The Dunlap Project - Jetton Schoolhouse

The Dunlap ProjectProposed renovations

The Dunlap will be an innovative approach to affordable housing and economic development, incorporating art and music to enrich Paducah’s creative culture and economy. It will create a community for living, learning, and working inside the historic schoolhouse.

The Dunlap, a $14.6 million development project by Louisville-based Marian Group, will be a community of artists, individuals, and families housed in the historic Walter C. Jetton Middle School located at 401 Walter Jetton Boulevard.  This project is named after one of Paducah’s most important daughters, Mollie E. Dunlap. The project includes rehabilitating housing units, restoring the concert hall for the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, and creating a conservatory for music training and education. Construction is expected to take approximately 18 months.  A groundbreaking ceremony was held August 24, 2021 with community partners. 

The Dunlap preserves 21 residential units and adds 21 new units of affordable housing to fit the housing needs and enrich the artistic culture of the community.  The Dunlap will also offer a Community Service Facility (CSF) operated by the Paducah Symphony Orchestra in the attached symphony hall and part of the original library. Artists, aspiring artists, and innovators will use the spaces and affordable services to hone their artistic skills, learn how to expand or start a creative-based business, and enjoy the arts.  The proposed renovations are pictured.


The Community Partners

City of Paducah – In April 2021, the Paducah Board of Commissioners authorized up to $100,000 in grant funds to Marian Group to assist with the stabilization of the historic schoolhouse’s roof.

Paducah Symphony Orchestra - To bring The Dunlap to life, Marian teamed with Paducah Symphony Orchestra (PSO), a nonprofit with a mission to bring the rewards of great music to a growing and diverse regional audience. The PSO began their mission 40 years ago playing in the symphony hall located in The Dunlap.  PSO will occupy the approximately 17,000 square feet of space in the symphony hall and the basement.  They will gain administrative space and continue to serve the community by holding affordable concerts in the soon-to-be restored hall and facilitating affordable educational programs and services including youth and children’s choruses, summer music camps, and music lessons.

The PSO Academy | Coming Fall 2022


The Building - Walter C. Jetton Middle Schoolcurrent photos, symphony hall

Walter C. Jetton Middle School (pictured) is a large, two-story building with dark red textured brick, beautifully trimmed with carved sandstone. From the time of its construction in 1920, until 1980, it served as a middle and high school. The facility then began hosting community activities and cultural events.  Over the years, the school has been occupied by the Paducah Symphony, the Paducah Parks Department, and the Paducah Board of Education.

The front section of the school most recently served as the Jetton Schoolhouse Apartments. Unfortunately, the Symphony Hall, where the Paducah Symphony started decades ago, the gym, and the library have been vacant for over 20 years. When the apartment section was rehabbed in 1999, the other sections were boarded up and have been slowly deteriorating due to roof leaks and exposure to the elements.


The Namesake - Mollie E. Dunlap

Mollie E. Dunlap was a librarian, bibliographer, and educator, whose research illuminated the experience of African Americans in higher education. Her work as a founding member of the first African American library association, as well as within the American Library Association, championed the civil rights of black librarians in the United States.  Mollie Dunlap blazed a significant and important trail, and her achievements in the field of education pair well with the role of the school building itself.  


The Developer – The Marian Group

The Marian Group’s core principle is “benefiting people, neighborhoods, and community.” Marian has a strong resume of forming successful community partnerships to develop meaningful, transformational, and history preserving projects.