Local historical markers deteriorating

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY — Deteriorating historical markers line the streets of McCracken County and Paducah. We have more than 80 markers in our area, and most of them are rusted.

The signs are supposed to tell visitors about our history.  Instead, the rust looks like a bull’s-eye starting from the center, spreading outward Some of the rust is so bad, you can’t read what is on the sign.

The Kentucky Historical Society says that is happening across the state because of the materials used to make the markers.

David and Phyllis Oakes were out enjoying historic downtown Paducah Wednesday before they get back on the road.

“We occasionally go down there, and sometimes, if the serendipity permits, we get to stop and Paducah and go to the Quilt Museum,” David said.

It’s their second time in Paducah, and David is starting to notice little details.

“If you look at that sign over there, you can see it as a nice, rich, almost a rust color copper look to it,” said David.

It’s not just a rust color. It is actual rust.

“It’s a change in the chemistry of the marker. I’m not exactly sure why you did that, but we have several across the state that have had that red chemical bulls eye look to them,” Kentucky Historical Society Historical Resources Director Sara Elliott said.

She said the historical society is making some changes to fix the issue. The KHS is starting to make signs from powder-coated aluminum, like the one in front of the Carson Center for the Rotary Club of Paducah. There is no rust on that marker. It is brand new. The KHS doesn’t think it will rust, because of that new material.

But, that doesn’t change the markers that are hard to read or hidden behind trees and bushes.

While David thinks some of the rust adds character, others need some help.

It would cost more than $2,500 to replace one of the markers. That money would have to be raised by an organization in the community. KHS doesn’t pay for the markers.

One local woman is restoring them for much less. Ro Morse said she uses steel wool to scratch off the rust and then repaint the signs by hand. She’s doing it one by one, so it takes months to repair.

Restoring the sign would only cost an organization $800.