top of page
  • Writer's pictureJeanne Marie

Old Louisville, Monday, October 10, 2022

After a long drive to Kentucky, we arrived on Sunday afternoon. We met up with our friends, Dave and Ruth for dinner. They told us what they had planned for the following day. Ruth had always wanted to go on a historical tour of Old Louisville; since we were in town, we could all do it together.

We met with Dave and Ruth on Monday morning for our walking tour of Old Louisville. Old Louisville stretches 48 square blocks with almost 1400 structures built between 1880 to 1905. This was where the wealthy families of Louisville lived and they spared no expense in their homes with hand-carved doors and stained-glass windows imported from Europe. There were a variety of house styles: Victorian, Italiante, Queen Anne, and Beaux-Arts. One of the most famous architects of the time was H. H. Richardson from Boston. Although he did not directly design any of the homes in Old Louisville, his works because known as Richardson Romanesque such as the two shown below. The house on the right is known as The Speed Mansion. This 48-room house was the residence of one of the more illustrious residents who owned interests in the railway, cement, and telephone companies during the late 1800s.

We walked along into a small terrace that you could easily pass right by. Here we saw old-growth trees and fountains in front of the cottages, We also saw doors and porch ceilings painted blue to ward off evil spirits.

Our tour guide told us the legend of the Witches' Tree. In the late 1800s, the tree was a meeting place for the local witches. They performed ceremonies at the tree but did not bother any of the residents of the neighborhood. At a city planning meeting, the committee decided to remove the tree before the May Day celebration which angered the witches. They cast a spell upon the city. Eleven months to the day after the tree was cut down, a severe storm came upon Louisville. During the storm, lightning struck the stump of the witches' tree and a new tree began growing. Now, people will place trinkets and necklaces to appease the vengeful witches.

We walked through Central Park which was designed by the famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmstead's first project was Central Park in New York City in 1853. Louisville's Central Park had been a series of marshes and the DuPont family from Deleware bought and created a carnival on the site. Today, there are play areas, sports courts, and an amphitheater for plays and musicals. Continuing through the park, we approached the Conrad-Caldwell House. Now a museum, the house was built in 1895 and based on the Richardsonian Romanesque style. Also called Conrad's Castle, it features all of the latest innovations of its time including indoor plumbing and electric lighting. The house sits on the corner of St. James Court. Between 1883 to 1887, Louisville held the Southern Exposition to attract visitors to their city. The highlight of the show was the installation of incandescent light bulbs by Edison. After the close of the final expo, the buildings were torn down and a new neighborhood was developed which included single-family homes and a large green space. A massive fountain was added to the green area. Below is the Conrad-Caldwell House as well as other houses in St. James Court.

At the end of St. James Court where it meets with Belgravia Court, sits the Pink Palace. This was built in 1891 as a gentleman's club for drinking, gambling, and other nefarious activities. But in 1910, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union painted it pink to show that the property was not a fun place for the men anymore. It has stayed pink to this day.

Below are some more houses and tree-lined lanes that we walked through in Belgravia Court. The middle picture shows the entrance that women would use so they would not damage their wide dresses and petticoats.

Our final stop was along 3rd Street also known as Millionaire Row with large homes and wide sidewalks. These belonged to some of the wealthiest and most well-connected families in banking, transportation, and horse racing.

After the tour, the 4 of us found a local pub for some sandwiches and burgers before Ruth and Dave had to head back to Indiana. It was great to catch up with them even though Mark talks to Dave quite frequently during the week.

8 views0 comments


bottom of page