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649 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Portland and Butchertown and to some extent Phoenix Hill have some of the oldest surviving structures in Louisville. Portland I think I posted on before (and is sort of a special case as it used to be a separate town and competitor of Louisville). Butchertown, however, is a true extension of Louisville.

Butchertown is also interesting from a urban sociology/politics POV as it is an example of the grassroots “fight the system” ethos of the 1960s, where neighborhood activists took on the planner/bureaucrats who wanted to destroy the neighborhood. During the 1960s this neighborhood was slated for removal and replacement by industry via down-zoning.

Butchertown was saved by a local working class folks working with with some “young professional” (probably very young at that time) urban pioneers, who defeated the planners and retained the neighborhood as residential. The stated intention of the activists at that time was not to gentrify the neighborhood, but to save it as a viable community and as a representative of some very old Louisville architecture…community and historic preservation was the goal, not gentrification.

At least that was the story until now, as the neighborhood is changing.

Butchertown today. The neighborhood is more or less bounded by the big Spaghetti Junction interstate interchange to the north , Main Street, and Beargrass Creek.

Butchertown through time. This neighborhood is a good place to investigate the development of Louisville through the last 200 years, from the Virginia surveys of Lord Dunmore’s’ time to today.

This is sort of a genesis map of Butchertown, an enlargement of an inset on a larger map of Louisville around 1829 or 30. The rapids of the Falls of the Ohio show on the left, as does a growing Louisville and Beargrass Creek with it’s forks, modern Louisville’s urban stream. The roads east into the Bluegrass country also appear, the main routes into Louisville from inland.

The modern area of Butchertown outlined in red, and the 1778 land surveys in black dashes. This area was surveyed as land grants for Virginia soldiers in the French and Indian War, and Louisville first started as town plat by a Pittsburgh trader and ally of Lord Dunmore, the colonial governor of Virginia (apparently Virginia had claimed the Pittsburgh area by right of conquest during the French and Indian War). These surveys ran perpendicular to the river, well inland, and govern street arrangements in Louisville to this day…

The larger 1830 map.

..showing the Revolutionary War fort at Louisville, Corn Island (the original sight of the fort, and at low water a rock ledge that formed a harbor for river traffic at Louisville’s landing), the original plat of Louisville, the commons, and the outlots running south to what is now Broadway.

At this time Louisville was expanding beyond its original town plat, west and east along the river. The old Preston patent has become Preston’s Addition, and the first streets in what is now Butchertown appear. The area between Beargrass Creek and the river became known as “The Point”, an extension of the wharf.

After 1830, and particularly in the 1840s and 50s, the area that is now Butchertown begins to be settled by mostly German butchers, as this area convenient to the main turnpikes in from the Bluegrass. The neighborhood, from the start, was a live-work concept, where people worked where they lived.

Beargrass Creek, literally running through the backyards of the butchers, becomes a convenient dump for waste and offal from the killing floors. As the creek, no more than a disgusting open sewer filled with blood and guts and grease, empties into the Ohio right at the public wharf it becomes a nuisance and is rerouted (also to provide more wharf space). The drained course of Beargrass Creek north of Butchertown is still noticeable to this day.

The Point had been a summer retreat for wealthy New Orleans families (Louisville had trade connections with NOLA), but also the site of rope walks making rope from hemp for the Southern markets. Eventually the Point becomes more industrialized and working class. One house remains from the era when this was a retreat for Southerners.

A close-up of an 1850s map of Louisville showing the built up areas in Butchertown….

Another 1850s map showing the railroad coming in from Lexington and Frankfort, entering Louisville down Jefferson Street and ending at a depot located at today’s Haymarket.

A 1865 military map of the Louisville fortifications clearly showing Butchertown. At around this time the local landmark St Joseph parish is founded,.

Louisville undergoes a period of industrialization during the era of the New South, after the Civil War and Reconstruction, serving Southern markets. The meatpacking industry here becomes more industrialized, and the Bourbon Stockyards is established (in 1868), claimed to be the “largest in the South”. This stockyards was the outgrowth of a drovers inn established in the 1830s, that had stock pens in the rear, which became the site of informal buying, selling, and trading.

During the postbellum era the railroad to Lexington (and Cincinnati) is rerouted through Butchertown, partly on the course of the old Beargrass Creek, to a depot on the river. The Louisville & Jeffersonville Bridge, later the Big Four Bridge, is built, with the elevated bridge approaches also cutting through the neighborhood. The Point has become a site of wharfs and shipyards.

(1898 map)

Also, at this time, some other nearby neighborhoods take shape and identity. This is also the era of the beer garden, of which there was one near Butchertown.

Butchertown even had its own brewery, which survived Prohibition to become one of Louisvilles local postwar beers, Oertels ’92 (closed in the 60s).

The 1937 flood hit Louisville hard, flooding most of the built-up area of the city at the time…everything in orange and blue on this modern flood control map was flooded:

The ’37 flood even reached Churchill Downs..if you are familiar with the city you will know it is pretty far in from the river

Butchertown, in a vulnerable location right on the river, between the river and Beargrass Creek was flooded pretty bad. The Point was pretty much wiped out by this flood. The landmark St Josephs church steeples can be seen here, and the wide expanse of the stockyards flooded by Beargrass Creek backwaters is visible in the lower part of the pix:

The ’37 flood led to the construction of the floodwall, which is mostly that in Butchertown...nearly no levee here, just a concrete wall. The floodwall snakes its way through the neighborhood, sometimes running down the middle of streets, with floodgates every so often.

…meaning there are areas with and without flood protection. As the floodwall was built when this neighborhood was rezoned industrial it really didn’t matter that residential streets where chopped up by the wall….

Closer to the river…the last two surviving house remnants on The Point…

One of the local landmarks is the big Beargrass Creek pumping station, which takes the creek over the top of the levee when the Ohio is in flood.

By the 1960s about 50% of the housing in the neighborhood had been replaced by industrial/commercial use or demolished. The construction of the I-64, 65, and 71 interstates and their interchange also impacted the neighborhood, particularly I-64 as it split the neighborhood in two.

The remaining residential areas were saved, though, and declared historic districts. Butchertown in the 1970s became a popular place to go for the Oktoberfest, which was a big fund raiser for the neighborhood group, and a good place to hear German music and drink beer. One of the old factories was converted into a small shopping center, too.

The stockyards remained in business until the 1990s, though, and brought in a big rural trade, so there where country music places for nightlife, as well as feed and seed type farmer business in the area.

Nowadays, though, there is more gentrification and infill going on, it seems (including the big project shown in this map). This part of the pix tour will take you mostly along Washington Street & side streets, from the St Joes area into the “Buckeye” section, getting as close to downtown as we can, with a walk back taking looks at Story Avenue, East Main and the Stockyards area.

Starting at the 1880s St Joseph church. The church roof has those nice crosses worked into the late.

Old fire station across from the church..converted into an antique shop…

The former Butchertown Pub. This was a popular place for folksy/singer songwriter/bluegrass stuff way back in the 1970s, and sort of a symbol of the neighborhood revival here….

Businesses on Story Ave, with some new infill/additions

An old house from the 1840s or 30s, when this neighborhood began to develop

NIMBYism or a visionary proposal or a bit of both? You decide (google the site):

it’s the subtle things that often make a neighborhood in Louisville, such as the little stone curb before you get to the yard, and the iron fences. More nice old shotgun houses, though these are not the oldest housing type in the neighborhood.

Bakery Square. This was for a few years, when it was open as a retail place, a centerpiece of the neighborhood for outsiders. This factory dates to 1870, and was built as a furniture factory.

Its more recent incarnation as a bakery is what led to the name (the bake ovens were preserved as part of the renovation.

This was a bakery that served little corner stores around the city, so they had their own delivery wagons (later vans)

The place was originally set up for shops, but now small offices…

The little building in the courtyard was originally the stable, later a restaurant called The Stable, and now home to the Lebowskifest

(one of those quirky/funky Louisville things)

Heading on down the line on Washington, peeking at the railroad lines running through the neighborhood and old factories

I’m thinking this might have been a lead into one of the Big Four Bridge approaches

Moving into the “Buckeye” sub-neighborhood, closer in to downtown now, some side streets off Washington.

Interesting old double there, next to the tall brick house…

Corner store building….

Butchertown was not 100% German as there where also Irish and African Americans living here. The Irish had their own parish, St Columba, and the African Americans had a church and school..the Benjamin Banneker Elementary School (this was during the Jim Crow era). I think when this area was being torn down for industry after the 1937 flood, these little pockets where destroyed.

Enough remains, though, to make this a somewhat viable residential area.

Some of the newer infill housing going in….

The closer you get to downtown the less residential and the more industrial/commercial it gets… one of the last houses on Washington Street before you hit I –65 and the street ends.

Industrial stuff for farmers & meat packers..this is a feed mill. Some of the industry here was related to meatpacking…leather work (like saddles and tack stuff), tanneries, etc.

This is the new skate park..they call it the “extreme park”.

This skate park has led to some spin off businesses locating in the area, like this energy drink /juice bar place

…and this skate shop

Taking a peak south, out of the neighborhood toward the churches on Market Street….this would have been the area labeled “Prestons Addition” on that map upthread, but I think its called “Phoenix Hill” today, or maybe not…neighborhood names can be sort of tricky here…but a good illustration of how quickly the character of the city can change in Louisville….

Looking from Washington south to Main.

Another one of the last (perhaps one of the first, chronologically) houses n Butchertown, before hitting I-65 and downtown.

And downtown skyscrapers from under I-65. The old RR freight house, now ball field, is visible. This stretch of town, Main and Market between I-65 west into downtown proper, is getting really hot with redevelopment and adaptive reuse.

Again, looking south into the city. The building on the corner is Billy Goat Strut Alley (the real name of a street, behind it), and is an old factory turned into offices and stuff. An early (1980s?) adaptive reuse on East Main.

Opposite direction, north toward The Point and the old course of Beargrass Creek. Big Four Bridge in the distance. The Ohio bridges at Louisville are real presences in the city as they and the river hit Louisville at an angle, so they are more visible from their sides as glimpses down side streets…always reminders that one is near a big river.

Old antebellum double house…this was probably one of the local vernacular house types for the working class prior to the arrival of the shotgun house. This house is reminiscent of ones in Lexington and Dayton.

The Edison House, now a museum. Thomas Edison worked here for the telegraph company but was fired for spending time on experiments.

Tree shaded street….

…leading to a corner store

And some nice old houses on Washington and Buchanan streets

And this wonderful camelback with the elaborate front façade…a bit of Old Louisville-esque flavor…

And a little corner store, where the grid shifts between “Buckeye” and the St Josephs parts of Butchertown

Taking a look at the more commercial parts of the neighborhood on East Main and Story Avenues

East Main buildings

East Main ends at the Bourbon Stockyards. The headshed is pretty massive, with lots of nice terra-cotta detail. I remember it pretty grungy when it was still a stockyards, but also pretty busy…lots of pickups and guys in overalls…Now it’s the Stockyards Bank (which has been around for years, but just recently moved into this building)

The gate to the yards themselves.

Meat lockers?

This green expanse was filled with cattle & hog pens and sheds and runs and mud, and also railroad sidings. It stank to high heaven. In the distance the line of trees marks Beargrass Creek (L&N transfer line also ran along the creek with a local station on a viaduct..Baxter Station..that’s another thread). Now this is an orphanage, The Home of the Innocents.

Looking back down Main toward downtown, from the Stockyards

Turning the corner to Story Avenue

Story Avenue runs into Main at an angle, and was one of those places that had little things or big things for country people coming into the city to trade…

One of the places frequented by country folk was the Doo Drop Inn. It was famous across the state as a good place for dancing, live music and having a good time when in town. As a sign of the changing times this apparently is now a homosexual or lesbian establishment.

Another view of the former Stockyards from Story Avenue

This great old building was, during my time in Louisville, a seed company/wholesaler, I think, but now it’s a furniture/decorators place + other things like graphic designers and such.…The Butchertown Market.

….for all the “creative class” things going down here, there is still meatpacking going. The tanks belong to the Swift plant tanks (formerly Amour)

..but the big local meatpacker, Fishers, (known for Fishers Mellwood Bacon and Ham) is out of business, and their big plant is now the Mellwood Arts and Entertainment Center,…sort of a giant art colony. Unfortunately somewhat isolated out on Mellwood Avenue on the fringes of the neighborhood.

They did have this fun event, though….


The above was the part of Butchertown west of I-64. There is also a bit of the neighborhood east of I-64, with maybe some better vintage housing. This was the part of the neighborhood that the turnpikes first entered, so it developed maybe a bit earlier than some of what we’ve seen.

Beargrass Creek, which forks quite a bit here. This looks nice & rustic but in the old days there was a wood boom floating on the surface every 50 feet to catch grease that floated on the surface, run off from the slaughterhouses. The women and older children would wade out into the creek with buckets to skim off the grease to use to make soap, candles, etc, as cottage industry for them.

Overlooking the creek, the oldest house in Butchertown, a pioneer farmhouse from the 1780s..

Entering into Butchertown on Frankfort Avenue, across the creek

…or via Brownsboro Road, which turns into Story Avenue.

Story Avenue. This part of the neighborhood is just one street wide, running between a fork and the main stem of Beargrass Creek, with slaughterhouses in the backyards. This was also the part of the creek that was relocated....the creek bed eventually became a town and private dump, with scavengers living in shacks on the garbage piles, as well as the usual hogs and vermin

I really like this old townhouse

These rents seem a bit high to me, but perhaps cheaper than The Highlands or Clifton (the hip neighborhoods in Louisville)


Just some streetscape stuff to give you the feel of this neighborhood. I’ve driven through here any number of times but never really picked up on how pleasant this block was.

Always something a bit quirky going on here….

This was, I think, originally a Lutheran congregation but is now UCC.

Intersection of Frankfort & Story…looking north into The Point

Floodwall and a century house.

Shotguns on the river side of the floodwall

Antebellum double from the 1840s or 50s, probably

Intersection of Frankfort & Story. Note the smoker on the side..there is still a bit of the old school going on here

Hadley Pottery. This factory dates to 1855 and was a candle company, saddle and girth factory, and cordage works. Now it’s a pottery (since 1945)

Mrs. Hadley…the style here is sort of primitive, we’re not talking Rookwood.

Hadley Pottery online

And the freeway, I-64. West under this overpass is the St Joseph part of Butchertown.

In order to make passage under this not as stark they did this whimsical mural, except I’ve seen old photos from the 30s and 40s that still showed pigs being driven down the streets of Butchertown to the meatpackers…

Newspaper headline reads ‘Butchertown Renaissance

Heading back east on Story

Great old neighborhood commercial bldg.

I am wondering if this was the old Min’s East End Café? It was a local landmark coming in to town from the East End…

…and some great old houses.

I think the Hadleys might have lived here…I knew they lived in one of these big houses on this block…

Double shotgun, but note the blue bldg in the back..this was one of the small factories on premises….

And a very typical older shotgun for Louisville, with a very nice paint job on that trim, iron fence, etc…

…simply exquisite!

And the old antebellum double with its shotgun neighbor

Butchertown remains in the news, particularly due to the reworking of the interstates downtown and the new bridge across the river…..with concerns that the neighborhood will again be negatively impacted by freeway construction:

And then there is that growing arts scene in the area. This was never a really “arty” area, but so this is something new….

The Butchertown Artists have a web site

…entertainment at one of their events…

…and a farewell image of Butchertown, from one of the Butchertown artists:


President of Catan
2,282 Posts

That was one hell of a well put together tour!! Thanks TONS.
Its an awesome area thats really on the rise. Gorgeous homes!

534 Posts
This really is an amazing and underappreciated part of Louisville.

This part of town has tabilized and is seemingly starting to gentrify. With the destruction of Clarksdale I have a feeling that this part of town will cotinue to gain residents and good development.

Thanks for the tour...this had to be hours worth of work! I really appreciate the work you've done.

4,845 Posts
This is easily the most extensive thread I've ever seen on here, but it was well worth it. This area is extremely interesting and intriguing, and makes me wish I would have explored Louisville more when I visited a few years back.

649 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Yeah, thanks, I was a bit leery about posting this here as this site is more about new things...development, skyscrapers, etc, and this thread was more "historical", though I did try to wrap some new things into it.

I visit Louisville at least once a month, so I decided to try my hand at one of these in-depth threads (I have done them for Dayton over at Urban Ohio) for Louisville, based on the info I have or remember.

I had more info on Butchertown than I ordinarily would have since my sister bought me one of those Tom Owen (a local politician and historian) DVD walking tours of the neighborhood....this is just a little bit of what he talks about in that tour! Owen apparently has tons of Louisville lore.

If you all like this historical/developemental treatment, I could do a few more as time permits..maybe some of the little known areas in the South End and West End?

410 Posts
This is a great thread! I really enjoyed it. Didn't know much about Butchertown until now. Thank you for the enjoyable thread! :)

80 Posts
Great thread. This area is starting to take off. I think over the next 20 years this place will be awesome.

Look at all the development around it. Bardstown Rd to the SE, the Medical Center and Liberty Green to the SE and South, Waterfront Park to the N, extending/widening of Frankfort Ave and it becoming an interchange, Frankfort Ave. to the W, the Fischer's Plant redevelopment, and River Park Place to the NE, Mellwood becoming two way and having a complete interchange, HOPEFULLY Story becoming two-way, .......Butchertown is right in the middle of all that. I see a ton of stuff happening here.

3,403 Posts
AWESOME! This is a real diamond in the rough.

I LOVE old plat maps and pics! Thanks for the work.

171 Posts
Awesome thread!

Hey Jeff in Dayton: this thread is great. If you have the time please do another just like it. You choose my friend. I wonder if the new highway changes can be incorporated into Butchertown in a POSITIVE way??? I love the development there and the history!

80 Posts
I would think most can quite easily.

Thae Frankfort Ave. / I-71 interchange shouldn't really negativley affect anything.

Making Mellwood and Story two-way streets should do nothing but improve access.

I am telling you, this area is really going to take off.

171 Posts
After walking around the area for a while on the 12th, I have come to believe that Butchertown won't be adversely affected by the new highway developments. My reasoning is that (IMO) the nicest part of West Butchertown (the only part I walked around and the part most susceptible to being negatively impacted by the new highway work) is bounded by Main, Witherspoon, Clay, and Wenzel. Witherspoon is to become an on-ramp or something like that, but there is nothing really comparable on that street to the beautiful enclave just south of Witherspoon. So, I really think this area has lots of potential also. If anybody learns of any new development projects in this area please post the info up here.

10 Posts
big ups to Butchertown. That is probably the most overlooked area in the ville. Nice pics too. I used to run those streets all through my childhood when I lived in Clarksdale and went to the East End Boys and Girls Club on Story Ave. Plus when I was like 12-13 we used to sneak into the stockyards and ride on the sheep.

I think they should make that area more popular with more businesses like baxter ave/northern end of Bardstown Rd. It would really bring interest to that area.

2 Posts
Thanks for a great Butchertown piece

I love the story and the photos. I told friends that either you were very familiar with that area or did a heck of a lot of research. Having been born (1943) and raised in Butchertown and done a lot of research for a book(primarily for myself and children/grandchildren) I knew much but still appreciated the article. Also helped a young lady named Edna Kubala who lives at 1581 Story and who is doing a photo book of the area to be published in about 2 weeks.

BTW the photo in which you ask if that was Min's East End Cafe, indeed the building with the Fusion sign on it was Min's. The building on the corner for a lot of my younger years was Albert Kissel's Hardware. It later became a beer depot in front, a bait shop around the side, on Ohio St.

Ohio St. has now been renamed to Frankfort Ave, much to the dismay of us older residents but it probably makes sense since they ALMOST line up and at the River Road end of Ohio St/Frankfort Ave it makes it easier for anyone coming from that direction to find Frankfort Ave. and all the popular restaurants there.

One last thing to mention, the facade of the Heigold house is now move to Frankfort Ave/River Road and provides and "entrance" to that area.
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