Louisville History

Louisville Church Architecture

Louisville’s incredible historic architecture is often overlooked by the city’s visitors and residents.  Downtown Louisville holds some of the most unique historic buildings and has over 200 listings on the National Register of Historic Places. The Old Louisville neighborhood is home to the largest assembly of Victorian mansions in the country and  Louisville is only second to New York City’s SoHo in cast iron architecture. The churches, however, are the most overlooked architecture in Louisville, and are ironically some of the most impressive and elaborate architecture the city has to offer.

Louisville Church ArchitectureUntil recently, I was one of those Louisville residents that didn’t pay too much attention to the churches in our city. Like many residents, I pass by these churches every day as part of my daily routine, and although they will catch my attention, my busy brain will quickly regain my focus on other things. This past weekend, I attended a good friend’s wedding that took place at St. James Church in the Highlands. The church is located at the intersection of Bardstown Road and Edenside, an intersection that I’m sure many of you have passed by a thousand times. I live two blocks away from the church, have passed by the gigantic and impressive structure a thousand times, and until Saturday had never really looked at it before. Even from the outside, before taking one step in, I was in awe. The main church building was strong and understated, a beautiful yellow orange stone color with a large stained glass window. The steeple disappeared in to the sky. It‘s massive height brought on a protective and calming tone. When we walked inside the church, the pale pinks and blues that filled the walls made me feel like I walked in to a painting of a sunset. The dome ceiling was grand and the detail in the stained glass and sculptured walls were amazing. At the center of the dome was a stained glass eye, which at first was quite jolting, but after some time became centering. It is hard to believe that I have walked by this church so many times without knowing what incredible beauty was inside. 

My friend’s wedding made me question where else in our city hidden beauty lies, and where else I could be passing it by. Old Louisville is home to over 20 historic churches that hold intricate stained glass, paintings, and sculptures, so I think I will start there.
Christ Church Cathedral is the oldest church building that is still standing in Louisville. This church still has it’s original tiffany glass stained glass windows.
The First Church of Christ Scientist is built with native Kentucky limestone.

St. Josephs Catholic Church is a gothic style church located in Butchertown. The twin spires are a recognizable marker of this church.

St. Martin of Tours is one of the most authentically German churches in Louisville. The skeletal remains of two martyrs line the alter.

The First Unitarian Church offers unique architecture in that it combines the new with the old.  After suffering through two fires in 1872 and 1873, part of the church was rebuilt with glass and steel, blending the contemporary with traditional.
Calvary Episcopal Church was built with  Indiana and Peewee Valley limestone. The architect of the church also designed the entrance to Cave Hill Cemetery.

This is just a little information on a few of the many churches in our city. I recommend peeking in to the next church you pass by and you will probably see something special that you didn’t expect!

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A Mellow Mystery

Baker Boy Donuts sign St Matthews KYA true mystery lies in the heart of the St. Matthews community and it has me digging for clues. While doing construction on the building that held the beloved Dutch’s Tavern and will be the newfound home of the  Mellow Mushroom Pizza Joint, a bewildering sign that has become my nemesis was discovered.  The sign reads “Baker Boy inc. Hot Doughnuts.”  You would assume there was a doughnut shop there some years ago, but, no.  No such place ever existed, no Baker Boy Doughnut Shop to speak of.  I was bewildered.  After doing a little digging I came across an article by WHAS11 news with the title “Historic Mystery in St. Matthews Appears to Be Solved” and finally I think I am going to get my answers.  In the article they explain the establishment was a soda shop that changed to a tavern after prohibition. I read on. That’s it? So where do the doughnuts come into play? Where’s the rest of the article? Where is the answer to my mystery? I am stunned.  I guess I have to keep on digging, and I will.  By this point I think I have built up in my head that it is some great mystery I am trying to solve.  I am not basing myself in reality anymore. I remind myself I am looking in to a doughnut shop, or a soda shop that sold doughnuts, I bring myself back down.  

I stumble across a message board where members are talking about family members that worked at the soda shop at the time.  I chime in to the conversation.  We are talking about the possibility of a doughnut shop going unnoticed and the lack of that possibility.  After much discussion, we come to a conclusion that the sign must have been  advertising for doughnuts sold within the soda shop. This makes sense, I am comfortable with this deduction.   I have spent too many hours scowling the internet and wracking my brain over doughnuts and baker boys.  This is a logical and simple conclusion.   My mystery in St. Matthews is solved and although it wasn’t an exciting, mind-blowing finale, I will take solace in the fact that it is indeed concluded.  I apologize if you are as let down as I was, but not every mystery can turn out so exciting.  I will try to report on another one of Louisville’s great mysteries next time with a more thrilling outcome.

Mellow Mushroom is set to open it’s doors the first week of August according to the Courier Journal. This funkadelic pizza chain offers a delicious menu including pizzas, calzones and salads, along with a hefty beer list and plenty of on tap options. Mellow Mushroom participates in things like Beer Club and Trivia Nights, so check with them when they open to see how you can participate. After visiting the Lexington location I am eager to return and recommend it highly. Mellow Mushroom plans on conserving the Baker Boy Sign in it’s entirety and including it as part of their restaurant decor.  

To find your St Matthews dream home go to St. Matthews Homes for Sale for all of the most current listings.


Louisville's Park System

Cherokee Park in the FallConsidered the father of American landscape design, Frederick Law Olmstead was commissioned to design the Louisville park system in 1891. He became famous as the designer of New York’s Central Park and by the time he came to Louisville, he was also well-known for his work on the grounds of the Biltmore estate in North Carolina and the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. But previous to his work in Louisville, parks were usually designed as free-standing entities. Olmstead had a unique new vision for creating a unified system of parks connected by beautiful tree-lined parkways.

Louisville’s park system is only one of four such integrated systems of urban green space and more fully embodies Olmstead’s vision than any other.Olmstead’s plan was not only environmental in the sense that it made the native landscape the park system’s key feature, but it was rooted in his hopes for social good as well. He wanted his parks to be open to people from all walks of life and income levels so that they could gather socially for picnics, engage in athletics or other forms of exercise, and simply walk or relax. Olmstead and his two sons were the designers for our 6 beautiful parkways and 18 total Louisville parks. These include the big ones, like Cherokee, Iroquois, Seneca, Algonquin, and Shawnee as well as the smaller green spaces like Baxter, Bingham, Boone, Central, Chickasaw, Churchill, Elliott, Shelby, Stansbury, Tyler, Wayside, and Willow.

Certainly, all of us who love Louisville are grateful for Olmstead’s vision and the local beauty it produced.


Exceptional Louisville Churches

Louisville's Historic Churches

Louisville is one of the oldest cities west of the Appalachian mountains, founded in 1778 by then Col. George Rogers Clark. As cities sprang up across the west, churches were built in abundance to take care of the spiritual needs of the new settlers. Louisville has an abundance of beautiful churches dating back to the mid 1800's and in this photographic series we will document many historic and  architecturally significant places of worship around our wonderful city.

Our first featured church is the Refuge in Kentucky Church located at Market & Hancock St's in Louisville. (History to follow)

Refuge in Kentucky Church - Market Street Louisville KY   


Louisville Old & New

Main Street Louisville - Old and New
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A Christmas Day walk along Louisville's Main St

As Louisville grew from just a stop along the Ohio River to portage around the falls, to one of the largest western cities in the new United States, it developed its street system, much of which remains the same today as it was 200 years ago.  As in most cities, Louisville’s retail, wholesale and socializing street in the central business district was named “Main St.” and this was where the majority of the businesses involved in this trade were located.

Looking west along LouisvilleWe are fortunate in Louisville to have many of these 19th century buildings along Main St. still intact as opposed to the parking lots and wastelands created along many other streets in the name of “Urban Renewal”. When walking down Main St. always look at the details in the old buildings and you may find a bit of history of Louisville’s distant past.  Many of the businesses that constructed these wonderful buildings had their company’s name, prominently attached to the structure.  Most of these companies are long gone, however with a little research you can find out some interesting facts about our Louisville history.

An example of this is the Bamberger Bloom & Co. building on West Main Street, described as
follows in the 1882 book: History of the Ohio Falls Cities and Their Counties – Louisville “In the year 1872 the firm, which in the meantime had added several partners and had changed its name to Bamberger, Bloom & Co., moved into its present beautiful quarters, having found it necessary to erect a building especially adapted to its colossal trade. No description of this structure nor further comment upon the business are necessary , as the firm of Bamberger, Bloom & Co., its house, and its business are known to every citizen of Louisville, and are brought to the attention of every one who visits the city.”

After the failed 1848 German Revolution, many thousands of revolutionaries migrated to the UnitedBamberger Bloom & Co Building Main St Louisville KY States due to their commitment to freedom and liberty. These migrants were extremely well educated and included: scientists, teachers, lawyers and journalists.  Nathan Bloom was one of the newly arrived Germans and began his career in the US as a migrant peddler, going from town to town, selling what he could carry with him. After several years he opened a general store in Owensboro, KY.  In 1852 Bloom moved to Louisville with his brother in law, Julius Bamberger, and together they founded the wholesale dry goods business Bamberger, Bloom & Co.

The company flourished for years and allowed peddlers of the day to start many thriving businesses in the fast growing cities and towns of the new western states and territories, such as Kentucky. Long regarded as one of the most solid financial institutions in Louisville - It caused much surprise when the company filed for bankruptcy in October of 1895. The owner stated: “The failure is due to large losses in the South and to the fact that for some years past a considerable portion of the best part of the firm’s Southern business has been taken from it by wealthy and enterprising St. Louis rivals, while other portions have gone to Chicago competitors.”

It would be fascinating to learn if any of today’s retailers may, in some way, owe their existence to credit issued by, or merchandise bought from, this early Louisville business – Bamberger, Bloom & Co. 

Nathan Bloom & Julius Bamberger are both buried in The Temple Cemetery located at 2716 Preston Highway along with many of their descendants.

A bit of Louisville Historical Ramblings from The Brad Long Real Estate Group who proudly have the opportunity to sell Louisville Real Estate in our wonderful city.