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The McCreary County Heritage Foundation, Inc.

The McCreary County Heritage Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization, was formed in 1987 by a small group of local businessmen to assist the economic development of the area through the acquisition of landmark buildings and the establishment of a local history museum. The Foundation was instrumental in getting six buildings of the downtown Stearns area listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With a grant from the Kentucky Heritage Council and the support of the McCreary County Industrial Development Association the Foundation purchased the old Stearns Company office building for the site of the Museum, which opened in 1988.

The McCreary County Heritage Foundation, Inc., January 2000, expanded to incorporate two other concerns, the Stearns Historical Area Development Authority (SHADA) and the Big South Fork Scenic Railway (BSFSR).

In 1993 the McCreary County Industrial Development Association purchased four of the historic buildings in downtown Stearns (the Jones property), which were taken over a year later by the newly formed Stearns Historical Area Development Authority (SHADA). SHADA, consisting of local and county Fiscal Court representatives, obtained Intermodal Surface/Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) funding and was responsible for the renovation of the Wholesale Depot building. The Wholesale Depot building was donated to SHADA from Outdoor Venture Corporation, the location for it's manufacturing of recreational tents from 1972-1988. SHADA's goal was to obtain funding to continue restoration of the remaining downtown properties.

The Big South Fork Scenic Railway, Inc. (BSFSR, Inc.) a for-profit venture began in 1982 with a short train trip for tourists on the old Kentucky & Tennessee Railroad. In 1989, the excursion was extended to the Blue Heron mining community located at the North end of the Big South Fork National River & Recreational Area (BSFNRRA). The BSFSR, Inc. concluded its business operations in the winter of 1996. Realizing the significance to the downtown area a group of 9 local business men formed a completely new company in April of 1997. The Big South Fork Scenic Railway Enterprises, L.L.C., a for-profit company, began its operations in the newly restored Wholesale Depot. The railway carries approximately 30,000 passengers each year from the downtown area to the Blue Heron mining community.

In January 2000 the separate entities, the Scenic Railway, SHADA and the Heritage Foundation's McCreary County Museum, with interests in promoting the economic welfare and preserving the historic integrity of the area agreed to work together under one governing board. Consequently, the McCreary County Heritage Foundation Board was reorganized with at least three representatives from each of the three groups.

The mission of the reorganized McCreary County Heritage Foundation, Inc., consisting of the McCreary County Museum, SHADA, and a now non-profit Scenic Railway, is:


To acquire, preserve, protect, interpret and promote the social and material heritage of the people of McCreary County, including historic sites, historic buildings, artifacts of daily life and the way of life of the people of this area.


Future Generations have the opportunity to directly engage in the past, and learn firsthand what their forefathers' lives were like. Logging, coal mining, and railroad all are a vitally important part of Kentucky's heritage, and the "Stearns Experience" as ultimately presented by the Heritage foundation is possibly Kentucky's only intact location which will allow the opportunity to educate its children.


The Big South Fork Scenic Railway, Stearns, and Clue Heron are operating tourist destinations. The combination and enhancement of the individual organizations into one larger effort will substantially increase the productivity of each, thereby resulting in an increase in tourism for the County and Region as well.

Our Ultimate Goal:

"The goal of the McCreary County Heritage Foundation, Inc. is to present to the public the best preserved example of a typical southeastern Kentucky coal and lumber company operation in the world."
This Goal is referred to as "The Stearns Experience."

Our goal is achieved through:


Provides a location and historic fabric for the goal to be pursued.


Provides the necessary activities to achieve preservation, education and tourism.


Provides a suitable tourist destination which is fun, educational, and relaxing for people of all ages to enjoy and benefit from.


Provides the means to sustain preservation, program, and presentation by inviting our audience to see and financially support our product.

To support our efforts please email: