Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Lynn Roche Phillips


Lexington, Kentucky is a key node in the global thoroughbred horse industry. This archival research examines the transformation of its horseracing and housing geographies during the 1930s by comparing the redevelopment of an old urban racetrack into federal public housing with the simultaneous development of a new racing plant in the nearby countryside. It analyzes the social and economic relations underlying this shift in addition to how these relations were naturalized by the new landscapes they created. Results suggest that a local growth coalition was seeking to emerge from a financial crisis through a spatial fix that capitalized on cultural notions of Whiteness and leisure while obscuring the Black labor that supported the thoroughbred industry, and that this coalition made a new plant viable by directing federal “slum clearance” funds to the old racetrack site. Meanwhile, while locating the new housing projects on the old racetrack site was supported by workers and represented a marked improvement in urban living conditions, the potential of the development was severely limited by the way it institutionalized racial residential segregation and foreclosed radical self-organization by tenants. The analysis also posits that local media played a significant role in associating the new racetrack with regional identity and historic pride while downplaying public interest in the new housing projects, likely contributing to the erasure of this landscape and the persistence of affordable housing challenges in the city today despite an otherwise strong economy. Finally, this thesis proposes how present-day development struggles in Lexington may be informed by understanding the entanglement between these New Deal landscapes of horseracing and housing.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

Funding Information

This research was supported by a Barnhardt-Withington-Block Grant from the Department of Geography, University of Kentucky, 2021.