Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Downtown Louisville Update 8/31/16...

What's going on in downtown Louisville these days...
  • The Ohio River Bridges Project is moving along nicely. It includes two new bridges over the Ohio - one for I-65 downtown right next to the Kennedy Bridge and one on the East End near Prospect that will take I-265 into Indiana - plus a redo of the all interstates, ramps, surface roads, etc. It's quite a mess downtown, but in the long run, it'll be great for the city. The Abraham Lincoln Bridge downtown has opened to traffic; East End bridge is nearing completion. Once everything's done, all bridges except the 2nd St. and Sherman Minton will be tolled.


Abraham Lincoln Bridge

  • Aetna bought Humana. What that means for Humana's Louisville employees and properties, who knows.
  • Several new hotels. Hilton Garden Inn, 4th and Chestnut. Embassy Suites, 4th and Muhammad Ali (former Stewart's Dept. Store). Aloft, 1st and Main. New 30-story Omni, which will take up the whole block between 2nd and 3rd and Liberty and Muhammad Ali. The Kentucky International Convention Center will also be extensively renovated and expanded.
  • Despite the efforts of preservationists, the old Louisville Water Co. building on 3rd St. was removed to make way for the new Omni hotel. The city salvaged and stored the facade. Personally, unlike a lot of folks, I didn't consider it a great loss. I never found the structure to be that historically or architecturally significant. Who knows though: maybe I'm misguided.   

  • Old Lou. Water Co. Bldg.
  • There's talk that the Schneider family who owns The Galt House Hotel (and other local interests) is selling out. Nothing official yet, including potential buyer.
  • The Starks and Republic Buildings are both being renovated for mixed use: upscale hotel accommodations, perhaps apartments and condos, and business space. That's great news considering both buildings are downtown icons.  
  • Main St. and the NuLu district are under heavy revitalization.
  • Hillerich and Bradsby, maker of the iconic Louisville Slugger bat, sold out to Wilson Sporting Goods. The good news is the bats will still be made in Louisville and the museum is safe.  
  • Mayor Fischer is making a push to add more trees to Louisville, which is a great initiative. It's no secret that downtown is heavy on concrete, lacks green, and is a "heat island."
  • The push to renovate or reuse Louisville Gardens has kind of stalled. I consider this a shame, but given it's location and other similar venues nearby, it may not have much of a future.
  • A Walmart is going in at Broadway and Dixie, the site of the old Philip Morris plant. It's taking some time due to debate over design and what workers will be paid. [This project has been cancelled by Walmart, 10/28/16.]
  • Founders Square Park (north side of Muhammad Ali between 5th and Armory Place) is getting a makeover.
  • There are plans to build another condo tower near the Great Lawn of Waterfront Park and Louisville Slugger Field. As long as it doesn't detract from what's around it, OK. The more housing downtown, the better. That's how we get people - i.e. life - back into the area.
  • Speaking of Waterfront Park, now that the area has become so popular, Waterfront Development Corp. is talking about charging for parking (right now it's free). I think that's bulls***. The goal was to revitalize the area and get folks to come back to the riverfront. It's taken years, but they've done it. And how do they thank these patrons? Fees. 
  • Costco opened a new store on Bardstown Rd. near the Watterson where the old Showcase Cinemas once stood.
  • Heine Bros. Coffee is moving its headquarters to 1301 W. Main, which is a welcome boost to Portland and the West End.
  • Due to money disputes between Kosair Charities and Norton Healthcare, Kosair Children's Hospital will lose Kosair from its name soon. Kosair has been taking care of kids for 90+ years. It's sad that the name is going to be cast aside due to the almighty dollar. Still, as long as kids are still getting excellent care there, that's all that matters.
  • Dixie Highway is getting a $50 million makeover so that it's more friendly to pedestrians, business, and traffic flow. It'll also look a lot better - medians, improved lighting, etc. It's about time!
  • [12/1/16] There continues to be debate about where Louisville's new VA hospital is going to be built. It's been a long process. The Watterson at Brownsboro Rd. was - repeat was - kind of the chosen site, but there's been grumbling, and now a West End location is being proposed. Honestly, I wish they'd just keep the current one off of Zorn Ave., but if they must build, do it already. Quit talking about it. This debate has gone on for years.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Muhammad Ali!

The whole world knows "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali. He was born and raised in Louisville and got his boxing start here. Ali loved his hometown, and the city loved him; one of its favorite sons. He passed away on 6/3/16 at the age of 74 after a decades long battle with Parkinson's. His funeral was one of the biggest spectacles the city has ever seen. Here are a few photos. Make sure to read the captions. Rest in peace Ali...


Muhammad Ali. Born Cassius Clay in Louisville, KY 1/17/42.


Ali's boyhood home at 3302 Grand Ave. It's been fully restored to the way it looked in his youth.


Where Ali got his start: The Louisville Service Club, Columbia Gym. He initially wanted to learn to fight to go after a kid who stole his bike!


The gym today, now part of Spalding University.


Walnut St. was renamed in honor of Ali in 1978.


The Ali Center in downtown Louisville. Opened 2005.


Ali's funeral procession downtown. An estimated 100,000 people showed up.


Ali's final resting place, Cave Hill Cemetery.



 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Louisville Gardens Just Can't Win

As I've mentioned before, Louisville Gardens, opened in 1905 and one of the city's oldest and most notable event venues, currently serves no purpose other than storage space for city government. And the structure is deteriorating. There have been several attempts to get it redeveloped, breathe new life into it, but no success. On Wed. 5/11, the Gardens took another hit: big storms rolled through and tore the roof off; a nearby vehicle was crushed by debris. The building's future isn't dead yet though. The city is redoing the roof. Hopefully, someone will come along and save the place soon!

http://www.wdrb.com/story/31952596/high-winds-cause-part-of-louisville-gardens-roof-to-blow-off-and-hit-a-car

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Big Plans for the Republic Building

As mentioned in my last post, a lot of properties downtown are getting new leases on life. Add one more to the list: the Republic Building (see "I'm Glad These Downtown Louisville Buildings Are Still Around!" post 10/18/11).

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Binghams

For almost the entire 20th century, the Bingham family was Louisville's version of the Kennedys. They were rich, good looking, well-bred, and educated at the finest prep schools and Harvard; had connections all over the country and internationally; served in the armed forces, delved into politics, pushed liberal causes; traveled extensively; and were deeply involved in the arts and philanthropy. The root of their power was owning an almost monopolistic media empire: The Courier-Journal and Louisville Times newspapers, WHAS radio and TV, and Standard Gravure, a printing company. However, also like the Kennedys, the Binghams had their fair share of intrigue, secrets, internal strife, and tragic, untimely deaths. In the mid-'80s, Barry Bingham Sr. sold off the family business. The move was stirred by controversy and produced even more - people in Louisville still talk about it today. Even though their name is somewhat diminished now, the Binghams' influence cannot be denied. A lot of books have been written about them. I think the most informative, unbiased account is Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty by Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones, 1991. If you can find a copy, grab it.

I recently took some photos of the family's graves at Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville. Section 13, Lots 101 and 102...

https://plus.google.com/photos/109696896928848305229/albums/6064329573126398721

The Binghams are also tied to some noteworthy Louisville architecture. First, there's the Courier-Journal Building on 6th and Broadway, opened in 1948 - wonderful late art deco.




Then there's the Binghams' estate, Melcombe, at 4309 Glenview Ave. on the east side of Louisville. Built between 1909 and 1911, it features 11,800 sq, ft. on four levels, a beautiful entry, tennis courts, about 10 acres of neatly manicured property, and views of the Ohio River. The family refers to it as the "Big House" because there's another wonderful but less massive home on the estate called the "Little House." Interestingly, at the time of this post, the "Big House" is for sale. It can be yours for a cool 4 million dollars :)

UPDATE 10/18/14
Melcolmbe ("The Big House") has been sold. Reports say Molly Bingham, daughter of Barry Bingham Jr., the last Bingham to run the empire, is the buyer. So the home is staying in the family for now - great news.








Saturday, August 16, 2014

Marble Hill and Indiana Army Ammunition Plant (INAAP)

My wife and I drove from Madison, IN to Jeffersonville, IN today via Hwy. 62. It's a nice route and showcases classic rural S. Indiana. However, it also takes drivers by two very interesting, abandoned industrial sites. "Interesting" and "industrial site" don't usually go hand in hand, but let me explain.

First, on Hwy. 62 south of Hanover, near the tiny communities of Saluda and Paynesville, there's Marble Hill Rd. Head east on it and it will eventually lead you to the abandoned Marble Hill Nuclear Power Plant. Construction began in 1977, but build problems, finances, and the Three Mile Island incident in 1979 - which scared the American public and led to more government regulation and oversight of all things nuclear - led to the project being killed in 1984 at a cost of billions and before the plant ever produced a single megawatt of electricity. That said, a lot of assembly was completed at the site, and even though demolition efforts have been ongoing for the last thirty years, much of it is still there and has the unmistakable look of a nuclear power facility. I'll warn you though, don't try to drive right up to the old reactors. The property's locked up pretty tight and has a security force. Here's a few good links about it, a map of its location, and photos...






This photo is fairly old. Much of it has been dismantled. I believe the concrete reactor cores are still upright though.

This view is looking north up the Ohio R. toward Hanover and Madison.



The second intriguing site on Hwy. 62 is just a few miles south of Marble Hill near Charlestown, IN: the Indiana Army Ammunition Plant (INAAP). I won't get into a full history of the place - that's really a blog in itself - but basically, from WWII to 1992, INAAP produced all sorts of gunpowder, ammo, and ordnance for the military. To call the complex massive is an understatement. I've never personally seen a single industrial property this large. In it's prime, it covered 20,000 acres - due to production and storage processes - and employed tens of thousands of people. Currently, much of it is intact but deteriorating, being slowly reclaimed by trees, vegetation, Mother Earth. Parts have been demolished, new industry has come in here and there, and a portion of the site is now an Indiana state park. It really is a fascinating, almost surreal site.



And for some really beautiful photography of the plant, check out this guy's work...
http://zfein.com/photography/inaap/index.html










Thursday, January 16, 2014

Update: Hotel Henry Watterson

A couple years ago, I posted about the Hotel Henry Watterson, which sat on the north side of Muhammad Ali between 4th and 5th Streets, 1911 - 1981. I also stated that while I'd found lots of drawings, advertisements, and vintage postcards featuring the building, I'd never run across a good photo of it, especially a front shot. Why so elusive, who knows. It may because it was in a dense area and there were several other large hotels, stores, and office buildings nearby that overshadowed it. I finally found one though, taken in 1928. Also, to understand exactly how it sat, I've included a photo courtesy of Broken Sidewalk. The park is basically the old hotel's footprint. You can also see the outlines where the Watterson touched the building next door (Molee Building).




Molee Building


Saturday, October 5, 2013

St. James Court/St. James Court Art Show

Around the turn of the 20th century, one of Louisville's most prestigious places to live was St. James Court. It borders: Magnolia Ave. to the north, Hill St. to the south, 4th and 6th Sts. to the east and west respectively. It's story is simple. The closure of the Southern Exposition in 1887 (see post dated 8/11/13) opened up a giant chunk of land - prime real estate - in the heart of the city. William Slaughter and his company bought up a great deal of it and developed a magnificent Victorian neighborhood with stately homes, ample trees, a long esplanade with fountain, and stone lions guarding its entrances. In 1904, Frederick Law Olmsted's Central Park opened immediately to its north, adding to the environment. It was architectural and urban planning gold then and remains so today. In 1957, the St. James Court community held its first art show. The event has grown and grown over the years and now welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors annually from across the city, state, nation, and globe. Here are some pictures from this year's show (10/4-6)...



 
This year's St. James Court Art Show poster.