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Architectural Highlights of Old Louisville

We unearth the old-house treasures of this genteel Southern city. Story and photos by Franklin & Esther Schmidt

    The Old Louisville Historic District contains 1,400 structures.

    The Old Louisville Historic District contains 1,400 structures.

    In this city, part Old South and part Midwest, we were taken on a tour of Old Louisville, a 45-square-block residential community. We were fascinated that such a large and pristine historic area could have survived. Louisville was developed on 19th-century industrial fortunes. Walking courts remained and fine homes were built where the great Southern Exposition of 1883 had been. But in the 1950s and ’60s, homeowners moved to the suburbs, and the big old houses began to deteriorate. Fortunately, enough farsighted people chose to stick it out. The visit inspired our latest book, Old Louisville.


    Châteauesque details of the Jacob Widmer house, built ca. 1894, include a steep gable with tracery and carved acanthus leaves. A pair of salamanders—symbol of Francis I, originator of the château style—also adorns the façade. The residence was recently restored by Louisville author David Dominé.

    Jacob Widmer House

    Queen Anne

    Built around 1885, this charming brick house on South Fourth Street near the eastern end of Belgravia Court has the decorative wood shingles and Free Classic porch associated with more exuberant examples of the style.

    Queen Anne brick house

    Richardsonian/Queen Anne

    This house on St. James Court is an extravagant combination of Queen Anne and Richardsonian Romanesque styles. It was custom built in 1892 for a lamp manufacturer named Lampton, and features a tower, incised and rusticated masonry, and an open porch that wraps around the side.

    Richardsonian/Queen Anne house

    Beaux Arts

    The ca. 1905 Edwin Hite Ferguson house was one of the last palatial residences built downtown. It’s a symmetrical Beaux Arts beauty that would look at home in Paris; an imposing chimneypiece in the reception hall was carved in Caen. Used as a funeral parlor for half a century, the house is now headquarters for the Filson Historical Society.

    Edwin Hite Ferguson House


    The 600 block of Park Avenue features several charming smaller houses, built ca. 1900. At 1,500 square feet, this house has some echoes of Queen Anne style, and features stained and leaded glass as well as large brick fireplaces.

    Queen Anne cottage

    Federal Revival

    Dating to around 1903, this imposing block recalls the classical and restrained houses of the Federal period, ca. 1780 to 1830. Shutter-blinds are painted the iconic green and beautifully complement the red brick structure; balustrade, cornice, and portico are classic in white.

    Federal Revival brick house
    Published in: Old-House Journal October 2013


    Sharon Zimmerman December 16, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    This is a great article. Many in Louisville do not understand the diversity of this information.

    Ginny Keen January 8, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Thank you so much for this article on Old Louisville. The sign was a long time coming and was my design. Just a plain ole housewife that has lived in this neighborhood since l951 when I was born. I love it here and wouldn’t live anywhere else. Our association needed a sign and I wanted one shaped like a house and this was the result. I understand it has been adopted neighborhood wide and can’t tell you what a thrill it is for me. So just wanted to say thanks a million. Ginny

    Gumby January 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    This is a perfect example of why Old Louisville is so fabulous! Having a “plain ole housewife” (don’t let her fool you!) like Ginny is exactly why this is such a great place to live and work. I am a transplant, but have had my catering shoppe for 20 years on lovely 2nd Street close to the University of Louisville. We invite everyone to come take a leisurely stroll through a fascinating series of stories which resound from the front porches of these great homes. Ginny, you do us all proud! Thanks, Gumby

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