Some Facts and Statistics
For those who rush by expressway from the airport to downtown meetings and back again, or down I-65 from lands up north to lands down south, "Old Louisville" may be nothing but a small brown exit marker barely glimpsed. What many of these people may not realize, is where a two-minute detour could have taken them. Maybe to a child it would look like a kingdom of fairytale castles, to a romantic, a land that time forgot. Even the most pragmatic would notice what they perceive to be the largest collection of Victorian homes and mansions they had ever seen, and they would not be wrong.
Old Louisville is a National Preservation District, the third largest in the nation, and the largest Victorian district in the United States.
Mile after mile of grand homes, thousands in all, with architectural styles and elements of centuries past from all corners of the globe can be found along the boulevards, streets and alleys of Old Louisville. We Louisvillians only began re-discovering it lately, ourselves.
It seems that while "Urban Renewal" was causing the destruction of neighborhoods like this all around the country, we just forgot. Then one day we noticed again. It was back in the 1970s. Certainly, some developers had better ideas for the area, usually involving a wrecking ball. Then, one day, the Louisville Woman's Club got the idea that it would be nice to have a parking lot on the site now occupied by The Inn at the Park and some adjacent buildings. That got the ball rolling. It was an era of protests and demonstrations, and this time something unusual happened. The preservationists won out, and soon the whole area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Old Louisville has a colorful history, mostly of local importance. For now, it's enough to know that the area was developed between the 1870s and the early 1900's, that it was Louisville's first "suburb", called the "Southern Extension" by its first residents, that it went through a serious decline in the 1940s-1960s, and that it has since returned in all, or at least most, of its splendor. The name "Old Louisville" was first applied to the district in the 1950s.
Old Louisville is perhaps at its best in the springtime, in the weeks just before the Kentucky Derby. In those crystal clear days of black-blue skies, with grass so fresh and brilliant green, with azalea and dogwood and redbud blossoms competing with the crabapple, narcissus, and tulips for attention, there are certainly very few places on earth more beautiful. Maybe, you were one of those who passed through, on your way from downtown to Churchill Downs, glancing as you passed, thinking "I didn't know this was here!"
That's how most people react when they take a really good look. Yet, because of that 1940s-1960s period, even many Louisvillians still look on the neighborhood as a "blighted" area. Maybe that's why even the city government fails to promote Old Louisville in the fashion it would deserve. Since the 1970s, Old Louisville has undergone a spectacular renaissance, yet it is still one of the "best kept secrets" around.
Old Louisville is only a two-minute detour from the expressway, but it's really worth an entire trip.
Old Louisville's boundaries extend roughly
from Kentucky Street to the University of
Louisville, from Floyd to 6th Street.
Our neighbor is the Limerick Historic
Take the St. Catherine Street Exit from
I-65. Go to Third Street and turn left.
Then explore, explore, explore.
Be sure to find St. James Court (between
4th and 6th Streets, Hill and Magnolia, and
park the car. This area is incredibly beautiful,
the focal point of the annual St. James Court Art
Show (one of the country's largest, held every
first weekend of October,) and it's the only way
to get to Belgravia Court. You'll see.
Population: 17,000 +
In addition, there is a large temporary student population from two adjoining universities
1205 acres (approximately twice the size of Monaco)
48 blocks in Old Louisville, not including the adjacent Limerick and University of Louisville historic districts.
Churches: 16 (plus 3 converted to other uses)
Bed and Breakfast Inns: 11
Schools and universities: 10
Parks and playgrounds: 6
*collection of Victorian homes in a single historic district in the United States
*collection of residential stained glass and art glass windows
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Louisville Guide Home Page
Old Louisville Business Directory,
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(there are now over 1300 web
pages on OldLouisville.com)