Anywhere you walk in Lexington, you’re bound to stumble on something historical! Founded in 1775, Lexington is one of the earliest regions in Kentucky and was known as the Athens of the West for its big city artistic charm in the expanding west.
Whether you are searching for relics of past eras and interesting people, examples of architectural worth, or scenes of noteworthy events, you will find plenty of fascinating history here.
Historic Homes of Lexington
The home of the Great Compromiser, statesman Henry Clay, Ashland sits on acres of beautiful parkland in the Chevy Chase neighborhood. The house is available to tour with preserved architecture from the rebuild in 1857 and family memorabilia and furniture. The grounds at Ashland are as much of an attraction as the house. A certified arboretum and English parterre-style garden, walk around the trails, view the statues, perfectly rowed flowers, and the centuries-old trees. Outdoor exhibits on slaves and women at Ashland are free to view.
120 Sycamore Road | (859) 266-8581
* Visiting in the fall? Cross the street from Ashland and stroll down Catalpa Road to see the famous gingko trees! *
Mary Todd, who would become Mrs. Abraham Lincoln, lived in this house until she was 21. On trips home to Lexington to visit her family, Mary Todd and Abe would stay at the house. Family pieces and period antiques as well as personal possessions of Mary Todd are on display. The brick house was built in 1803 and includes a period herb and perennial garden in the backyard. Tours available.
578 W Main St | (859) 233-9999
Waveland was built in 1847 for Joseph Boone, great-nephew of Daniel Boone. An excellent example of Greek revival architecture in Kentucky, Waveland was an antebellum hemp farm. Along with visiting the house, there are vast gardens, slave quarters, picnic areas and a playground. Waveland is famous for its Christmas activities and its Tuesday Teas.
225 Waveland Museum Lane | (859) 272-3611
Other Notable Historic Places
A city park, McConnell Springs was the site of Lexington’s founding. In 1775, after hearing of the Revolutionary War battle of Lexington and Concord, William McConnell and other surveyors named their campsite Lexington in honor of the battle. Lexington’s birthplace is a 21.5 acre park with walking trails, a spring, and a nature center.
416 Rebmann Lane | (859) 225-4073
This impressive Richardsonian Romanesque courthouse was built at the turn of the 20th century, the fifth Fayette County courthouse on this location. Venture inside to view the restored dome ceiling through glass floors, and enjoy the mix-use space, including the Lexington Visitors Center. The park abutting the courthouse is Henry Tandy Centennial Park, named after the African American mason and businessman who did the brickwork for the building. Across from the Visitors Center, you can read more about Henry Tandy and explore a timeline of the history of Lexington.
215 W Main Street | (859) 233-7928
First National Building
Across Upper Street from Courthouse Square stands Lexington’s first skyscraper, the First National Building. When it was built, it was the tallest building between Cincinnati and Atlanta. Today it houses 21c Hotel and Museum. Explore the free art museum or eat at the Lockbox, located in the old safe of the bank.
167 W Main Street | (859) 899-6800
Officially opened in 1877, the Lexington Opera House was the height of fashion. With seats upholstered in Turkish velvet and over 250 gaslights, the opera house was one of the top regional attraction. With its nineteenth century architectural features beautifully restored, seeing a Broadway show or ballet at the opera house is a unique experience in the city.
401 W Short Street | (850) 233-4567
Considered one of the finest Gothic Revival houses in the South, the Loudoun House was built in 1849 for Francis Key Hunt. The house is located in the middle of Castlewood Park and is now home to the Lexington Art League, a public art gallery that hosts many events.
209 Castlewood Drive | (859) 254-7024
The Lexington Cemetery
A great place to walk and get lost in nature and nineteenth century monuments, the Lexington Cemetery is park-like location near downtown. An arboretum and garden, the cemetery contains many monuments to well-known Kentuckians, including Henry Clay’s tomb and monument. The 130-ft structure includes a statue of Clay at the top, facing towards his beloved Ashland Estate.
* In the spring, you’ll find many locals strolling and taking photos of the cherry blossoms that turn the cemetery pink. *
One of the oldest residential neighborhoods in Lexington, Gratz Park connects downtown to Transylvania University. With homes from the early 1800 to late 1800s lining a green space, Gratz Park is the perfect place to enjoy a stroll in the shade while admiring some of Lexington’s oldest homes.