Architectural Highlights of Old Louisville

We unearth the old-house treasures of this genteel Southern city.
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The Old Louisville Historic District stretches over 45 blocks, with 1,400 structures.

The Old Louisville Historic District contains 1,400 structures.

Editor's Note: We're working on replacing some lost photos in this article. Thanks for your patience.

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.

Château

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.

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.

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.

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.

Cottage

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.

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.

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