The River Heritage Museum is located within the oldest surviving antebellum building in Paducah's historic downtown. Known locally as the Petter Building, this two-story, double-pile, brick structure was built circa 1843 to house the newly-formed Branch Bank of Louisville. The building still exhibits the original molded lintels, parapet end walls, and denticulated cornice that are characteristic features of the Greek Revival style.
The Branch Bank of Louisville opened with a capital stock of $200,000, a cashier named Adam Rankin, and James Campbell as the first president. The bank operated until the period of economic uncertainty that accompanied the Civil War.
Adam and Sophy Rankin resided in the north first floor and the entire second floor during his employment. In 1848, documented meetings were held in their parlor to organize what is now Grace Episcopal Church.
From the mid-1870s to 1890, situated on what was then called Main Street, the structure housed at least three separate riverfront hotels.
In 1890, Henry A. Petter bought the building and established a hardware and provisions business that specialized in mill and steamboat supplies. Serving the steamboat community throughout the early twentieth century, the Petter Supply Company changed with the times and eventually became a dealer in industrial supplies.
The Petter family sold the property to the City of Paducah in 1995, and in 1996 it was leased to Seamen's Church Institute. Renovations to the facade have restored the beauty of the antebellum structure, which serves as the entrance to the River Heritage Museum.
The beautifully restored second floor overlooks the confluence of the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers. Painstaking effort went into preserving this historic downtown treasure and is evident in its original floors and fireplaces, elegant staircase, unique doors and window casings made possible in part by a Save America's Treasures grant through the National Park Service. One large and two smaller rooms are complemented with period furnishings-perfect for entertaining.