Lexington Public Library

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Everyone deserves a place to discover something new. The Lexington Public Library stands for free and open access to information. We’re a safe, welcoming space for neighbors to come together — opening the door so all Lexingtonians can find what they’re looking for.

Destination Kindergarten

Destination Kindergarten is the library’s program aimed at preschoolers and their caregivers- trying to help them practice the skills they need to be ready for Kindergarten.  During each Destination Kindergarten event, preschoolers and their caregivers can find a specalized area in the library with fun books, take-home activities, and information about development milestones and school readiness.

See below for more information on upcoming events and take-home packets and activities.

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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.

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From early literacy to beyond, we're here to support your child's education.  Find out about programs like Destination Kindergarten, LPL After School, and Student Success.  Educators can apply for a Teacher Card and request a "bucket of books" or storytime kit.

Located on the fourth floor of the Central Library, this space invites children and students to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math through hands-on experiences. Programming events targeted toward upper elementary and middle-school aged students include circuits, robotics, augmented and virtual reality, coding, 3D printing, recording in the audio booth, and so much more.

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All databases are available from this page.

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The Undesign the Redline project unearths the deep and systemic history of structural racism and inequality in the United States. This interactive exhibit explores policies like Redlining, their implications for today, and what we can do to undesign them. 

The exhibit was created by social impact design studio designing the WE and has been invited to dozens of cities across the country. A local advisory group has helped to produce local history and stories about Redlining in Lexington. 

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 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.

Digital Archives - Collection

The Hamilton Female College catalogs list the school’s Board of Trustees, faculty, alumnae, graduates that year, directory of students, courses of study, and the members of each department. Policies for students and parents regarding boarding, correspondence, school attendance, graduation, and expenses are also included. The included directories cover 1891/1892 and 1895/1896.

Hamilton Female College began in 1869, named the Hocker Female College after founder James M. Hocker. The name was changed in 1878 after a donation by William Hamilton. The Kentucky University – later Transylvania University – gained control of the school in 1903 and Hamilton became a junior college, the first two-year college in the state of Kentucky. The College closed in 1930, with the building converted to the Lyons-Hamilton Hall dormitory and was razed in 1962.

Information from Lexington: Heart of the Bluegrass by John D. Wright, Jr., 1982.

Digital Archives - Collection

Mountain Ballads for Social Singing contains 15 songs selected for the Vesper Hour gatherings at Berea College. The songs were part of a larger collection, English Folk Songs in the Mountains of the Southern Appalachians, which was published in 1918 as American-English Folk-Songs: collected in the southern Appalachians and arranged with pianoforte accompaniment.

Digital Archives - Collection

Elmer L. Foote served as official photographer of the Cincinnati Public Library for many years, and produced photographs that appeared in the Cincinnati Commercial Tribune during the early years of the twentieth century. Lantern slides are glass positive transparencies, viewed through a back lit projector. The Lexington Public Library does not have record of when the slides were donated, or the donor’s name. Records do indicate that the library purchased a projectoscope for viewing glass slides in 1912, and a separate lantern slide collection was donated to the library in 1919. The slides contain examples of posed portraiture, scenery from around Kentucky, documentation of the new High Bridge, as well as several historic buildings and homes, some of which are unidentified.

He was born in Glastonbury, Connecticut on February 27, 1863, the son of Edwin Foote and Ellen Hodges Foote, both natives of Connecticut. He came to Cincinnati about 1884 and married Estelle Allee of Cincinnati in 1888. Foote died at age 56 in Norwood, Ohio on September 21, 1919 and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, Ohio. Foote's obituary in the Commercial Tribune of September 22, 1919 describes him as nationally known, and mentions his "photographic genius." The article further describes Foote's pictures taken among the Cumberland Mountains and outdoor scenic snow views, appearing at intervals in the Commercial Tribune, as photographic classics.

Digital Archives - Collection
The loose scrapbook pages were given to the library, since the original owner is not known. They contain photos of African American individuals and families, likely from Lexington, with dates ranging from the late 1930s to the mid 1940s. The most commonly repeated name was a young African American woman named Olivia Blythe, or Ollie Blythe.
 
There are two local Lexington civic groups described in the pages, with invitations to a 1942 Collegians Club dinner, and two 1939 and 1941 dance invitations to the S. P. U. Girls, which was a Lexington civic club. It is not currently known what the acronym stands for. The newspaper clippings listed are of unknown provenance, though it is likely that they came from the Louisville Defender
 
The library is classifying these as an orphan work, since the photographer and information on the individuals is unknown. 
 
Digital Archives - Collection

In 1768, Lewis Craig and other members of the Spotsylvania Baptist Church were arrested for preaching without a license issued by the Church of England. Their case was later defended by Patrick Henry. 

To free his congregation from what he felt was religious persecution, and to capitalize on the opportunities of available land in the area, Craig formed the Traveling Church and brought his entire congregation through the frontier to Kentucky and established Bryan's Station Baptist Church.  As the church grew too large for one meeting space, it formed David's Fork Baptist Church in Fayette County in 1801. The church built a new space in 1857, where they still hold services. 

The pamphlet is part of the library's collection in the Kentucky Room.

Information from At the Meetinghouse on David's Fork: a History of David's Fork, 1891-2001 by Randy Smith, 2001.

Digital Archives - Collection

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has existed outside of Harrodsburg for over 200 years, and is a popular site to visit today. The library's collection contains a considerable amount of information on the community's origins and history. 

The "Shakertown" pamphlet was written in 1921, and gives a very brief overview of the history and purpose of the original Shaker settlement outside of Harrodsburg in 1805. Old Shakertown and the Shakers by Daniel Mac-Hir Hutton was published in 1936, and contains illustrations, photos, and history of Shaker Village from 1805-1936. Both items are in the public domain.

Digital Archives - Collection

The Lexington Musicians' Association is the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians (Local 554-635) and was chartered in 1910. At the time of its creation it raised some controversy as the first musician labor union in the city. The LMA was affiliated with Lexington's Central Labor Union. 

The directory contains information on Kentucky member musicians, the union rates, and instruments played.

 

Information from "Musicians' Union a Controversy." Lexington Leader 7 November 1910: 2. Microfilm.

Digital Archives - Collection

Major Henry Clay McDowell purchased the Ashland Estate from Kentucky University in 1882 with his wife, Anne Smith Clay McDowell, who was a granddaughter of Henry Clay.  The McDowells took great care to revive the grounds to their former glory and made several lasting improvements, including the construction of a glass conservatory adjoining the terrace, which is visible in several of the collection's images. During the period that Ashland was owned by Kentucky University, a large Mechanical Hall was erected on the grounds, which the McDowells converted to a stable and used to reestablish Ashland as a thoroughbred stock farm.  The tenure of the McDowells at Ashland was marked by numerous celebrations and social events on the grounds.  

This photo collection shows one of many gatherings of friends and family, taken circa 1894, which included a parade of the estate’s horses.  Thoroughbreds Impetuous, King Reine, Oratorio, Argentina, and Bracegirdle are all being proudly shown at this event.   Photos also show members of the McDowell family in attendance, including Major McDowell and his wife, and their daughters Nanette, Julia, and Madeline.  The author John Fox Jr. was a frequent guest of the McDowells at Ashland and can be seen in one image playing a banjo on the lawn.

Information on the history of Ashland from Ashland: the Henry Clay Estate by Eric Brooks, 2007.

Digital Archives - Collection

The Kentucky Almanac was a regional almanac that began printing in 1788, at the office of John Bradford’s Kentucky Gazette in Lexington. The Gazette itself began publication in 1787, and other almanacs followed. 

The almanacs contain information about local lunar and solar patterns, predicted weather patterns for the year, and also lists court days for all of Kentucky’s counties for that time.  It continued being published through the 1840s.

Viewable Almanacs

  • 1818 Kentucky Almanac
  • 1829 Lexington Farmer’s Almanac
  • 1830 Christian Almanac for Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana
  • 1840 Christian Almanac for Kentucky

 

Digital Archives - Collection

Dunbar High School opened in 1923 at 545 North Upper Street as the only all-black high school in Lexington’s city school system. The school was named after African-American poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906­), whose parents had been enslaved in Kentucky. Dunbar was a source of immense pride for many in Lexington; it was ambitious in academics, formidable in athletics, a meeting place for community organizations, and the first of only eight black high schools to ever be accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

In 1967, after federal pressure to racially integrate schools, the Fayette County board of education decided to close Dunbar High School. This elicted a substantial outcry from many black Lexingtonians, who saw Dunbar as a community cornerstone, and whose children would be bused longer distances to school. In 1968, the school board promised that the next high school opened in Fayette County would also be Dunbar, which then opened in 1990. After the original closed in 1967, the old Dunbar building remained in use for several years as a junior high school. Most of the building was razed in 1974; what remains of it has been converted into the Dunbar Community Center.

The Dunbar Echo became the student publication, coming out a few times each year. The Lexington Public Library holdings contain the yearbook editions of the publication, which contains information about students, alumni, faculty and teachers, sports, essays, student activities, attendance, budget, and Echo sponsors. There are also black and white photos of some of the students and faculty.

Available yearbooks

Information from:

  • Carpenter, Siona. “New Era Dawns at Dunbar.” Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, KY), Dec. 18, 1989.
  • Carpenter, Siona. “New Dunbar: Honoring Poet or Avoiding Past?” Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, KY), Jan. 24, 1990.
  • “Dunbar (Paul Lawrence) High School.” Lexington History Museum. Accessed February 26, 2018. http://lexhistory.org/wikilex/dunbar-paul-lawrence-high-school.
  • Marx, Jeffrey. “Alumni of Dunbar Want Name Revived in New High School.” Lexington Herald-Leader (Lexington, KY), Sept. 2, 1987.
  • “Paul Laurence Dunbar High School (Lexington, KY).” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database. Accessed February 26, 2018. http://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/items/show/1358.​

 

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 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

Old Homes of the Blue Grass is a photographic review of historic homes in Kentucky’s Blue Grass region. Published by The Kentucky Society in 1950, the black and white photographs show various phases of Kentucky Architecture between the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.

Homes and properties featured:  Manchester, Malvern Hill, Harkaway, Bryan Place, Highland, Rose Hill, Mount Hope, Mansfield, Welcome Hall, Old Moore Place, Old Cabin, Hartland, Alleghan Hall, Duntreath, The Larches, Cherry Grove, Hopemont, Mount Brilliant, T. Howard’s Log Cabin, Woodburn, Helm Place, White Hall, Ashland, Shady Side, Stony Point, and the Old Episcopal Burying Grounds.

Digital Archives - Collection

The Kentucky Chautauqua Assembly presented an annual event in Lexington’s Woodland Park with days of programming. Presentations varied from live music and entertainment to lectures and speeches from national figures. The Kentucky Chautauqua began in 1887, to great popularity, and continued through 1903. After Woodland Park was taken over by the city and reconstructed in 1904, new Chautauqua series did take place by the Lexington Chautauqua and later the Redpath circuit Chautauqua.

The Lexington Public Library collection has two programs, detailing the events for the 1892 and 1896 Kentucky Chautauquas.

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.

Digital Archives - Collection

In 1917, the Woman’s Club of Central Kentucky hosted a series of speakers giving historical sketches on people and places of local interest. Maude Ward Lafferty’s speech in February of 1917 detailed a brief history of Lexington and specifically detailed the Block House on Main and Mill, Lexington’s first house, and the Town Branch Trail running through downtown Lexington. The entirety of the speech was printed in the newspaper, along with relevant maps.