Founded on May 9, 1842, the Kentucky School for the Blind became the sixth school for the blind in the United States. The Kentucky Legislature approved the founding of the school by charter on February 5, 1842.
Two of the most important Kentuckians involved in the school's establishment were Dr. Theodore Stout Bell and Judge William Fontaine Bullock. These men were zealous in their efforts after seeing exhibitions by blind students from the Perkins School for the Blind. Perkins students were brought to Kentucky by Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe and were instrumental in starting the school.
The school operated in a house in downtown Louisville on Broadway with five students, under the direction of the first Superintendent, Bryce Patton. On Monday, September 20, 1851, a fire destroyed the school. The school was move to Green Street. On January 8, 1852, $10,000 was appropriated to purchase a 25-acre lot on Frankfort Pike, now Frankfort Avenue. The building was completed in 1855 and students moved the new location in the fall of that year.
It has been noted that architect Francis Costigan designed the building. However, historical research does not show any connection between Costigan and the construction of the building. The structure had fives stories with massive walls and twenty-foot ceilings. The crowning point
was its cupola. The cupola stood on wooden pillars and had a copper dome.
From the cupola, a person with good vision could see the Ohio River to the north and had a wonderful view of the downtown skyline to the West. It was one of the highest points in Louisville, and could be seen from any point in the city limits.
In September 1938, lightning struck the cupola, starting a fire. No one was injured, and the damaged cupola was repaired. However, by 1967 the building had been condemned and razed. The cupola was removed and set next to the Gregory Gym and later moved to the Governor's Mansion in Frankfort. KSB alumni and staff maintained interest in the cupola and kept alive the hope of returning the cupola to the campus.
Kentucky First Lady Judy Patton contacted KSB about returning the cupola to the campus. The offer was accepted and the Cupola Committee was formed to begin the process. Funding was crucial. Committee member and KSB Alumnus Betty Niceley was highly successful in getting assistance from Mrs. Patton. Through her tireless efforts, the Cupola was returned, renovated, and dedicated on May 7, 1999.
The cupola stands on a concrete platform with lighting to make the dome visible at night. It is located on the front entrance of the campus overlooking Frankfort Avenue near the tree-shaded amphitheater. No matter what the building was called,
or how you pronounce cupola (cupoluh, cupolah, or cupolo), it will continue to be the symbol of service and a Louisville landmark of the Kentucky School for the Blind.