Athens of the West

“But Lexington will ever be,
The Loveliest and the Best;
A Paradise thou’rt still to me,
Sweet Athens of the West.”

Visitors to the Bluegrass region around 1800 sent back word to the eastern states of the unique land and community they found in this area of “Kaintuck”. The above poem was written by Josiah Espy, who also added about the city of Lexington,

“Lexington is the largest and most wealthy town in Kentucky, or indeed west of the Allegheny Mountains; the main street of Lexington has all the appearance of Market Street in Philadelphia on a busy day … I would suppose it contains about five hundred dwelling houses, many of them elegant and three stories high. About thirty brick buildings were then raising, and I have little doubt but that in a few years it will rival, not only in wealth, but in population, the most populous inland town of the United States . . . The country around Lexington for many miles in every direction, is equal in beauty and fertility to anything the imagination can paint and is already in a high state of cultivation.”


Espy was correct in his prediction, and Lexington did indeed grow in size, population, and wealth during this time.

*              *              *

The Lexington History Museum has an exhibit called Athens of the West, which features various city artifacts, ranging from the 1700s to the present. It covers the history of Lexington from when Fayette County covered the area of 45 present-day counties, and focuses on important figures and businesses that influenced the history of the city. Patrons can come see a bust of famed statesman and orator Henry Clay, historic pieces of furniture, old advertisements and business items, and maps that show how the city of Lexington has grown. The museum is continuously adding to the exhibit as the history of Lexington grows, and Athens of the West is sure to intrigue those who are interested in the rich past of our city.



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