In the 1940s and 1950s, Paducah, Ky., was a destination for jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington; the thriving port city at the confluence of the Tennessee and Ohio rivers was an important stop on the "Chitlin' Circuit," a safe set of performance venues for African-Americans.

However, like many other small Midwestern cities, Paducah fell on hard times in recent decades. Lowertown, one of the first neighborhoods settled, became a center for the local drug trade, and historic Victorian houses there were cut haphazardly into low-rent apartments, accelerating the neighborhood's decline.

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