The Adam Rankin House, the oldest home in Lexington,
is located in the South Hill Historic District
Photograph by Eric Thomason,
courtesy of Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation
The South Hill Historic District is a neighborhood of early
residential homes adjacent to downtown Lexington. In 1781, Lexington's
five-man Board of Trustees successfully petitioned the Virginia
Assembly for 710 acres of land that was divided into half-acre
and five-acre lots, according to a town plat. "The south hill"
was made up of larger lots located outside of the town of Lexington
that were soon subdivided. South Hill is so named because in pioneer
days the area overlooked the Town Branch of Elkhorn Creek that
once flowed through the center of the city. The homes in this
district were built over a period of time spanning more than 100
years. The earliest homes were built during the early 19th century
and are mainly Federal and Greek Revival styles. Most of the older
homes are in the northern half of the district. The district also
includes homes built after the Civil War into the early 20th century.
Buildings designed by two of Lexington's greatest architects,
John McMurtry and Cincinnatus Shyrock, can also be found in this
district. The mixture of styles on each street is aesthetically
compatible, of similar scale and placed on lots of similar size.
However, the scale and lot size on each street differs, with the
bordering streets of the district such as South Limestone and
South Broadway containing larger houses or larger lots set further
back from the street.
This district consists of many homes that were once owned by free
African Americans at a time when slavery was still an institution
in Kentucky. Prosperous whites lived alongside prosperous African
Americans with many middle class citizens also living in the district.
The oldest home in Lexington, the Adam Rankin House is located in
this district on South Mill Street. Despite the rapid growth of
Lexington and the neighboring University of Kentucky, the South
Hill Historic District has remained virtually untouched with some
commercial infringement on the outer edges of the community. At
one time located on the outskirts of Lexington, the neighborhood
is now in the heart of the city.
Federal style home in South Hill Historic District
Photograph by Eric Thomason, courtesy of Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation
The South Hill Historic District is roughly
bounded by South Broadway, West High St., South Limestone, and Pine St. and is
adjacent to the University of Kentucky in central Lexington. The houses in the
district are private residences and are not open to the public.