The home of the oldest functioning pottery shop in the United States, Bybee Pottery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Established in the 1840s by the Cornelison family, Bybee Pottery is the only traditional pottery still operating in the state. In the nineteenth century, potteries thrived in Paducah, Louisville, Richmond, and Lexington. Kentucky pottery was influenced by potters from Ohio, Indiana, and West Virginia. These influences are still seen today in the forms produced at Bybee Pottery.
In 1981, Walter Lee Cornelison was conscious of his family’s lineage and of the importance of maintaining that family tradition. Although Bybee Pottery does produce substantial amounts of slip-cast and jigger-turned ware, Cornelison was actively turning on the wheel. Most of the ware is utilitarian in nature, inspired by the styles produced by his ancestors. Earlier generations produced swirlware similar to that of Catawba Valley potters in North Carolina. Bybee is most recognized for its “Bybee Blue” glaze and the use of sponging, a stylistic procedure of northern influence not typically found in traditional Southern pottery. Today, Bybee Pottery produces more than one hundred thousand pieces of pottery a year.