Old Louisville - America's Largest Victorian Neighborhood

No trip to Louisville is complete without visiting the stunning Old Louisville neighborhood. Developed on and around the site of the famed Southern Exposition of 1883, this area evolved as one of the first suburbs in the city and counts as one of the largest and most impressive historic preservation districts in the country. Go there today and you'll find hundreds and hundreds of beautiful Victorian-era mansions, as well as charming shotgun homes, inviting residences, elegant condos and inviting townhomes. All in all, there are well over 1,000 structures in a 45-square-block area, less than a mile from downtown Derby City. If you like old homes, great history and beautiful architecture, this is the place to go. Chateauesque, Richardsonian-Romanesque, Italianate, Arts and Crafts, Queen Anne, Victorian Gothic - these are some of the more prevalent styles you'll find here.

Today's Old Louisville is bounded, roughly speaking, by Kentucky Street to the north, U of L's campus to the south, I65 to the east and Seventh Street to the west. It's just a mile from downtown Louisville. Major thoroughfares include Third Street, Fourth Street, Ormsby Avenue and Oak Street, where you will find the Rudyard Kipling, a popular hangout for writers and artists. The Old Louisville Information Center in Central Park is just two blocks away at 1340 South Fourth Street. Their number is (502) 635-5244. This is where you'll find information about regular history and architecture tours, as well as the popular ghost tours that have earned Old Louisville the reputation as the "most haunted neighborhood in the country." Louisville Historic Tours offers a wonderful "America's Most Exuberant Neighborhood Tour" ($20 per person/90 minutes) that departs most days at 11:00 a.m and 1:00 p.m. and this is the ideal tour for visitors wanting to get a basic introduction to the history and architecture of the neighborhood. Reservations required. If you're into haunted history, they also offer an evening ghost walk ("America's Most Haunted Neighborhood Tour") which is also $20 per person and takes about 90 minutes.

Get more information about regular, year-round walking tours at louisvillehistorictours.com/ Call (502) 718-2764 to book a tour. Private tours are also available at a time convenient to you. They also offer step-on/receptive guides for coach groups visiting the neighborhood.

In the Old Louisville Information Center there's a small gift shop where you can pick up local souvenirs (Happy Balls! - the official candy of Old Louisville, for example) and find out about annual neighborhood events such as the Victorian Ghost Walk, the Spirit Ball, the Old Louisville Holiday House Tour, the Hidden Treasures Garden Tour, Dining at the Mansions, the Garvin Gate Blues Fest, and the very popular St. James Court Art Show, which has been taking place during the first weekend in October for over 50 years now.

The Old Louisville Information Center in Central Park is also the place to learn about bed and breakfast inns that dot the neighborhood. Beautiful bed and breakfasts include the Central Park Inn, the Dupont Mansion, the Inn at Central Park, Rocking Horse Manor, the Gallery House, the Columbine, Austin's Inn Place and the stately Samuel Culbertson Mansion. You can also get information about places to eat  and drink such as Third Avenue Cafe, Amici Italian Cafe, the Tavern, Juanita's Burger Boy, Ollie's Trolley, Dizzy Whizz, D. Nalley's, Carly Rae's, the Granville, Buck's and more. If time permits, plan for a lovely dinner at 610 Magnolia, the nationally acclaimed restaurant whose chef, Ed Lee, prevailed on the Food Network's Iron Chef in December 2010. You'll want to make sure you visit the Conrad-Caldwell House Museum on St. James Court, as well as the Speed Art Museum and Rauch Planetarium at U of L. They'll also tell you about regular events such as Shakespeare in the Park and summertime ice cream socials held in beautiful Central Park every year.

If you don't have a lot of time in Old Louisville, make sure to save an hour or two for a stroll down the stretch of Third Street known as "Millionaires Row." Extending from St. Catherine south to the Confederate War Veterans Monument at U of L, this is one of the most visually impressives collections of antique residential architecture in the nation and on display are most of the styles that would have been prevalent during the Victorian era. Another must-see includes the area encompassing St. James and Belgravia Courts south of Central Park. This is the heart of the neighborhood and sits on the foot print of the famous Southern Exposition of the 1880s, which attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the area that is today Old Louisville. 

Visitors still keep coming to Old Louisville all these years after the great Southern Exposition, and many of them decide to stay, so be forwarned. Home prices are a bargain here and This Old House magazine recently listed Old Louisville as the best place in the country to buy old homes. If you're interested, contact local realtors such as Don Driskell, Deborah Stewart and Mary Martin, and they will set you up with the mansion of your dreams. It shouldn't be too hard to find a 6,000-square-foot home in move-in condition with six bedrooms, three floors and the original hardwood floors and fireplaces for around $300,000. A fixer-upper is easy to find for $100,000. If you want to find out more about this great neighborhood, you can also read some of the books written by local author David Domine, known to many as the Mayor of Old Louisville. He is often seen leading tours throughout the neighborhood.

HIghlands of Louisville

This neghborhood begins at the intersection of Bardstown Rd. and Trevillian Way and continues north to Baxter and Bardstown Rd. 

The Bardstown Rd. corridor is filled with restaurants, locally owned businesses, bars and shopping. 

Begin exploring by stopping at, The Homeade Pie and Ice Cream Factory where you will find, pies, cakes, ice cream and lunch items at a reasonable price. Continue north and you'll find, Clay & Cotton a locally owned store offering Company C, Flax, Archepelago, Polish Pottery and a mix of other home and clothing items.  The owner, Margie is usually there and she can steer you to the best finds in the shop.

At Bardstown Rd. and Highland Ave. find a place to park the car and head out on foot. This area is rife with antique shops, eateries and the Baxter Ave. movie theater. Eclectic international food is offered at Ramsis Cafe, local and popular is, Avalon fine dining and The Bristol. All three provide outdoor seating in good weather. The Bristol has a southern brunch on Sunday that is reasonable.

In this area you'll find locally owned Carmichael's Bookstore attached to Heine Bro's Coffee. This is where the locals go to get their caffeine and books not usually found in the chain stores.

Heading north again, (on foot several city blocks) or by car (on street parking with some small lots offered) you'll find, Highland Coffee House near Lucia Ave, The Knit Nook (carrying several handmade yarns and hosting a great atmosphere) and Stevens and Stevens Deli. These are all sure to please a family for price and interest. 

Salon Bacco is across the street and offers a small boutique containing clothing and accessories. Prices are moderate to high but worth a look.

Further down Bardstown Rd. you'll find more antique opportunities, some fast food and the famous Jack Fry's restaurant. Known for their sumptuous meals and out of this world deserts, it's worth a special Saturaday night out.

One block north is Pure Image, the only retailer carrying Keihls brand, Wick's Pizza, Molly Malones and several pubs.

Finally at the intersection of Bardstown Rd. and Baxter Cave Hill Cemetary. The facility has a rich history, stunnng monuments, a pond filled with wildlfe and a walking tour available. 

Wether on foot on by car, the Bardstown Rd. corridor is filled easy to navigate, and difficult to resist for out of towners and locals. Be sure to  pay attention to the electronic traffic signals after 4:00pm in order not to be cited or drive in the wrong lane. After 4:00pm there is no street parking allowed and the interior southbound lane is dedicated to turning only.