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Old 10-03-2009, 06:57 PM
 
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From a long-time (and now deceased) resident of Lexington, I was told that in the later 19th and early 20th century, Lexington was considered the center of commerce (shopping, etc.) and that more people came to Lexington from Cincinnati, Louisville, Knoxville, and Nashville than those Lexingtonians who went elsewhere. This was recently challenged in polite conversation and I wanted to get a broader read of the actual facts before proceeding with the topic. I think the period in question dated from around 1890 through the First World War. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
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Old 10-04-2009, 05:56 AM
 
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While I cannot answer your question, this is a wonderful resource for the history of Lexington. Text Only Version Lexington, Kentucky -- National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary

BTW, if you are "the" George Zack, thank you for many years of filling my ears with beautiful music.
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Old 10-05-2009, 05:47 PM
 
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I have a hard time believing that, but I could be wrong. When compared to Lexington, both Cincinnati and Louisville were relatively much larger 100 years ago than they are today. Cincinnati used to be one of the largest cities in the country and Louisville played a much more prominent role in the past than it does now as well. Lexington is really closer to either louisville or cincinnati in terms of prominence than it ever has been (not to say that it is equal to either though).
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Old 10-07-2009, 12:27 PM
 
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It's BS. Small cities always have folklore like this to inflate local ego.

If it were truly "the" center, then where are they subway tunnels built (like Cinci), where is the large river through town that could transport goods? It may have been "a" center, but not the mecca some would imagine it to be. Just look at the historic photos... the size of Cinci 100 years ago dwarfs Lex.
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Old 10-16-2009, 07:17 PM
 
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Go back 200 years or a little more instead of 100 years, and your friend's claim will be more nearly accurate. Louisville and Cincinnati developed and really grew as river towns during the 1840s (though founded considerably before, at Corn Island and Losantiville, respectively). The upheavals in what later became Germany during the 1840s led to lots of immigration to both cities and resulting growth, and of course the Ohio River provided ready transportation, important for industrial development and commerce.

Lexington was founded (or at least named) in 1775 and grew very rapidly in the 1780-1820 period as a center for culture and education. Transylvania College was the first west college of the mountains and along with the rich soil, open land, and Revolutionary land grants, led to the Bluegrass being a very desirable area for settlement by landowners (largely of English, Huguenot French, Scots-Irish, and Scottish origins) who came from Virginia and North Carolina.

Termed "The Athens of the West" in these days, Lexington was a very "civilized" and wealthy place during this period and was certainly a center for commerce, education, and the arts, but the Bluegrass (and Lexington) remained agrarian rather than industrial, unlike the cities along the Ohio River. The German influence experienced by the river cities didn't extend to Lexington to any large degree, and many persisting cultural differences in these three cities can be traced to these different early settlement patterns.

It is revealing and fascinating to read early issues of Lexington's late 18th century "Kentucke Gazette" (available on microfilm at the Lexington Public Library downtown), especially the advertisements. There was more, and more varied merchandise offered for sale on Lexington's Main Street in the 1780s and 1790s than is presently the case!
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Old 10-17-2009, 05:17 PM
 
Location: Dayton, OH
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CraigCreek is correct. Lexington was the largest town in "The West" during the era he discusses, developing as the trade center and cultural capital for central Kentucky. The prominence of Lexington led to the growth of Maysville, then called Limestone, as a place where people would leave the river and cross overland to Lexington and the Bluegrass. Maysville was the entreport to Lexington during that early antebellum era.

The thing that kicked off the growth of Cincinnati and Louisville was the steamboat, which faciliated river trade and communications back east as well as and downriver to New Orleans. Cincinnati also benefited from being just south of one of the first parts of the Midwest to be settled, which was accessed by canal in 1830.
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Old 10-18-2009, 05:57 PM
 
Location: Near L.A.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wing Feathers View Post
It's BS. Small cities always have folklore like this to inflate local ego.

If it were truly "the" center, then where are they subway tunnels built (like Cinci), where is the large river through town that could transport goods? It may have been "a" center, but not the mecca some would imagine it to be. Just look at the historic photos... the size of Cinci 100 years ago dwarfs Lex.
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