Lexington Public Library

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The Lexington Public Library’s Digital Archives provide open access to researchers and students to learn more about the rich history of Lexington and Fayette County. It contains a fraction of the Library’s physical holdings, which are housed and available for reference in the Kentucky Room at the Central Library. New material is being digitized and added constantly, so there's always something new to find.

The archives have a simple keyword search, and it is possible to browse the collections by subject, area, or decade. The Lexington Public Library actively reviews and labels materials in our archives with statements that indicate how you may reuse the images, and what sort of permission, if any, you need to do so. Please check the information for each image to determine its legal status.

Digital Archives - Collection

Lexington's school system dates back to the city charter of 1831, and it first school opened in 1834. From a single building in 1834 with about 100 students, today the Fayette County Public School system has over 40,000 students and 68 schools and programs. Lexington and Fayette County combined districts in 1968, shortly before the city/county government merger in 1974.

The Lexington Public Library has made an effort to ensure that all of our digital collections are public domain, or that we have gotten approval from the copyright holders to display their work. Most - but not all - of these collections, to the best of our knowledge, have no known US copyright restrictions. Some items in the collection are under copyright but qualify for online display by libraries under Section 108(h) of United States Copyright Law. Some of the collections provided in the Library's Digital Archives are made available under an assertion of fair use, which does not necessarily apply to an individual's use of them.

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
Fayette County History

Fayette County, Kentucky, has changed enormously since it was created in 1792. This collection contains government documents for the city of Lexington, for Fayette County, and for the merged Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, as well as funeral notices, club directories, scrapbooks, image collections and a history of Lexington Public Library.

 

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
Sample directory page

The library has a variety of directories and yearbooks with local information. In the library's current digital collection, there is a selection of residential and street directories, yearbooks, school directories, and organizational directories. These are all fully word-searchable.

 

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Discover unique resources in our Digital Archives that tell the story of Fayette County.  Visit cemeteries throughout Central Kentucky using our cemetery maps.  Contact our resident experts in the Central Library's Kentucky Room with questions.

Digital Archives - Collection

Fayette County's buildings contain a great deal of history about the region and its inhabitants. 

The Old Kentucky Architecture book by Rexford Newcomb (1940) contains images, details, and some architectural layouts from all around Kentucky, but the Lexington properties include Llangollen (the Dr. John C. Lewis House), the Benjamin Gratz House, Rose Hill, Hopemont, Eothan, Ashland, Mansfield, Helm Place, Carrick House at Whitehall, Morrison College at Transylvania University, the tomb of Gideon Shryock's father Matthew at the Old Episcopal Burying Grounds, Ingleside (listed here as Ingelside), Loudoun House, Botherum, Walnut Hill Church, and the Sexton's Cottage at the Old Episcopal Burying Grounds. 

The Court-Houses of Lexington by J. Winston Coleman, Jr. (1937) contains photos and history of Fayette County's four courthouses.

The Illustrated Lexington (1919) has a variety of images, but included are some exterior and interior photographs of downtown Lexington businesses and houses.

Bluegrass Houses and Their Traditions by Elizabeth M. Simpson (1932) contains photos of various Fayette and surrouding county properties, with descriptions of the families, buildings, and contents. The properties include Glendower, Castleton, Eothan, Idle Hour, Maxwell Place, Winton, Elmendorf, Clingendaal, Morrison College, La Chaumiere du Prairie, Scarlet Gate, the Meadows, Lindenhouse, Belair, Mount Brilliant, Coldstream, Hopemont, Bodley House, Roberts House, Woodburn House, Botherum, Greentree, Ingleside, Loudoun, Thorn Hill, Rose Hill (Buckner), Elmwood, Sycamore Park, Walnut Hall, Edwards House, Patchen Wilkes, Hurricane Hall, Forkland, the Old Keen Place, Xalapa, the Ward Place, Calumet, Dunreath, Kilmore, Alleghan Hall, Sumner’s Forest, Stoneley, Rose Hill (Talbert), Helm Place, Castlelawn, Dixiana, Bryan Station, Poplar Hill, Mansfield, Fowler’s Garden, Mount Hope, Hollyrood, and Ashland.

Gratz Park (1983) contains illustrations and brief descriptions of the buildings and features of Gratz Park in downtown Lexington.

 

Digital Archives - Collection

The Fayette County Postcard collection contains images of well-known sites in Central Kentucky, such as Keeneland, Transylvania University, Ashland, and many others. The 80 images provide an interesting perspective of Lexington architecture, industry, and culture in the early 20th Century.

Until 1974, Lexington and Fayette County had two separate governing bodies. Lexington itself was founded in 1775 and chartered in 1782 by an act of the Virginia General Assembly, since Kentucky itself did not achieve statehood until 1792. Fayette County was formed in 1780, and spanned what is currently about a third of the state, before achieving its current boundary lines in 1799. 
 
The Lexington Fayette Urban County Government became a consolidated government in 1974. The digitized items in this collection are primarily Lexington city documents or merged city-county documents. The earliest digitized item is Lexington’s 1858 city charter and ordinances. 
 
Database
Learn more about Fayette County and our rich history with the Kentucky Room's Digital Archives. Search photo collections, historical newspapers and publications, and community collections with a simple search. New material is continually being scanned and added.
 

The Digital Studio provides people of all skill levels the tools for filmmaking, photography and digital art, music making, and media preservation.

The Central Kentucky Cemeteries Maps are powered by Google Maps.  Counties include:  Fayette, Bourbon, Clark, Garrard, Harrison, Jessamine, Lincoln, Madison, Mercer, Montgomery, Nicholas, Powell, Scott, and Woodford.

Digital Archives - Collection
The Bath County Memorial Library was founded in 1949 by the Owingsville Women’s Club, and opened in January, 1950. It expanded into a bookmobile in 1953, and in 1963 moved into the old Farmer’s Bank Building at 24 W. Main St. Community response was high; a 1965 survey showed resident usage at 70%, and the library expanded again in 1996. 
 
Both of those collections are owned by the Bath County Memorial Library, and held in their local history collection.
Digital Archives - Collection

While the focus of content in the digital archive is Fayette County, many other counties are represented. This list is in alphabetical order by county name for non-Fayette County content.

Anderson County

 

Bath County

Boone County

Bourbon County

Boyd County

Boyle County

Breathitt County

Bullitt County

Caldwell County

Calloway County

Christian County

Clark County

Clay County

Floyd County

Franklin County

Garrard County

Graves County

Grayson County

Hardin County

Harlan County

Hopkins County

Jackson County

Jefferson County

Jessamine County

Johnson County

  • Kentucky Mountain Club (Membership includes the following counties: Adair, Bath, Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Elliott, Estill, Fayette, Fleming, Floyd, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lewis, McCreary, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Monroe, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Russell, Wayne, Whitley, and Wolfe)

Knox County

  • Telephone Directory; Barbourville, Brodhead, East Bernstadt, Eubank, Faubush, Flat Lick, Livingston, London, Manchester, Mt. Vernon, Oneida, Science Hill, Shopville, White Lily, Kentucky, 1974

Laurel County

Leslie County

Livingston County

Madison County

Mason County

Meade County

Mercer County

Muhlenberg County

Nelson County

Owsley County

Pulaski County

  • Telephone Directory; Barbourville, Brodhead, East Bernstadt, Eubank, Faubush, Flat Lick, Livingston, London, Manchester, Mt. Vernon, Oneida, Science Hill, Shopville, White Lily, Kentucky, 1974

Robertson County

Rockcastle County

  • Telephone Directory; Barbourville, Brodhead, East Bernstadt, Eubank, Faubush, Flat Lick, Livingston, London, Manchester, Mt. Vernon, Oneida, Science Hill, Shopville, White Lily, Kentucky, 1974

Scott County

​Shelby County

Warren County

Washington County

Wolfe County

Woodford County

 

Digital Archives - Collection

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department had its earliest form almost as long as the city itself has existed, when the newly formed city of Lexington would appoint a local physician to investigate reports of certain diseases for quarantine. As early as 1794, Lexington's citizens were getting smallpox inoculations. The city created a Board of Health possibly as early as the 1820s, as a young Lexington experienced cholera outbreaks, typhus, smallpox, and the various growing pains created by more people living and working closer together. In 1938, the Lexington city Board of Health merged with the county’s Board to become the Fayette County Health Department.  

The board minutes for January 1904 – April 1922 provided by the Health Department show the broad range of topics impacting local citizens, and the Health Department’s role in keeping its citizens healthier. Through the decades, the Health Department has tested the local milk supply for tuberculosis, led education and vaccination programs, inspected restaurants, set quarantines to prevent the spread of disease, improved sanitation, and at one point ran the local crematory and eruptive hospital.

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
historic frankfort kentucky

The Kentucky History collection contains Kentucky-related documents not specifically related to Fayette County.

 

The Lexington Public Library receives most of its operating funds from an Ad Valorem property tax. By State law, the Library receives five cents for every $100 of assessed property value in Lexington and Fayette County.

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
Kentucky Images

The Kentucky Images collection contains postcards, photographs and slides of people, architecture, and locations in Kentucky and Appalachia.

 

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
Kentucky Progress magazine

The Publications Collection contains runs of historical Kentucky newspapers, almanacs, and magazines. 

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All databases are available from this page.

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Learn by doing. Get hands-on practice with cutting edge technology at our Digital Studio, Kloiber Foundation STEAM Lab, and Makerspace on your own or learn from our expert staff during structured programs.

Digital Archives - Collection
The Lexington Public Library opened a Carnegie library in 1905. It incorporated the collections of the former subscription Lexington Library Company (est.1801) and the former Transylvania Library (est.1795). The library became a free library in 1899, shortly before moving locations. When the city outgrew the Carnegie building, the Central Library was built and it opened in 1989.
 
The system contains six branch locations. The largest is the Central Library, located on E. Main St. The Beaumont Branch, located on Fieldstone Way just off Harrodsburg Rd., replaced the Southside Branch in 1997. The Tates Creek Branch, located on Walden Drive, replaced the Lansdowne Branch in 2001. The Village Branch, located on Versailles Rd. at Village Dr., opened in 2004, and is an English-Spanish bilingual branch, with bilingual staff. The Northside Branch, located on Russell Cave Rd., replaced the previous Northside location in 2008. The Eastside Branch, located on Blake James Dr., replaced the Eagle Creek Branch in 2016. 
 
The contents of the library's digital collection contain some images and brochures at various points in library history. The typed library history by Mary K. Bullitt was a part of the library's cornerstone collection, which was buried in 1902, during the construction of the Carnegie building. It was opened in 1989 when the library moved locations. The other images depict the construction of the Central Library from 1987-1989.
 
Digital Archives - Collection

Illustrated Lexington Kentucky contains photographs, demographics, commerce and financial information about Lexington up to 1919. This work appears to have been commissioned by the Lexington Board of Commerce, and features an introduction including information about Lexington’s businesses, schools, parks, climate, infrastructure, and other amenities. There is a feature on Lexington and Fayette County’s financial health, written by Board of Commerce member J. Will Stoll. Photographs in this work include street scenes, agriculture, infrastructure, horses, prominent homes, and the interiors of many Lexington businesses.

Digital Archives - Collection

The Kentucky Mountain Club was founded in 1929 as a social organization for residents of Lexington, Kentucky, who had been born or resided in the counties of eastern Kentucky. While it served as a social and educational club, its members also provided support during regional emergencies and helped establish tubercular sanitoriums in the eastern Kentucky mountains in the 1930s.

The Kentucky Mountain Club directories contain organizational information about the club’s history, activities, officers, woman’s auxiliary, articles of incorporation, and membership. The membership roster is presented alphabetically, then listed again by county. The directory also contains a scattering of poems, photographs, and business advertisements.

Membership for the club was limited to the following counties: Adair, Bath, Bell, Boyd, Breathitt, Carter, Casey, Clay, Clinton, Cumberland, Elliott, Estill, Fayette, Fleming, Floyd, Greenup, Harlan, Jackson, Johnson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lawrence, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Lewis, McCreary, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Monroe, Morgan, Owsley, Perry, Pike, Powell, Pulaski, Rockcastle, Rowan, Russell, Wayne, Whitley, and Wolfe Counties.