Department of Parks
Kentucky State Parks Takes Over Benham-Lynch Attractions

Press Release Date:  Thursday, August 31, 2006  
Contact Information:  Gil Lawson
(502) 564-8110 Ext. 307

BENHAM, Ky. – The Kentucky Department of Parks has taken over operations of the Benham-Lynch attractions in Eastern Kentucky, including The Benham School House Inn, the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum, and the Train Depot in Lynch.

 “This is a fantastic opportunity to really showcase the tourism possibilities in Southeastern Kentucky,” Commerce Cabinet Secretary George Ward said. “The region has a very unique story to tell about the history of the company towns and the coal mining industry. People are very interested in hearing about how this all evolved.”

The Harlan County attractions will promote Kentucky’s coal mining and heritage experiences. The expanded park will be added to the promotional efforts of the state’s other parks. Guests will soon be able to book their overnight accommodations at the School House Inn or the Depot Building campsite on the parks’ Web site.

The Kentucky Department of Parks plans to invest about $1 million in capital improvements at the facility, primarily in infrastructure at the School House Inn, which has 30 guest rooms and a banquet hall that can seat up to 350 guests.

Kentucky is home to the best parks system in the country,” said Ward. “These additions will help promote cultural and historical tourism of Kentucky.”

The School House Inn, for example, was built in 1926 by Wisconsin Steel Corporation (later known as International Harvester) as a high school and elementary school for coal camp children. The last high school class graduated in 1961, but the building continued to be used as an elementary school until 1992. A year later, work began to transform the historic building into a country inn. The Inn has stayed true to its schoolhouse roots. The lockers – painted dark green – still exist and rooms are numbered after graduating classes. The Inn also has a large conference room as well. The gymnasium is used as the banquet hall.


The Kentucky Coal Mining Museum is housed in the old commissary built by International Harvester in the 1920s. The museum features four stories of exhibits on the history of mining and the life of the coal miner. 

“I have been working on this project for four years,” said Rep. Howard Cornett, R-Whitesburg. “I think it will have a huge economic impact in the Tri-Cities, as well as all of Eastern Kentucky. I have always believed that tourism is the next big industry for  Eastern Kentucky. With the resources of the Kentucky State Park System in promoting this project, I believe this is a huge step forward for Eastern Kentucky. I am very pleased that this project has finally been completed.”

The renovations and upgrades are expected to be completed later this year.

The Department of Parks is also taking over the operation of Portal #31 Underground Mine Tour and Lamphouse, but only after that attraction is completed and certified for occupancy and operation.

This is a joint project between the Department of Parks, Harlan Fiscal Court, the Southeast Education Foundation, Inc. and the Tri City Chamber of Commerce located in Cumberland.

Transportation Funds 

Secretary Ward also presented ceremonial checks worth $436,000 in road bond funds for six projects:

·        $300,000 to resurface various county roads in Harlan County

·        $38,000 to resurface various city streets in the City of Cumberland

·        $8,000 to resurface various city streets in the City of Benham

·        $12,000 to resurface various city streets in the City of Lynch

·        $15,000 to resurface various city streets in the City of Evarts

·        $28,000 to resurface various city streets in the City of Harlan

·        $35,000 to resurface various city streets in the city of Harlan

Secretary Ward announced an additional $522,440 in state construction funds to resurface various Harlan County roads. 

In the past two years, local governments have received more additional state funding for their local road systems than at any other time in the history of the commonwealth.



The Kentucky State Park System is composed of 52 state parks plus an interstate park shared with Virginia. The Department of Parks, an agency of the Commerce Cabinet, operates 17 resort parks with lodges -- more than any other state. Each year, Kentucky parks draw 7 million visitors and contribute $317 million to the economy. For more information on Kentucky parks, visit our Web site at