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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.

Federal style home in South Hill Historic District
Photograph by Eric Thomason, courtesy of Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation

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.

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.

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