Walking Tours of Old Louisville
On this page: The Tours The Houses History of Old Louisville Credits
|This tour is published by the Old Louisville Neighborhood Council.
It is reprinted here in nearly its entirety although reformatted for the internet.
An illustrated tour brochure book can be obtained from the Old Louisville Information
Center (502) 635-5244.
There are five walking tours along with a brief history of Old
Louisville, examples of architectural styles and other points of interest.
The perimeter of Old Louisville is so large and the area so interesting that five tours are suggested, though you may wish to plan your own from the information given. Please consult the maps as you read the descriptions. Also, please read the brief History of Old Louisville before starting your tours.
Limerick Tour -- This is geared for driving and takes about 45 minutes. Included are "shotgun" and row house styles as well as a few larger homes and institutions. The Limerick Historic District adjoins Old Louisville.
Central Park North Tour -- This walking tour requires two hours, you may choose to drive it. It includes a variety of styles from "shotguns" to mansions. You may tour the first floor of the Puritan Apartments.
Central Park South Tour -- This walking tour lasts about 2½ hours and includes mansions and townhouses. You may tour the Conrad-Caldwell House after paying a fee.
Third Street Tour -- This walking tour requires about 2 hours and consists primarily of Victorian mansions. You may go into the Filson Club and the Old Louisville Inn.
Old Louisville East Tour -- Drive to Second Street and Magnolia Avenue and park. The walking tour includes two and three story houses and lasts about 1½ hours.
The houses noted are only noted to whet your appetite for the many that you will see in between and on adjoining blocks. Space did not permit comments on every dwelling. The Landmarks Commission at 609 West Jefferson (625-3501) can furnish additional information.
Information about residents was obtained from the Louisville City Directory. The name listed for each house is its first resident. Usually, no distinction is made as to whether this individual built, bought, or rented it. The date represents the first time the house was known to be occupied. The house was most likely built and occupied by the fall of the previous year. That is when the information was gathered for the Directory. Occupational information was provided when available. Women's occupations were seldom given when one was head of the household. It was noted if she was a widow.
In the paragraphs setting the scene for each tour, a few liberties have been taken with the factual data available to establish a sense of color of the Victorian era.
The neighborhood known as Old Louisville is approximately 1200 acres immediately south of the City's central business district, containing three National Register Districts and such a diversity of persons and activities that it constitutes a "city within a city" community. An early residential area of the City, Old Louisville experienced a later physical decline that has been reversed in the past several years as more and more persons have been attracted to its historical and architectural significance, its geographical proximity to the business and government center of Louisville, and its rising community spirit.
Development of Old Louisville began in the 1830's. The earliest homes in the neighborhood were country residences. North-South avenues were extended across Broadway from the city proper in the 1850's, and mule-drawn carts were extended out Fourth Street to Oak by 1865. IN 1868, the city's boundaries were extended south to the present site of the University of Louisville's Belknap Campus, thus formally incorporating the Old Louisville Area into the city limits.
Following the Civil War, Louisville experienced a tremendous surge of growth and prosperity. In Old Louisville, the single most dramatic stimulus for expansion was the Southern Exposition of 1883. The exposition's main exhibit hall covered the area between what is now Magnolia Avenue (formerly Victoria Place) and Hill from Fourth to Sixth Streets, a single enclosure 900 by 600 feet. Following the close of the Exposition in 1887, the structures were dismantled and the site parceled off to developers who constructed St. James and Belgravia Courts.
Several aspects of Old Louisville architecture are significant. First, a variety of Styles ranging from the formal, symmetrical designs of Renaissance Revival to the romance of Queen Anne and Chateauesque, can be viewed within a one or two block area. Second, a diversity of colors, materials and scale abound in the residences here. Three-story homes along Third and Fourth Streets are the largest and most elaborate, followed by those in St. James Court, Ormsby, and Second Street.
Moving farther west and east, the houses become smaller and less elaborate. Along Sixth Street to the west, and Brook and Floyd Streets to the east, one and two story frame houses begin to replace the large limestone and brick residences. Smaller row houses can also be seen in Old Louisville, including a number of carriage houses converted to private residences. A variety of dwelling types, including some early experiments in apartment buildings and duplexes, can also be seen.
As you walk through Old Louisville, keep in mind that many buildings contain bits and pieces from several architectural styles. This eclecticism makes Old Louisville very picturesque. The houses are meant to evoke an emotional response from the viewer and are best appreciated from the sidewalk rather than a drive-by down the street. Houses in Old Louisville are not lifeless museum pieces, but rather homes and offices of people living and working in a thriving neighborhood. Take your time and enjoy the tours.
Old Louisville Tour Brochure Committee: Christa Gimbel, Beverly Miller, Rose Nett, Debbie Richards, Ron Toyser and Margaret Wilson.
Research and Composition: Christa Gimbel
Editing: Beverly Miller
Photography: Leonard Wilson
Other Photographs: University of Louisville Photo Archives, Filson Club and John Nation/Louisville Magazine.
Maps: Zane Lockhart
Special thanks to Debbie Richards and Joanne Weeter of the Landmarks Commission, to the Filson Club and Mary Jean Kinsman for Consultation and the use of the Club's resources; to George Yater, for additional information and editing and to Dr. Tom Owens, University of Louisville for Photo research. Also, Hamilton Printing for donating a portion of the printing. Revised September, 1992.