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The first English explorers began visiting the area in the early 1750s. The city was named Frankfort after Stephen Frank, a settler who was killed at or near the site during an Indian Skirmish in 1780. The city bid to be the Capital for Kentucky. The first statehouse was built by 1794 however it burned down in 1813. It was rebuilt in 1816 and burned down again in 1824. The "Old Capital" was designed by Gideon Shyrock and finished in 1830; it remained the state capital for the following 80 years. The new capital was constructed in South Frankfort as the old location was deemed too small.
The leading industry in the 20th century was distilling. It was hit hard by approval of the Eighteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.
The Great Depression brought suffering. However, the repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment in 1933 gave Frankfort an economic boost. After WWI the city's population doubled—most of it being due to annexation of developing suburban areas. In the early 1950s, the cities downtown was crowded and bustling. Traffic congestion and lack of parking became a problem this resulted in housing developers building outside the old area.
Frankfort's core historic business district remains an active center of commerce with a positive trend. The current population of Frankfort is about 28,000 people. It has one of the most beautiful Capital buildings in the country.