Welcome to Bluegrass Country, the “Horse Capital of the World.” But you don’t have to be an avid racehorse fan to enjoy the natural beauty, culture and history that this exciting city has to offer.
Lexington, which includes all Fayette County, consists of 285.5 square miles, mostly gently rolling plateau, in the center of the inner Bluegrass Region. The area is noted for its fertile soil, excellent pastureland, and horse and stock farms.
Why do they call it the Bluegrass Region? Poa pratensis (bluegrass) thrives on the limestone beneath the soil’s surface, playing a major role in the area’s scenic beauty and in the development of champion horses. Numerous small creeks rise and flow into the Kentucky River.
Lexington is Rich in History:
Lexington was founded in June 1775 in what was then Virginia (17 years before Kentucky became a state in 1792). A party of frontiersmen, led by William McConnell, camped on the Middle Fork of Elkhorn Creek (today called Town Branch and rerouted under Vine Street) at the location known today as McConnell Springs.
Upon hearing of the colonists’ victory in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, on April 19, 1775, they named their campsite Lexington after Lexington, Massachusetts. Due to the danger of Indian attacks, permanent settlement was delayed for four years. In 1779, Colonel Robert Patterson and 25 companions came from Fort Harrod and erected a blockhouse. Cabins and a stockade were soon built, making the fort, known as Bryan Station, a place of importance. Colonists defended it against a British and American Indian attack in 1782, during the last part of the American Revolution.
The town of Lexington was established on May 6, 1782, by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. By 1820, Lexington was one of the largest and wealthiest towns west of the Allegheny Mountains. So cultured was its lifestyle that the city gained the nickname “Athens of the West“.
Many of 19th-century America’s most important people spent part of their lives in the city, including U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who attended Transylvania University in 1823 and 1824); Confederate general John Hunt Morgan; U.S. Senator and Vice President John C. Breckinridge; and Speaker of the House, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State Henry Clay, who had a plantation nearby. Lincoln’s wife Mary Todd Lincoln was born and raised in Lexington, and the couple visited the city several times after their marriage in 1842.
Historic sites are plentiful here, including the Waveland State Historic Site, the childhood home of Mary Todd Lincoln, the Hunt-Morgan House, Latrobe House and the Ashland estate of famed Kentucky statesman Henry Clay. Other historic Lexington places: Patterson Cabin, Old Fayette County Courthouse, First National Building, The Lexington Opera House, Lexington Cemetery, and the Loudoun House. [For more information: www.visitlex.com/idea/historic-homes.php]
And of course, The Horses:
The best place in the world for raising thoroughbred horses, Lexington has over 500 horse farms. Beautiful horse farms have been part of the Bluegrass since the region was first settled. So have horse farm visitors. Early 19th-century travelers remarked on the beautiful country estates of the Bluegrass noting, as one put it, “a handsome horse is the highest pride of a Kentuckian.”
When great 20th-century Thoroughbred Man o’ War retired to stud in the Bluegrass, visitors from around the world flocked to see him. Man o’ War’s groom, Will Harbut, kept ledgers for visitors to sign. When Man o’ War died in 1947, there were 63 ledgers containing over 1.3 million names.
The Kentucky Horse Park features films, horse shows and exhibits, as well as 50 breeds of horses. Be sure to tour the American Saddle Horse Museum, dedicated to the native Kentucky breed, and watch races at the lovely Keeneland Race Course in season. Meet our four-footed celebrities in their own homes on a Horse Farm Tour. The Red Mile racetrack is known for its red clay, one-mile track, The Red Mile is the second oldest harness track in the world. For over 130 years, harness racing’s elite have converged on The Red Mile to stage some of the greatest equine battles in history.
Life and Leisure in the Bluegrass … coming soon.
In an upcoming article, we’ll discover the dining, shopping, and the “spirits” of the Bluegrass Region! Check out our website to see local happenings that you can enjoy during your stay!
Call us to assist in all your travel plans in the Lexington, KY area: (859) 278-6625. We are centrally located to all the attractions and historic sites, with ample, free parking. University Inn Hotel offers a comfortable, affordable stay with an abundance of amenities and refinements that offers all the comforts of home … and then some.