Gratz Park, the oldest park in Lexington, was originally an out lot for the first settlers of the town, and became a part of the Transylvania College campus from its founding in 1793 until a fire in 1829 forced the college to move. In the late 19th century, the Gratz family was in charge of the park and it was named for Benjamin Gratz, a leading hemp manufacturer and a Transylvania University trustee.
The Gratz Park Historic District, including grand 19th century townhouses built for Lexington’s prominent citizens that surround the park, was designated a local historic district in 1958 and 1965. It was listed in the National Register as part of the Northside Historic Residential District in 1979 and 1982. Houses in the district offer an interesting mix of architectural styles from log to Victorian.
In the late 19th century, a wrought iron fence with arches and gates surrounded the park. In recent years, the Gratz Park Neighborhood Association has worked with the Lexington Parks and Recreation Department to have a set of the original gates reinstalled in a replica wrought iron arch.
Gratz Park is a featured tour in the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation’s Primary Heritage Education Program. Included is an architectural treasure hunt.
The second weekend in May each year, Gratz Park is the site for Mayfest. Organized by the Downtown Lexington Corporation and the City of Lexington, the festival attracts thousands to historic Gratz Park in the heart of downtown Lexington.
Designated a Preserve America Community in January 2006.