Cherokee Triangle Area Residential District
The Cherokee Triangle Residential Area was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Portions of the content of this web page are an adaptation of information in the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2015, The Gombach Group.
The Cherokee Triangle Residential Area, composed of several subdivisions (Craycroft, Henning-Speed, Slaughter, Longest, Norris, Baringer, Barker) is a nearly intact, still vital example of the post Civil War/pre-World War I Streetcar Suburb and is a compendium of the eclectic styles of residential and ecclesiastical architecture which pervaded the late 19th and early 20th century. The factors that aided the process of suburbanization in Louisville in the late 19th century included the development of the adjacent Cave Hill Cemetery, the advent of the streetcar and later the motorcar, the establishment of Cherokee Park to the east of the area, and the topographical attractions of the area.
Essentially, the district consists of the irregularly-shaped area between Bardstown Road originally the Bardstown Turnpike, a major highway from South Central Kentucky to the Ohio River at Louisville and Cave Hill Cemetery and the parks to its north. Although Bardstown Road itself is still bordered on both sides by many structures originally (and in some cases still) residential in use, with a few churches, its character has long been primarily commercial, providing valuable services for the adjacent residential areas, as well as for the whole inner eastern part of the city. Visually, however, Bardstown Road is now so mixed in function, scale, setback, period as to prevent its having a unified character like that of the residential area. It also serves to divide the Cherokee area from a somewhat more modest area to the southwest, on the edges of low hills that define the eastern edge of the extended downtown basin of Louisville.
The spine of the Cherokee area is Cherokee Road (once Upper or New, then East Broadway). It is parallel to Bardstown Road one block to the north, with an intervening alley (one of numerous interesting and still much-used alleys in the area) which forms the southern boundary of the district. Parallel to Cherokee Road to its north are Everett and Willow, somewhat discontinuous, generally more modest in architectural scale and materials, but suffering less from through-traffic.
The area's growth was stimulated by the development of subdivisions beginning in the 1870s and carrying over into the 20th century. The Cherokee Triangle Area is also important in visual terms because of the array of late 19th-century eclectic architectural examples linked by an interesting street format including copious trees and plantings. The architecture reflects the period which culminated in an attempt at a "modern" style (Arts and Crafts) mitigated by traditional preferences.
Many prominent citizens have made the Cherokee Triangle area their home for the last century beginning with the members of the distinguished Speed and Henning families who first settled the northwestern portion of the district.
To the hard-worked man nothing affords greater relief, gives greater strength, than the ability in one moment to turn his back on the din and turmoil, and dust and confusion — the inevitable concomitants of busy quarters—and from his own hillside cottage breathe the pure air of heaven.
These words, written to lure the city-dweller in 1891 to Louisville's beckoning hinterland, could have appeared as well, with necessary linguistic adjustments, in periodicals circulated when this place was only a crude trading village or in last week's classified advertisements. That impulse to relocate on the periphery of cities has persisted throughout this nation's urban experience. Yet it was in the last quarter of the 19th century that the suburban spirit, buoyed by marvelous technological advances, reached such a frenzied rate that even today's exodus might have been overshadowed. For this reason, the Cherokee Triangle, a nearly intact, living example of the post-bellum/pre-world war streetcar suburb, represents a sterling remnant of this city's, indeed this nation's, history and clearly demands credit aside from its exceedingly fine architectural assets.
The conflict between the city and the country has sources as distant as ancient Rome. The manorial estate of seventeenth and eighteenth-century England, however, existed simultaneously with property in the city for business and social contacts; it served most heavily in establishing the notion of the rural ideal on this continent. The "happy union of urbanity and rusticity" was limited necessarily in these early days by the means of available transportation. A Brooklyn real estate man in 1823, advertising lots on Brooklyn Heights, urged investors with the promise that it was a "distance not exceeding an average fifteen to twenty-five minute walk." It was not until mid-century, however, that improvements in the machinery of public conveyance allowed significant numbers of people to reside outside the limits of the pedestrian city.
Up to this time, suburban living was extended only to those wealthy who could afford the expense of keeping a horse and carriage, two separate dwellings, and the time lost in commuting. The advent of the horse-drawn streetcar, beginning with the introduction of a line by the New York and Harlem Railroad in 1832, although affording some settlement beyond convenient walking distance, was still considered arduous and expensive and in itself not a great inducement to relocation. Average speed (only five or six miles an hour) and discomfort (no cars carried heaters) kept suburban investors to a minimum. "Even in the largest cities, where enterprising men began in the fifties to construct street railways, progress was spotty; their horsecar lines scarcely totaled 500 miles at the close of the decade." In Louisville as early as 1838, a line of steam-powered cars was run between the city and Portland at a distance then of about three miles, admittedly intended more for purposes of portage than suburbanization. The line, designed as a portion of the Lexington and Ohio Railroad, was discontinued by October of that year because of an injunction brought by Main Street residents. Resold and renamed the Louisville and Portland Railroad, the line enjoyed increased popularity and eventually was extended through the eastern portion of the city linking it with the satellite communities of Crescent Hill and St. Matthews by 1851.
Coinciding neatly with the growing popularity of the street railway in post-war Louisville and supplying the long-term attraction that would spell permanent settlement east of the old city, was the establishment of a number of outlying improvements such as the Fair Grounds and Blind Asylum in Crescent Hill and the Cave Hill Cemetery near the present Triangle. The cemetery (a city farm, small, private burial ground, and homestead before receiving its charter and enabling legislation in 1848) would be, by the end of the seventies, "unsurpassed in every department of excellence—a very Valhalla for the dead and a Mecca for the living." In the absence of permanent municipal parks prior to 1880, the cemetery at Cave Hill, landscaped in a large measure for the physical and spiritual refreshment of the city-dweller, brought the city's boundary, the car lines, and a growing number of people to its entrance near the Triangle. Owing much to the propitious efforts of its superintendents of this era—brothers David and Robert Ross and Robert Campbell—the cemetery drew the first residents to the nascent suburb in the 1870s and 1880s and signaled the area's first subdivision of land.
As Cave Hill Cemetery and the widened availability of public conveyance contributed to the initial settlement of the Triangle, three other factors—the place's then-newly realized topographical favorability, the perfection of rapid electric transit, and the establishment of Cherokee Park—created a major surge of Triangle building. The city of Louisville, situated as it is on a flood plain, has been, throughout its history, the object of periodic inundations, insufferably poor drainage and a concomitant degree of ill health and difficult development. As rail transit made it practical, the population able to avoid these shortcomings did so, and to a great degree ventured a migration to what would become known as the Highlands.
Although the city's reputation as the "Graveyard of the West" gained in the first quarter of the century because of severe epidemics in 1817 and 1822 was dispelled largely by mid-century, the threat of flooding was realized continually. After three disastrous inundations in 1882, 1883, and 1884, the effect of ruined property in the flood plain was seen in the Triangle addition. Various city directories of the years immediately following the floods reveal clearly that families moved to the Highland locale from regions of the city prone to frequent flooding.
No other single factor, however, would incite suburbanization to the extent achieved by electric technology, especially rapid public conveyance. Following earlier experiments in Berlin, Thomas A. Edison and his associates developed and demonstrated successfully an electrified engine at Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1881. His interest in perfecting the electric light, however, diverted Edison from work on the motor. Nevertheless, one of his technicians continued the experimentation in pursuit of a practical electric motor. The associate, Frank J. Sprague, formed an independent company and work force and began a series of installations on an experimental basis.
The development of electric street railway in Louisville, and the suburban growth which occurred naturally as a result, presented a dramatic change in an era whose hallmark was progress in all things and furnished an occasion for sincere self-admiration and congratulation. The ethical, social and hygienic influences can no longer be disavowed," exclaimed Carlton G. Haydon after witnessing the ascent of the technology and suburbanization locally in a mere fraction of his lifetime. As Haydon put it most succinctly:
In the last decade of the 19th century any argument upon the value or desirability of street railways, any statements as to its influence on all the material interests of a community might well be deemed superfluous. Experiment has attained success, enterprise has achieved results far beyond anticipation. The problem of the age has been solved by securing rapid transit in cities, thus laying the two broad foundations of prosperity—dispatch and accuracy.
The once crowded city expands into healthful suburbs, with picturesque, tasteful homes, in which the most exact of business consciences may rest at ease, knowing that the never-failing electric line will bring him quickly and safely to his office at the appointed hour.
The thrifty mechanic need no longer swelter in the narrow space of the tenement house, but can own his half acre, or it may be, his acre lot, with his neat cottage upon it and yet lose not one moment from the time of exacted labor. The moral results of this change of abode and environment cannot be over-estimated, as under his own 'vine and fig tree,' with his wife and children about him, he dwells in peace and quiet far removed from disquieting influences.
It was not until the establishment of Cherokee Park following the creation of a park commission in 1890, however, that electric lines would extend through the Triangle, thus permitting unrivaled settlement. The park, both conceived as an integral portion of a comprehensive arrangement of urban parks in 1887 and obtained primarily through the efforts of Andrew Cowan and his fellow members of the Salmagundi Club in the late eighties and early nineties, served not only as an attraction, much like Cave Hill before it, for new railway lines, the city limit, and a cohort of Triangle habitants, but was also associated directly with one of the greatest of the late 19th-century humanitarian impulses—the free public park and boulevard movement of democratic environmentalism— in addition to its most prolific promoter, Frederick Law Olmsted, author and scientific farmer, architect of Central Park in New York and Jackson Park in Chicago, responsible for the siting and landscape plan for the nation's Capitol, collaborator with Henry Hobson Richardson and Leopold Eidlitz in the completion of the New York State Capitol at Albany, first director of the United States Sanitary Commission (later the American Red Cross), architect of landscape for portions of Boston's Back Bay project, designer of parks for Montreal, Detroit, and Cincinnati, and the campuses of Stanford and Berkeley in the West and Amherst in the East, Olmsted considered free public parks to be vital to both the physical and mental well-being of growing American cities. His large parks here — Shawnee, Iroquois, and Cherokee — afforded, according to Olmsted in advice given to Louisville's commissioners against great spending in the establishment of small parks within the confines of each neighborhood, "the healthfully soothing and refreshing effect which experience proves is exercised upon people escaping the splendor and bustle, the confinement and disturbance of towns, into the midst of spacious natural scenery. Not into a succession of scenes," cautioned Olmsted, "but into scenery in a comprehensive sense." By juxtapositioning the rural release of the large, open park with the built-up city, Olmsted and others associated with the park and boulevard movement (such as Henry W. S. Cleveland, George Kessler, and Sylvester Baxter) hoped to capture in a true sense what Warner claims "previously had been the pattern of life of a few rich families with two large houses and ample land."
Illustrative of this suburbanization process, beginning with the force generated by the realization of Cave Hill Cemetery in the 1870s and ending, in essence, with the completion of Cherokee Park as its parkway was finished and other distinct suburbs reached and overtook the Triangle in the first quarter of the new century, are the details of the various subdivisions of land which occurred within the tract and which reveal, in chronology, the factors discussed previously. The earliest subdivision occurred adjacent to Cave Hill near its entrance at Baxter Avenue in the late seventies. The owner of the land, H. I. Craycroft, sensing as he must have the inevitable settlement which would follow the success of the "City of the Dead," the annexation of his land along with the cemetery by the city in 1852, the extension of Broadway, and the arrival of the horse car, began selling lots after a Hobbs and McGonigale survey in 1878. The tract was comparatively small — a square located between Baxter Avenue, Cave Hill on two sides, and a line running perpendicular to Baxter near what is now Highland Avenue — yet a large portion was left intact for Craycroft's own homestead, now the site of the Eastern Star Home, and for a long parcel for the florist Jacob Schulz, a tract still occupied by the firm and containing an expanded version of the Schulz home.
The next, and best known, subdivision of land to occur in the Triangle was that by the real estate firm of James W. Henning and Josiah S. Speed in the eighties. Established in Louisville in 1846, the firm operated under the title of Henning and Speed during the period when the subdivision of their land, later to become known as Henning and Speed's Highland Addition, occurred. Shortly afterward, the firm, influential also in the subdivision and development of other suburbs in various sections of the county, was succeeded by J. W. Henning and Son, apparently marking the departure of Speed. Finally it became known, after the elder Henning's death in 1887, as simply J. W. Henning's Sons. The Highland tract was laid off in 1885, again after a Hobbs and McGonigale survey, and dedicated. However, the area owned by the firm here was subject to an occasional sale, perhaps to family or friends of the two men, prior to dedication to public use of the various thoroughfares and a concerted city-wide sales campaign.
Three re-subdivisions have occurred in the original Henning-Speed tract which assist in dating three widely separately sections of the Triangle. The first was Thomas James' subdivision of his purchase in September 1895. The parcel, part of the Highland Addition, was laid off in the areas fronting on Dearing Court (then Douglas Place) and the northwest side of Grinstead Drive (then Transit) between Everett Avenue and Cave Hill Cemetery. The second was a re-subdivision by Fred Weikel of his Henning-Speed land in August 1907. Bounded by Hilliard and Everett Avenues and two lines perpendicular to those streets. The tract was apparently for investment, as Weikel's own house is situated in the block of Everett northeast of his subdivision. The last re-subdivision of the Henning-Speed subdivision, indeed the entire Triangle, occurred almost simultaneously with the onset of United States involvement in the Second World War.
The Willow Place Subdivision, a group of rather modest dwellings near the intersection of Grinstead Drive and Willow Avenue, was dedicated in February 1941.
The next major subdivision was that of land owned by the Slaughter family. Clayton Longest's addition to the Highland suburb, the tract adjacent to Slaughter was subdivided similarly in stages. The first was his own subdivision of land in about the same year. Everything in the tract — stretching from Bardstown Road to a line perpendicular to and intersecting Ransdell at the beginning of its curve and between the line common to the Slaughter land and Cherokee Parkway — was subdivided except for the portion between Willow Avenue, Longest Avenue, and the parkway. This triangular tract, land containing the Longest homestead, was subdivided in 1893 and later revised in 1897.
The bulk of the Longest Addition formed what was the only area of the Triangle ever to be incorporated by an entity other than the City of Louisville. This enclave, the Town of Enterprise, had a short-lived yet somewhat interesting existence in the last decade of the 19th century as it struggled for control of its own affairs much like other small cities in Louisville's hinterland did following the Second World War. Sometime shortly after Longest's decision to divide his land in 1884 residents decided to escape the burden of city taxes by incorporating. Quite independent, the town maintained its own school, fought the Park Board in its struggle to annex the region for the sake of satisfactory approaches and railway lines to the park, and, quite characteristically in view of the spiritual demands of the rural ideal, forbade traffic in liquor. Indeed, as Warner would put it, the Town of Enterprise must have held that "the city's ways and forms were conceived of as too artificial and of the wrong quality to support a moral life."
A somewhat small subdivision of land southeast of the Longest Addition occurred almost simultaneously with the larger and certainly more attention-getting parcel's division and would serve to illustrate the intent, at least conceptually, to mitigate the harshness of city life for all people regardless of relative wealth; a goal so many, especially Olmsted and his fellow park designers, held. The land, called Morris' Highland Addition, was dedicated in 1891 and subsequently subdivided. It was then the property of John E. Norris, who divided the land bounded by Bardstown Road, Cherokee Parkway, and Everett and Edgeland Avenues.
The subdivision of land belonging to the Baringer family was next. The site of various uses throughout its history with the family beginning in 1837, the tract was maintained as a farm immediately before being sold to the Baringer Land Company in 1904. Subject to the same influences that resulted in the development of other Triangle parcels in their own temporal context, the Baringer Land Company's addition represents the final surge of Edwardian life peculiar to much of the Triangle and extant in preciously few other portions of the city. The completion of the eastern park, an unmistakable topographical allure, severe city flooding in 1913, revolutionary advances, in transportation technology rivalling even the marvels of late-19th-century industrialism, and growing anti-urbanism following an end-of-the-century wave of new European immigration were all factors strikingly similar to those which contributed to the initial impulse and long-term process whereby the Triangle went from wilderness to suburb. Well advanced toward becoming a densely settled and architecturally unique locale before the beginning of the First World War, the former Baringer Land unquestionably deserves recognition as a significant example of this period's contribution to urban development.
Henry S. Barker's subdivision of his land followed. Located at the intersection of Cherokee Parkway and Grinstead Drive and containing a curving Rangdell Avenue, the tract was Barker's homestead. In 1908, Barker, a prominent member of the judiciary, declared that he intended to subdivide his land. This plan was revised in 1915.
Architecture in the United States during the 19th century underwent a series of revivals. This period of historicism and revivalism culminated in a period of eclecticism in the last quarter of the century when a combination of styles and/or revivals of styles would result in a hybrid, eclectic style. The gamut of architectural styles available visually in the Cherokee Triangle Area Preservation District is a vivid example of this wave of eclecticism.
The earlier houses on Cherokee Road manifest elements of late Victorian Gothic, hard-edged Victorianism and Italianate Revivalism. Another style prevalent is the Stick Style and a modified Shingle Style, especially on Everett Avenue. The Colonial Revival widely influenced architects working in the Cherokee area in the 1880s and after. The Arts-and-Crafts Movement provides an architectural link between many of the structures and provides a temporal tie at the turn of the century. This Arts-and-Crafts motif fuses with a Wrightian Prairie Style approach at times. The Art Nouveau influence can also be seen combined with other motifs around 1900. A neo-Greek Revival is easy to observe, but usually in the form of individual motifs combined with other styles. The 20th century brought forth a strong Beaux Arts influence coupled with a strong neo-Colonial Revivalism. The Baringer area reflects this with a strong use of the Arts-and-Crafts motifs.
Most of the architects in Louisville during the late 19th and early 20th centuries have been linked with structures in the area. These include: D. X. Murphy and Brothers, Mason Maury, J. B. and E. T. Hutchings, George Gray, Arthur Smith, Val P. Collins, Joseph and Joseph, Arthur Loomis, Charles J. Clarke, Drach and Thomas, C. S. Mergell, Kenneth McDonald, J. J. Gaffney, Hugh L. Nevin, and Hieatt Brothers, Builders. Known out-of-town architects who worked in the area include Frederick C. Withers and Karl Ziegler. Just as the area is not from one period nor does it reflect one architectural style or one architect, it also has a diverse use of building materials including brick, wood, and stone.
The scale within the entire area varies greatly, but the scale, massing, setback, and cornice line continuity is fairly consistent within individual blocks.
The Cherokee area reflects in microcosm the developmental history of architecture in the eastern and midwestern sections of the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Cherokee area reflects an effort to combine the amenities of both rural and city life. Many of the structures are close together and thus akin to structures in Old Louisville, yet they emit a semi-rural ambience derived from the informality of massing and an attempt to achieve an aura of a country villa or "cottage." The copious number of old trees and plantings adds much to the atmosphere. Thus, the Cherokee area does achieve the goal of comfortable suburb within ready access of the city.
† Elizabeth F. Jones, Walter Langsam, Architectural Historian, Mary Cronan, Historian, and Douglas Stern, Louisville Landmarks Commission and Kentucky Heritage Commission, Cherokee Triangle Area Residential District, Jefferson County, KY, nomination document, 1975, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.