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

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.

 

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.

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

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.

 

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.

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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.
 
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. 
 
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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

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 - 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.

 

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.

Thanks for your interest in joining the Lexington Public Library!  Your library card is the key to checking out books, downloading audiobooks, taking online classes, and much more.  Please check here to find out if you qualify for a library card and how to apply.

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

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

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

Old Kentucky Architecture is a comprehensive book by Rexford Newcomb that was published in 1940. It contains photographs and floor plans from significant architectural buildings all around Kentucky, but primarily focused on the central Kentucky region, that were built between 1767-1860. It also mentions several buildings designed by architect Gideon Shryock, as well as a few by John McMurtry.

The buildings included are Old Fort Harrod, Old Creel Cabin, Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, William Crow House, Old Du Puy Farm House, Bardstown's Old Stone Jail, Colonel William Whitley House, Federal Hill, Liberty Hall, Wickland, Clay Hill, Benjamin Gratz House, Dr. John C. Lewis House, Rose Hill, The Grange, Ridgeway, Xalapa Farm, House on Edgehill Road, Castlewood, Woodlawn, Colonel Andrew Muldrow House, Dr. Ephriam McDowell House, Marshall House, Hopemont, Shropshire House, Eothan, Buford House, General McConnell Farm, Padgett House, Crittenden House, Layson House, Waveland, Bridge House, A. E. Hudnely Farm, Smokehouse, Ashland, Saint Joseph’s Church, Harrodsburg Old Physician’s Office, Old House, Orland Brown House, Diamond Point Passmore House, Chestnut House, Adams House, Moberly House, Mansfield, Showalter Residence, Professor McClure House, Brooker Residence, Rev. Dr. Robert Alexander Johnstone House, Scotland, Helm Place, Carrick House Whitehall, Old Capitol Building, Morrison College Transylvania University, Daughter’s College Harrodsburg, Centre College Old Main Hall, Giddings Hall Georgetown College, Jefferson County Court House, Bank of Louisville, Louisville Board of Education, Kentucky School for the Blind, Kentucky School for the Deaf, Cross Keys Tavern, Tomb of Matthew Shryock, Ingelside, Loudoun House, Mound Cottage, Botherum, Walnut Hill Church, Pigsah Church, Sexton’s Cottage Lexington Episcopal Cemetery, and the Abbey of Gethsemani.

Several of these buildings have been demolished. 

 
Digital Archives - Collection - Group
group of children in Grade 5B at Constitution School
The Community Collections consist of objects shared from local community residents and organizations. Individuals have lent items of local significance to the library to give the larger community awareness and access. The original objects are not owned by the Lexington Public Library. 
 
Submissions for the Community Collections are open. If you are an individual or organization interested in possibly lending items to be digitized by the library, please contact elibrarian@lexpublib.org. We consider item age, location, content, relevance, privacy considerations, and item condition when determining items to add. Content donors must be the legal copyright holders if the item is not in the public domain.
 
Kentucky History Awards Icon noting this collection received the award in 2019.

 

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.

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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.

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Join us for Kentucky Legends: a series of programs exploring Kentucky culture, history, and lore. Programs include author visits, Chautauqua performances, live music, activities and crafts, and more.

Digital Archives - Collection - Group
Kentucky Progress magazine

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