Kentucky is known for its agriculture, southern roots and of course, horse racing. Within the city of Louisville, there is also a slice of the historical Kentucky charm captured in Old Louisville. While this is not the oldest part of the city, this unique district captures one of the largest collections of historical Victorian homes within the U.S.
These houses are made almost entirely of brick. In addition, the area has one of the most significant collections of stained glass windows found within the U.S. This district was originally created as a suburb of downtown Louisville and formed during the late 1880s. While primarily a district of the wealthy, overtime it saw a decline as public transportation opened the area to the working classes. Industrialization also meant that only the extremely wealthy could keep the number of servants needed to maintain these large mansions.
The district was also host to the Southern Exhibition, which was held annually for five years in the 1880s. Thomas Edison showcased his lightbulb at this exhibition, which drew one million visitors its first year. The influx of visitors assisted in the growth of the area in terms of shops and additional residents.
Throughout the next few decades, houses were turned into apartments and the district saw an overall decline as crime and other issues grew. Large chunks of these older homes were razed as a result. In the 1960s, a revitalization effort was begun to save this old homes and the history they represented. Writer J. Douglass Nunn took the lead in these efforts, including taking a leave from his paper to assist in restoring 10 homes. This spurred other activists and the area was deemed a historical preservation area in 1975.
While a majority of the homes reflect the Victorian style, there are also representations of the Federal and Queen Anne architecture. Within the district, visitors can see examples of Victorian Gothic, Italianate and Second Empire styles. Sadly, there are only a few of the antebellum examples in existence, but this area does provide some amazing examples of 19th and early 20th century architecture.
In addition to its historical flavor, Old Louisville has a significant number of pedestrian only streets
The area is home to 11 courts, where houses face each other and are separated by a green grass medians and sidewalks. The novel Miss Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch was based on Old Louisville. Today, the Cabbage Patch Settlement House, named for the novel, is a source of services for low-income children within the city of Louisville.
Old Louisville is also surrounded by two of the three universities found in Louisville, including the Spaulding University. It brings a youthful and hip culture to the area, as the district has become a popular housing spot for younger adults. Along its southern border is the University of Louisville, providing the residents a source of arts and entertainment. This mix of students and young professionals has brought shops, restaurants and social opportunities to the district. Today, the neighborhood is one of the most diverse areas of Louisville.
The beautiful historical district is a reflection of both the past and the future of this southern gem, Louisville.