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Horse Cave, Kentucky

Horse Cave is a city located in Hart County, Kentucky. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 2,252.

History The city is best known for the large natural cave opening located on the South side of Main Street, from which the town's name is derived. As for the historical reason for the odd name, various legends are told. One has it that Indians historically hid horses in the cave. A similar tale is that an early carriage may have lost its horse to an accident, when the horse fell into the cave opening. Another, more likely, reason for the name is that the word horse was simply a 19th Century adjective implying huge. The cave opening is large, and this is the most likely reason for the odd name.

The cave itself has figured prominently in the history of the town. Around the World War I period, the world's only air-conditioned tennis courts were located in the entrance of the cave. Likewise, many of the early buildings alongside Main Street derived their air-conditioning from the cave. Inside the cave is a large, fast-flowing river, and the cave itself is also known as Hidden River Cave. This energy source provided the energy to drive a dynamo, and, for a while in the late 19th Century, Horse Cave was the only town outside of Louisville, KY to have electric lights in Kentucky.

The town's drinking water was also taken from the cave. Unfortunately, due to an incomplete understanding of the underground water flow in the region, sewage seeped into the cave, and hence into the drinking water, and the cave became severely polluted. The outcome was that the cave was shut down for tours for over 50 years. During the 1960's, the stench was so bad that pedestrians would cross to the other side of Main Street, rather than walk near the cave's opening. Birds flying over the cave's opening could be seen struggling to breath, falling from the sky into the opening of the cave. Fortunately, efforts made to prevent polluting ground water in the region, coupled with the natural regenerative effects of the running water, have largely restored the cave to a pristine condition. Tours have resumed once more, the outcome of a successful anti-pollution effort by various levels of Government.

The town of Horse Cave dates only to around the time of the Civil War. A stop on the L&N Railroad at this location led to the development of commerce. For at least a short period of time, the town was also known as Caverna, before returning to the name of Horse Cave. The local high school district, which is an independent school district crossing three counties, and encompassing Horse Cave, Cave City, and Mammoth Cave, is still known as Caverna.

Historically, Horse Cave has been a major center of agricultural commerce for Hart County, Metcalfe County, Green County, and the northeastarn part of Barren County, KY since at least the 1870's. Tobacco warehouses located here have provided the majority of the historical income, although in more recent decades, factory work has been growing since the 1970's.

Tourist attractions include the Horse Cave Theatre, Mammoth Onyx Cave, and, nearby, the Mammoth Cave National Park. Civil War Days are an annual tourist event, during which time parades down Main Street and re-enactments of a Civil War battle at Rowlett's Station, between Horse Cave and Munfordville, Kentucky are staged.

Geography Horse Cave is located at 37°10'34" North, 85°54'22" West (37.176230, -85.906143)1.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.7 km² (3.0 mi²). 7.7 km² (3.0 mi²) of it is land and none of the area is covered with water.

Demographics As of the census of 2000, there are 2,252 people, 977 households, and 601 families residing in the city. The population density is 292.8/km² (758.0/mi²). There are 1,091 housing units at an average density of 141.8/km² (367.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 80.91% White, 17.94% African American, 0.27% Native American, 0.00% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 0.04% from other races, and 0.84% from two or more races. 0.58% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 977 households out of which 28.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.2% are married couples living together, 18.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 38.4% are non-families. 34.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 16.8% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.21 and the average family size is 2.84.

In the city the population is spread out with 21.8% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 26.4% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 40 years. For every 100 females there are 81.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 72.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $21,134, and the median income for a family is $28,026. Males have a median income of $25,905 versus $18,457 for females. The per capita income for the city is $17,861. 27.9% of the population and 24.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 36.8% are under the age of 18 and 22.5% are 65 or older.

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