union Church, abandoned, is starting to fall victim to vines and brambles. By my lights, it deserves its own page — and preservation.

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This one railcar is probably the best witness to Cannel City's former economic importance.

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Page updated: 4 Dec 17