Old Louisville: America's Victorian Neighborhood

Fans of Victorian architecture, don't miss a visit to Old Louisville in Kentucky.

By: Robin Garr

Similar Topics:
  1. Neighborhoods

Old Louisville is one of the largest preserved districts of Victorian architecture in the United States. The neighborhood extends more than a mile south from downtown to the University of Louisville's Belknap Campus and contains three distinct National Register Districts. Most of its classic homes are brick, many of them in the Romanesque, Queen Anne, Italianate and Craftsman architectural styles, and the neighborhood boasts the highest concentration of residential homes with stained-glass windows in the U.S.

Old Louisville came into existence in the 1870s as "the Southern Extension," one of the city's first suburbs. As many as 260 homes were built between 1883 and 1886 to house the city's wealthiest families. This flurry of building activity was associated with the city's role as host of the Southern Exposition. Much like a World's Fair, the Exposition featured the first public display of Thomas Edison's light bulb in what was billed as the largest artificial lighting display in history, with 4,600 lamps briefly turning the Victorian-era Louisville neighborhood's night into day.

At its peak in the late 1800s, Old Louisville was the center of the city's social life. Its Central Park was a 17-acre patch named not for the New York landmark but for the Central Street Railway line that brought people out from town to the park land. In that day, the prominent Dumesnil family's botanical gardens, just west of Central Park, displayed rows of rare and ornamental shrubs and flowers.

Forty years later the area was in decline, the grand mansions broken up into apartments and rooming houses for immigrants and the poor. In the 1960s the city began revitalization efforts with the help of Federal Community Development dollars and the neighborhood regained some of its former glory. Central Park is again a place for urban relaxation, picnics, weddings and weekend concerts. Since 1960, the park has been home to the summer tradition of free theater formerly called Shakespeare in Central Park and today known as the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. Floral Terrace, the former botanical garden, is one of the quiet residential oases that can be found within the neighborhood.

Next Up

5 Great Neighborhoods in Savannah

Browse this guide of Savannah's top neighborhoods.

5 Great Neighborhoods in Louisville

Take a tour of some of Louisville, Kentucky's most popular neighborhoods.

5 Great Neighborhoods in Jacksonville

Here are some of Jacksonville's top-rated communities, from Northside to Orange Park.

Atlanta's Coolest Neighborhoods

As the default capital of the southeast, Atlanta is full of cool neighborhoods for every kind of eclectic and alternative lifestyle.

5 Great Neighborhoods in Orlando

North, south, east, west—all directions point to intriguing neighborhoods in Orlando. Take a tour with Great American Country.

5 Great Neighborhoods in Asheville

Explore Asheville, North Carolina's well-established and up-and-coming neighborhoods with this guide.

5 Great Neighborhoods in Charlotte

From urban-chic to traditional, check out these great neighborhoods in Charlotte.

5 Great Neighborhoods in Atlanta

Take a look at five of Atlanta's best neighborhoods and decide which one is best for you.

Best Neighborhoods in Atlanta

Atlanta's finest hoods are the best based on their diversity, creative use of space and proximity to our stellar list of diversions.

5 Great Neighborhoods in Charleston

Charleston's neighborhoods offer something for everyone, from million-dollar antebellum mansions to quaint beach shacks.