Old Louisville History
Old Louisville is home to the third largest historic preservation district in the United States and the largest preservation district featuring Victorian homes. The neighborhood faced sharp declines in both care and interest during the twentieth century. But the area has seen a “re-birth” and it is now one of the most desirable locations to live in Louisville, especially among college students and young professionals. Cafes, restaurants and bars have opened throughout the neighborhood, renovation and rehabilitation of the Victorian mansions is widespread and interest in preserving the history of the area has soared in recent decades.
Old Louisville features the largest collection of pedestrian-only streets of any U.S. neighborhood. By the late 1800’s, Old Louisville was the most popular district among wealthy Louisvillians. They built Victorian-style mansions along the neighborhood streets. There are eleven “courts”, where houses face each other across a grass median with sidewalks. These were built in the neighborhood from 1891 to the 1920s. Most of the courts are centered off of 4th Street. Belgravia Court and Fountain Court were the first ones to be built in 1891 and are the most well known. Later ones included Reeser and Kensington, which were built with large Victorian styled apartments instead of single family homes; and Eutropia and Rose Courts, which were the last ones built in the 1920s and featured small, single story houses. Eventually, the mansions were abandoned as the wealthy moved to areas like Glenview and Anchorage, thanks in large part to the train service offered to these areas. The mansions fell into disrepair and the high cost of the number of servants needed to maintain the home meant new owners were few and far between. In the early 1900s, many of the mansions were turned into boarding houses and many were turned into apartment buildings during World War 2.
From 1890 to 1905 the area was home to the Amphitheatre Auditorium, which claimed the second largest stage in the United States and showcased many of the day’s best actors.
In its peak in the late 19th century, Old Louisville was the center of Louisville’s social life, with nearly all persons listed in the Society Directory of Louisville having Old Louisville addresses.
Old Louisville is also home to the Ferguson Mansion, built by Edwin Hite Ferguson. Ferguson commissioned the Louisville architectural firm of Cobb and Dodd—the same firm responsible for designing the Seelbach Hotel and the new capitol building in Frankfort—to design his home in 1901. At the time, the mansion was the most expensive home in Louisville. In the 1920s, the Fergusons sold the home to the Pearson family, and it served as the Pearson Funeral Home until the mid-1970s. The house also provided the headquarters for John Y. Brown, Jr.‘s successful 1979 gubernatorial campaign. In 1986, the mansion became the headquarters of The Filson Historical Society.
Urban renewal of the area began in the 1960s. Belgravia and St. James Court were completely rehabilitated during this time. There is currently renewed interest in restoring the Victorian mansions and making them single family homes.
Many of the neighborhood’s Victorian mansions are still apartment buildings which makes this area appealing to college students. There are two major four-year universities in Louisville are located adjacent to Old Louisville: Spalding University to the north and the University of Louisville to the south. DuPont Manual High School, a public magnet school, and Presentation Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school, are two other well-known schools located in Old Louisville.
The neighborhood contains The Filson Historical Society, Louisville’s Central Park, which features the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival every summer, the Actors Theatre of Louisville Production Studio, and the Conrad-Caldwell House. During the Christmas holiday season a number of private homes are toured in the Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour. Old Louisville has also been touted as “the most haunted neighborhood in the country”. There have been many books published about the “spirited” past of Old Louisville.
FairSquare House Buyers – What do we think of Old Louisville?
FairSquare House buyers loves the rich history of Old Louisville neighborhood. There is so much charm to the area and it offers a glimpse into our city’s Victorian history. The beauty of the historical buildings, abundance of delicious restaurants and cafes and easy access to downtown and University of Louisville makes this a hot spot for young professionals and college students. There is a lot of interest in renovating the historic buildings – both as apartment buildings and single family homes. We own several properties in this area and think this is a great area to invest.
Median Home Value: $189,216
Median Rent: $642
Median Household: $24,960
Rent vs. Own:
- Louisville Male High School
- Eastern High School
- Greathouse Shryock Traditional Elementary School
- Schaffner Elementary School
- Butler Traditional High School
*Data Sourced from Niche.com. Please click here for information on all the data sources used by Niche.com.
For additional statistics on the Germantown neighborhood, please review the Old Louisville Neighborhood Profile created by the Kentucky Data Center in partnership with the University of Louisville and Metro United Way.
*Data Sourced from: Kentucky State Data Center