Main Street Lexington Walking Tour
This short walking tour includes several historic buildings, monuments, and Lexington landmarks as it winds along Main Street towards the Mary Todd Lincoln House where the tour concludes.
Captain John Postlethwait’s Tavern was one of Captain Postlethwait’s various business endeavors. In 1833, this site became host to the breakout of one of the most unforgiving and devastating events in Lexington history. After weeks of rainy and stormy weather, Postlethwait’s Tavern became the source that scholars track as the beginnings of the cholera outbreak in Lexington. Captain Postlethwait had his own life seized by the disease as well as nearly 500 other Lexingtonians of the day. In its day, Postlethwait’s Tavern was a premier location for people of all different walks to gather and share the latest news and have a drink.
The Phoenix Hotel opened its doors as a tavern in 1797 in what is now downtown Lexington. Throughout its 180 years, the Phoenix Hotel was witness to the violence of the Civil War and the struggle for equality during the Civil Rights movements of the twentieth century. Although it was demolished in 1981 and replaced by Phoenix Park, the legacy of the Phoenix Hotel still stands as a testament to the complicated history of Lexington.
This building, formerly the First National Building, was Lexington’s first skyscraper at 15 stories. When it was built in 1913 it was the tallest building between Cincinnati and Atlanta. Built by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White, the building is seeing new life as the 21c Museum Hotel. It took four years to remodel and update the building into a modern hotel complete with restaurant, bar, art gallery and meeting spaces.
Named for pharmacists McAdams and Morford who occupied the corner space of the building from 1898-1994, the McAdams and Morford Building was constructed in 1849. The building was also known as Melodeon Hall when it was home to a theater and meeting space in which Robert Jefferson Breckinridge spoke to a crowd in 1861. Breckinridge ran as a compromise candidate in 1860, and his remarks helped build support for Kentucky's Unionists. The state remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, although sentiment was not united and the state maintained separate Union and Confederate governments during the war.
In Lexington, Kentucky, two monuments to Confederate soldiers stand on the ground which was once the city's slave auction site. One is dedicated to John Hunt Morgan, the other to John C. Breckinridge. Following white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend of August 11-13, 2017, Lexington's mayor stated that both statues will be relocated. The statue of Morgan was erected in 1911, during the Jim Crow era and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Clan.
This Romanesque-style building served as Fayette County’s fifth courthouse and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The building held the Lexington History Center until 2012, when asbestos was discovered and the museums were forced to leave the building. The building is being renovated and will be home to a number of business when it is completed while the future of the museums are uncertain. Organized in 1999 and located at the former Fayette County Courthouse until 2012, the Lexington History Center offered a space for several museums under one roof until forced to vacate the building. The museum now offers pop-up exhibits and works to preserve their collections and offer online exhibits until the organization is once again able to offer a permanent exhibit space. The Center included the Lexington History Museum, the Public Safety Museum, the Pharmacy Museum, and the Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum. The Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum is now located in the Robert H. Williams Cultural Center.
In Lexington, Kentucky, two monuments to Confederate soldiers stand on the ground which was once the city's slave auction site. One is dedicated to John Hunt Morgan, the other to former U.S. Vice President and Confederate Secretary of State John C. Breckinridge. Following white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend of August 11-13, 2017, Lexington's mayor proposed to move the statues to Lexington Cemetery, where both men are buried, a relocation with approval from many citizens on opposing sides of the issue. The statue of Breckinridge was erected in 1887 by the state of Kentucky, during the Jim Crow era and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.
This historical marker is a part of the African American Trail in Lexington and reveals information about some of the early doctors that established practices in Lexington. The marker includes the first African American surgeon at St. Joseph’s Hospital, John Hunter. The other doctors mentioned on the marker not only practiced medicine despite facing discrimination but were also important leaders in the African American community.
The original Lexington Opera House burned down in 1886, and this successor was completed just over a year later. Situated near a major railroad and between popular circuits, the Opera House became an essential stop for many traveling acts. When films eclipsed live performances in popularity in the early twentieth century, the Opera House kept up with the times by converting to a movie theater in the 1920s. Hard times came during the Great Depression, but the Opera House managed to stay open, though it became a second-run movie theater by the late 1960s. With the rise of multiplexes and malls in the 1970s, it was feared that the Opera House would be torn down. However, local efforts led to the restoration of the theater and its reopening as a performing arts venue in 1976.
The Mary Todd-Lincoln House opened to the public in 1977. One of the most influential presidential spouses in American history, Mary Todd-Lincoln also became the first of America's "First Ladies" to have a historic site dedicated in her honor. The house is located in downtown Lexington, Kentucky where she spent most of her adolescent years. She married 16th President Abraham Lincoln who visited the house along with the Todd family during his presidency. The house museum offers exhibits about the Todd and Lincoln families and other wealthier families along the Kentucky frontier.