Lexington is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 65th largest in the United States. Known as the "Thoroughbred City" and the "Horse Capital of the World", it is located in the heart of Kentucky's Bluegrass region. In 2009, the city's population was estimated at 296,545  anchoring a metropolitan area of 470,849 people  and a combined statistical area of 688,707 people.  In 1974, the governments of the city of Lexington and Fayette County, Kentucky combined to create the current Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government, often abbreviated LFUCG.
Lexington ranks 10th among US cities in college education rate, with 39.5% of residents having at least a Bachelor's Degree.  It is home to the headquarters of Lexmark International, the Kentucky Horse Park, Keeneland race course, Red Mile race course, Transylvania University, the University of Kentucky, and Bluegrass Community & Technical College.
Lexington, which includes all Fayette County, consists of 285.5 square miles (739.4 km2), mostly gently rolling plateau, in the center of the inner Bluegrass Region. The area is noted for its fertile soil, excellent pastureland, and horse and stock farms. Poa pratensis (bluegrass) thrives on the limestone beneath the soil's surface, playing a major role in the area's scenic beauty and in the development of champion horses. Numerous small creeks rise and flow into the Kentucky River.
Lexington was founded in June 1775 in what was then Virginia. A party of frontiersmen, led by William McConnell, camped on the Middle Fork of Elkhorn Creek at the location known today as McConnell Springs. Upon hearing of the colonists' victory in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, on April 19, 1775, they named their campsite Lexington after Lexington, Massachusetts. Due to the danger of Indian attacks, permanent settlement was delayed for four years.
In 1779, Colonel Robert Patterson and 25 companions came from Fort Harrod and erected a blockhouse. Cabins and a stockade were soon built, making the fort, known as Bryan Station, a place of importance. Colonists defended it against a British and American Indian attack in 1782, during the last part of the American Revolution. The town of Lexington was established on May 6, 1782, by an act of the Virginia General Assembly. By 1820, it was one of the largest and wealthiest towns west of the Allegheny Mountains. So cultured was its lifestyle that Lexington gained the nickname "Athens of the West". One early prominent citizen, John Wesley Hunt, became the first millionaire west of the Alleghenies.
Many of 19th-century America's most important people spent part of their lives in Lexington, including both American president Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who attended Transylvania University in 1823 and 1824), Civil War General John Hunt Morgan, US senator and vice president John C. Breckinridge, and US Senator and presidential candidate Henry Clay, who had a plantation nearby. Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was born and raised in Lexington; the couple visited the city several times after their marriage in 1842.
Lexington features a diverse cityscape. From its vibrant downtown, which supports infill and historic preservation projects, to its famed horse farms, the city prides itself in featuring an urban growth boundary that includes greenbelts and strict zoning definitions. This has been done not only to protect the Bluegrass landscape but from further development to protect thoroughbred horse farms, the trademark industry of the region.
The city is home to several notable high rises. As of 2009, the Lexington Financial Center is the tallest building, followed by Kincaid Towers, and the World Trade Center complex. It is the location of many other notable structures and many new urban developments in two major districts. In recent years numerous condominium projects and shopping centers have opened in the old Tobacco Warehouse District just south of Downtown.
Lexington faces a unique challenge among American cities in that it must manage a rapidly growing population while maintaining the character of the surrounding horse farms that give the region its identity. To do so Lexington enacted the nation's first Urban Growth Boundary in 1958, where new development could only occur in the Urban Service Area and set a strict minimum area requirement, currently 40 acres (160,000 m2), in the Rural Service Area. A historic District Zoning Overlay was adopted as well to protect the historic character of the surrounding neighborhoods.
With its abundance of government and technology jobs, Lexington has one of the nation's most stable economies. Economists have referred to Lexington as having "a fortified economy, strong in manufacturing, technology and entrepreneurial support, benefiting from a diverse, balanced business base". The Lexington Metro Area had a July 2008 unemployment rate of only 5.4%, compared to national average of 6.1%. Lexington was named the 5th best city for "Businesses and Careers" in 2008 by Forbes Magazine, and the 5th best city for Young Professionals in 2008 by Kiplinger.
As such, the city is home to several large corporations. There are three Fortune 500 companies located within the city, Affiliated Computer Services, Lexmark International and Hewlett Packard, employing 1,200, 3,450, and 250 respectively. United Parcel Service, Trane and Amazon.com, Inc. have a large presence in the city, and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky is within the Lexington CSA in adjoining Georgetown. The city is also host to a Jif peanut butter plant that produces more peanut butter than any other factory in the world, and to the Forcht Group of Kentucky, a holding company that employs more than 2,100 people across Kentucky.
Another large employer, the University of Kentucky, employs 10,668, however, it does not include the College of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension Service which has a staff of over 900. The University is the ninth largest economic company in the state of Kentucky, with an annual budget of $1.4 billion, and the College of Medicine within the University is the 21st largest company in the state.
According to the United States Census, of Lexington's population over the age of twenty-five, 22.4% hold a bachelor's degree, 11.4% hold a master's degree, and 3.1% hold a professional degree. Just 2.6% hold a doctorate degree. Lexington was also ranked 10th in a list of America's most educated cities with a population of more than 250,000, ranked by percentage of bachelor's degrees among residents 25 and older, according to the United States Census Bureau.
The city is served by the Fayette County Public Schools. The system consists of 5 high schools, 11 middle schools, and 33 elementary schools, along with six private schools. There are also two traditional colleges, the University of Kentucky and the state's oldest, Transylvania University. Other institutions of higher learning include Bluegrass Community and Technical College, Sullivan University, Spencerian College, Strayer University, Commonwealth Baptist College, and a newly opened distance learning extension of Indiana Wesleyan University.
Lexington is home to many thriving arts organizations including a professional orchestra, two ballet companies, professional theatre, several museums including a basketball museum, several choral organizations and a highly respected opera program at the University of Kentucky. In addition, there are several events and fairs that draw people from throughout the Bluegrass. Prior to the Lexington History Center in downtown was converted into a museum, the building was used as the Fayette County courthouse. Rupp Arena serves as the home of UK men's basketball and is also a major concert and convention venue.
Lexington is home to numerous museums, historical structures, and the home to many notable individuals and their families. The Mary Todd Lincoln House was completed in 1832. Hunt-Morgan House, completed in 1814, served as residence for the first millionaire west of the Appalachians (John Wesley Hunt), a Confederate General (John Hunt Morgan), and Kentucky's only Nobel Prize winner (Thomas Hunt Morgan). One of the most famous is Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate along Richmond Road east of downtown. This two-story museum is a National Historic Landmark and was the former home of statesman Henry Clay.
Lexington Public Library, in the Phoenix Park area near the geographic center of Lexington, houses the world's largest ceiling clock, a five story Foucault pendulum and a frieze depicting the history of the horse in the Bluegrass. The library and its branches also house art galleries and traveling exhibits.
Another important museum is the Lexington History Center in the old Fayette County Courthouse in the heart of downtown. It offers two museums, one dedicated to the history of the region and the other dedicated to public safety. A third museum, devoted to the history of pharmaceuticals in the Bluegrass, is under construction. It will also be home to the Isaac Scott Hathaway Museum in 2007 as well. The UK Art Museum is the premier art museum for Lexington and the only accredited museum in the region. Its collection of over 4000 objects ranges from Old Masters to Contemporary, and it also hosts ongoing special exhibitions.
Lexington is home to two historic horse racing tracks. Keeneland, sporting live races in April and October since 1936, is steeped in tradition where much has not changed since the track's opening. The Red Mile Harness Track is the oldest horse racing track in the city, and second oldest in the nation. This is where horses pull two-wheeled carts called sulkies while racing, also referred to as harness racing. The Kentucky Horse Park, located along scenic Iron Works Pike, is a relatively late-comer to Lexington, opening in 1978. It is a working horse farm and an educational theme park, along with holding the distinction of being a retirement home for some of the world's greatest competition horses including Cigar and 2003 Kentucky Derby winner “Funny Cide”.