Found Lost Paradise
Greenville, Kentucky Public Library
October 11, 2022
I will admit that I was pretty stoked to visit Paradise, Kentucky. I should have known something was up when Google Maps took me on an "unimproved" (meaning gravel) road for the last four miles. As you can see above, my map clearly indicated there is a Paradise located on the banks of the Green River.
So it turns out that Paradise no longer exists -- at least physically. There is quite a story here -- one that involves John Prine.
Paradise was a small town in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, United States. The town was located 10.5 miles east-north-east of Greenville and was formerly called Stom's Landing (sometimes incorrectly spelled Stum). It was once a trading post along the Green River. The area was strip mined in the 20th century, and what was left of the town was bought-up and torn down in 1967 by the Tennessee Valley Authority due to health concerns related to its proximity to a nearby coal-burning electric plant, Paradise Fossil Plant.
Paradise was settled in the early nineteenth century when it was known as Stom's Landing, for Leonard Stom who founded the ferry there. It may have once been named Monterey. The origin of its final name of Paradise is not known. It is postulated the name was descriptive, for settlers who considered the setting to be paradise. A post office was established at Paradise on March 1, 1852; it closed in 1967. Though the town did endure numerous floods of the Green River during its lifespan which it survived.
In 1959, the TVA built a coal plant at the former site of Paradise. The coal-fired plants remain controversial and the Paradise permits in particular, have been criticized by environmentalists for non-compliance with the Clean Air Act. Since construction of new scrubbers on Unit 3 at Paradise, the plant's emissions from the massive unit have dropped dramatically in recent years; this in turn has led to a dramatic drop in toxic emissions from the plant overall.
A song about Paradise, Kentucky, called "Paradise", was written and made famous by singer/songwriter John Prine. The lyrics attribute the destruction of Paradise to the Peabody company, referring to the fact that the town was a site for strip mining. The town continued to exist in partial form after the Pittsburg & Midway Coal Company and Peabody Coal Company stripped the coal around it. The Paradise Fossil Plant was initially erected with only two units; afterwards, the residents who were left in the village were bought out by the Tennessee Valley Authority after ash fall from the newly opened plant brought health concerns to the area. Soon after the TVA bought the town out, they tore down all the structures and constructed the largest cyclonic fired boiler in the world at the new "Paradise Unit 3". All that remains of the original town is a small cemetery at the top of a hill close to the plant.
More details about the ghost town of Paradise:
A Creepy Ghost Town In Kentucky, Paradise Is The Stuff Nightmares Are Made Of
Ghost towns in Kentucky are something you don’t often hear much talk about. When those rare ghost town stories do pop up, the tales that are told tend to be woven around abandoned coal towns such as Blandville or Dryfork. These specks in history have either evolved into museums, Inns or, sadly, ceased to be remembered, except for making an appearance in the occasional local legend here and there. Among these crumbling wood or brick and mortar memories, one ghost town in Kentucky stands out. Not just because it has a sad story, as they all have that. Instead, because all that remains is the occasional crumbled memorial, chunks of concrete disintegrated to gravel, the ancient cemetery and a name… Paradise.
Everyone has heard of Paradise Most people have their own version of Paradise too, and that is okay. Here in Kentucky, we will always have our own piece of Paradise, as it has been immortalized over the decades in both story and song.
The Stoms Home Paradise in Muhlenberg County was known as Stoms Landing in the early 1800s, primarily because a gent named Leonard Stom started a ferry there, transporting people along the river. At some point, the town was said to become Monteray, though no real concrete evidence has been documented to that effect. What was documented is that in 1852 a post office was established under the town name of Paradise. It stayed open until March of 1967
During those years, the area was often described as a lush, grassy paradise, with crystal clean water, good fishing and thriving plants and animals. Laying along the riverbanks, both kids and adults would stare off into the sky, imagining figures in the clouds. Under the moon, it became a romantic… paradise.
John Prine wrote about Muhlenberg Counties being full of life, love and light until the end of the 1950s. His song, “Paradise” has been redone by the likes of John Denver, Dwight Yoakam, Tom T Hall, The Country Gentlemen and Lynn Anderson. All these celebrity singers praised the little town of Paradise in Muhlenberg County, and the tragedy that took it away. Paradise got creepy, and Prine attributed the demise of the community to the Peabody Company and strip mining in the area. However, the town did remain intact for a while after the Pittsburg and Midway Coal Mining Company drained the surrounding area of coal. Unfortunately, the quality of life for residents met with a rapid decline during that time.
The Paradise Fossil Plants were built and started raining ash and debris down upon the remaining citizens of Paradise. The act didn’t go unnoticed, and the coal fired plants were deemed very controversial. Environmentalists in particular took issue with their methods. Concern arose for the health of the remaining residents of Paradise. Obviously having ash created during the factory process and pouring from the air like warm, toxic snow was not a positive influence for ones respiratory system. Most likely, to prevent an onslaught of environmental and residential poisoning lawsuits, the Tennessee Valley Authority stepped forward. TVA representatives convinced the remaining townsfolk to vacate and paid them miniscule amounts to abandon their once happy lives in Paradise.
What remains of Paradise today that qualifies it as a creepy ghost town in Kentucky? Sadly, only a small cemetery still stands atop the hill, not far from the plant that was the beginning of the end.
The real tragedy here is the loss of such a special place in the Bluegrass State, and how it met its end. I cannot say for sure if Paradise was the paradise John Prine sang of, but he sure did make it sound convincing. Since Kentucky is known for its beauty, I’d imagine he sang the truth.
A pictorial representation of John Prine's song:
How cool is this? Someone put photos with the lyrics of the song. (http://www.jpshrine.org/picshow/paradise/paradise.html)
About the power plant:
TVA replaced the coal-fired plant (which was HUGE) with a modern gas-fired plant.
TVA’s Paradise Fossil Plant was located in western Kentucky on the Green River near the village of Paradise. The plant had three units and three large natural-draft cooling towers. Paradise was TVA’s only coal-fired plant with cooling towers, which are typically seen at nuclear plants.
Units 1 and 2 went on-line in 1963, each with a generation capacity of 704 megawatts. At the time, they were the largest operating units in the world. A third unit became operational in 1970, with a summer net generating capacity of 971 MW. In 1985, a barge-unloading facility was added so that coal could be delivered by barge as well as by train and truck.
Paradise units 1 and 2 were retired in 2017. After a detailed review of fuel, transmission, economic and environmental impacts, as well as reviewing public input, on Feb. 14, 2019, the TVA Board of Directors approved the retirement of Paradise Unit 3, which ceased operation in February 2020, effectively closing the plant.
TVA invested approximately $1 billion to build a gas-fired plant that to replace Paradise units 1 and 2. The new combined cycle plant was opened in April of 2017.
Paradise Combined Cycle Plant is a 3x1 natural gas plant located in Drakesboro, Ky. The plant began commercial operation on April 7, 2017.
The facility uses natural gas for combustion and consists of three trains, each with a GE 7FA.05 gas turbine/generator and a Vogt heat recovery steam generator (HRSG). Each HRSG is equipped with natural-gas supplemental duct firing. The steam generated from the HRSGs provides steam to a Toshiba steam turbine/generator.
Plant design allows for simple cycle operation with a summer capacity of 600+ MW, or combined cycle operation with a baseload capacity of 1,025 MW and additional supplemental duct-firing operation of 1,100 MW.
The Paradise Combined Cycle Plant is a highly flexible and dynamic facility providing responsive, clean, and reliable power to TVA's customer. The facility can operate in 1x1, 2x1, or 3x1 mode or operate in simple cycle mode as needed.
The Paradise Combined Cycle Plant generation replaced the Paradise Fossil Plant's Unit 1 and Unit 2 which were retired in April 2017.