Gabrielle Robertson began teaching Kentucky history at Western Kentucky State Normal School in 1914. She discovered that there was only one book about Kentucky in the library and began a mission to expand the collection. As the volume of materials grew, she began to advocate for a building to house it. President Cherry expanded her idea to include a museum and began to raise money through the College Heights Foundation in 1928.
Construction of the 40,000 sf structure began on August 4, 1931, and the exterior was completed that fall. However, the Great Depression made it nearly impossible to raise funds to complete the interior. Even so, the unfinished interior was temporarily used as classroom space from 1935-1937. President Cherry died in 1937, two years after launching a second fundraising campaign to have the building finished. The Kentucky Building was finally completed in September 1939 with funding from faculty, students, the general public, and the Public Works Administration. It was dedicated on November 16, 1939, which was Founder's Day - President Cherry's birthday.
When it finally opened, the Kentucky Building had reception areas, classrooms, museum galleries, and library reading rooms; and it contained an extensive collection of manuscripts, artifacts, and books.
The building closed in 1976 and reopened on July 4, 1980 after a $2.7 million renovation that doubled its size to 80,000 sf.
For more information about the Kentucky Building, other buildings on the WKU campus, Founder's Day, the Kentucky Museum, and Library Special Collections, see:
Harrison, Lowell H. Western Kentucky University. Limited access for WKU students, alumni and personnel.