The Army began construction of what is now known as Bluegrass Station July 1, 1941. It was originally designated as the Lexington Signal Depot and later called the Lexington Army Depot. The post was established by Department of War General Order No. 6, dated June 25, 1941.
In December 1988, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission recommended closing the Lexington-Bluegrass Army Depot, with a scheduled closure date of September 30, 1995. The Commonwealth of Kentucky leased the facility when it closed as a federal facility in an effort to mitigate the economic impact and the installation was renamed Bluegrass Station.
The depot was originally built on 782 acres of Central Kentucky farmland, located in the eastern section of Fayette County. The base soon grew to include the administration building, eight 130,000 sq. ft. brick warehouses, the motor pool, power plant, and 40 temporary structures. Many additions have been made since the original construction, including two 200’ X 1200’ concrete block warehouses, a heliport, two hangars, and a large maintenance building.
The mission of the depot consisted of a variety of duties, including storage and shipment of supplies and ammunition, testing of radio equipment, and development of new technologies. Those stationed at the Lexington Army Depot made many valuable contributions to the war effort through these duties.
For example, Clyde T. Burke, superintendent of the Identification Bureau, developed a new type of camera used to photograph fingerprints. The camera allowed the fingerprints to be enlarged, thus making identification much easier. It was a vast improvement over the process of the day.
Another example includes two large hangars that were to be built to test a sensitive type of radar equipment. The radar can detect echoes from very small pieces of metal, including nails. This presented a difficult design problem that was resolved by constructing the hangars entirely of wood. These hangars are still in use today.
During World War II, as it was with most of the nation, women played an important role in the depot’s wartime effort. Their duties ranged from forklift operation and maintenance to guarding the installation.
Approximately 35 German Prisoners of War (POWs) were brought to the depot in February 1945 to construct barracks to be used to house other POWs that were to follow. Approximately 275 German prisoners were held in these barracks. During this time they were used to process unserviceable wire, load and unload supplies, and maintain roads and grounds. The prisoners were moved to Ft. Knox, Kentucky, in February 1946.
After World War II the base mission was expanded to include use as a storage depot for materials and supplies such as dry cell batteries, clothing, textiles, and various manufactured metal products. During the 1950’s and 60’s, the depot continued to provide support for our troops overseas in the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. During this time, the depot participated in the research and development of new technologies that were used throughout the military, in addition to its regular duties.
The first Nucleonics Laboratory in the U.S. Army was opened in November 1958. Its purpose was to develop equipment that could detect and measure radiation in the event of a nuclear explosion. The Avionics Crew, a division of the Maintenance Branch, refitted and updated military aircraft with UHF and FM communications equipment.
The Lexington Army Depot merged with the Bluegrass Depot in Richmond, Kentucky, in August 1964, thus creating the Lexington-Bluegrass Army Depot (LBAD). It remained the LBAD until December 1988, when the Department of Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission announced the closure of the Lexington Facility. Some of the operations were moved to the Richmond Facility, which was renamed the Blue Grass Army Depot (BGAD). Many people confuse the two facilities due to the many name changes. The Richmond Facility is the active military installation that stores weapons, not Bluegrass Station.
The Lexington Facility officially closed as a federal entity on September 30, 1995, however the “closure” of the depot was actually its “rebirth.” The Commonwealth of Kentucky, Department of Military Affairs (KYDMA), agreed to oversee operations of the facility for the military and military-related agencies that wished to remain. The facility was renamed Bluegrass Station and the KYDMA’s Bluegrass Station Division (BGSD) made its mission to keep the existing jobs and bring new ones to Kentucky by maintaining, upgrading, and leasing the buildings and land.
The BGSD’s staff of fewer than 40 employees had its work cut out for them with 782 acres of property, more than 100 buildings, approximately 17 miles of paved roads, and a multitude of water, sewer, and electric lines to manage, upgrade, and support. Today the facility is a flourishing business park. Approximately 90% of available space is leased to more than 50 tenants with a total of more than 1,350 jobs. The BGSD is proud to report that this employment figure surpasses the number on site during federal ownership.
Bluegrass Station is self-sufficient, operating without the benefit of General Assembly appropriations since July 1, 1996. This means that the BGSD does not receive taxpayer dollars to pay for its operations, unlike most other state agencies. The Division, operating like a private business, targets its marketing to gain prospective clients in the areas of redistribution endeavors and light industry.
The Kentucky National Guard currently uses several of the existing buildings on Bluegrass Station as offices, armories and maintenance facilities.