Nitta Yuma Historic District
The Nitta Yuma Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983. Portions of the content on this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2012, The Gombach Group.
The Nitta Yuma Historic District is located on bluffs above the Ohio River in the northeastern section of Jefferson County, Kentucky eight miles from Louisville. Nitta Yuma is an Indian phrase meaning "high ground." This small residential district consists of four houses, three of which were built in the neo-classical styles of the early 20th century. The fourth house is a ca. 1870 vernacular farmhouse. The area is magnificently landscaped and was designed by F.L. Olmsted, Sr. The district has no intrusions. These four structures form the core of the original historic area as other houses have been destroyed by fire and have been replaced with mid-20th century dwellings.
This area was acquired in 1890 by three prominent Louisville businessmen who wanted to form a summer enclave for their families. They purchased land from the estate of James Todd, a Louisville attorney. The businessmen were: George Garvin Brown founder of Brown-Forman Distillers Corp.; Charles Peaslee and William Frederick Booker who were both associated with the Peaslee-Gaulbert Co. which produced paint, lamps and oil. They hired the assistant engineer of the City of Louisville, Major Joseph D. Claybrook (1843-1921) to build the roads at Nitta Yuma. He lived in the Todd House, a vernacular farmhouse, until his death. Claybrook was a military man, an engineer and a physician although he did not practice medicine. He was superintendent of the building of the Louisville Southern Railroad and the Mexican Central Railroad and was superintendent of the Portland Canal, appointed by President Cleveland. He was married to Mary Louise Booker, one of the members of the Booker family who founded Nitta Yuma.
The four houses are situated in the landscaped grounds which, according to family tradition, were designed by F.L. Olmsted. The residences are set back in the landscaped setting from an undulating road framed by a stone entrance. The oldest of the structures is the Todd House a two-story frame, vernacular farmhouse built ca. 1870. The residence has a central gable and porch supported by columns across the front. The west side of the house has a bay window. There have been frame additions made to the house in the early twentieth century which are compatible with the original dwelling. The house has recently been sensitively renovated.
The Alex Gait Robinson house is an asymmetrical two-story frame house built in the neo-colonial revival style. The roof line is pierced with gables and dormers. A large Palladian-type window highlights the facade. The entrance is framed by fluted, Ionic pilasters and protected by a detailed porch across the facade. The interior woodwork is of a high caliber. The house was built in 1905 and was designed by a well-known Louisville architect, E.T. Hutchings. Hutchings (1886-1958) worked on numerous buildings in Louisville including Central Presbyterian Church and the Womans Club. He studied architecture at the University of Kentucky, Cornell University and in Germany and England. The house is in excellent condition and is still in the family that originally built it. The Gill House (JF568) is a large two-story frame house in the neo-colonial revival style. It has a colossal Tuscan-Doric portico on the north side of the house. A semi-octagonal bay projects under the portico. The main entrance is capped by a triangular pediment and framed by Ionic pilasters. A series of green houses exist behind the house. The residence dates from the early twentieth century and is in excellent condition.
The Robinson Brown House is a one-and-one-half story asymmetrical brick residence which has been painted white and is in excellent condition. Dormers and gables highlight the tile roof which resembles cedar shingles. Sidelights grace the door. The house was built in 1929 and the architect was a local architect William Arrasmith (1898-1965). This was one of his early residential commissions. He was also the designer of the Louisville Greyhound Bus Station (demolished), Greyhound Bus Stations in Evansville, Indiana and Washington, D.C. and the terminal at Bowman Airfield in Louisville. Arrasmith was a graduate of the University of Illinois in 1921.
The four structures fit together into the landscaped setting of Nitta Yuma to form a unique enclave.
There are other new houses further along the Nitta Yuma Road but they are not visible from the older section. The historic structures are melded together not only by family ties but by the fine early 20th century buildings and by the high quality of the landscape.
The Nitta Yuma Historic District comprises a unique landscaped enclave which embodies the distinctive characteristics of the period of the early twentieth century. The District is comprised of four houses three of which are neo-colonial revival in style. It is in an idyllic setting overlooking the Ohio River. The entire area was acquired in 1890 by three prominent Louisville businessmen who wished to set up the area as a vacation compound for their families. The narrow gauge railway and later the interurban could bring the men out while the women and children remained for the summer. The Nitta Yumma Company was incorporated with each family paying expenses and sharing in the benefits - for example, a gardener kept the garden and orchards and delivered his vegetables and fruit to each home everyday.
According to family tradition the grounds were landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted was in Louisville in the early 90's consulting on Louisville's Park system. Although there is no documentation on Olmsted's early involvement, the Messr. Brown, Booker, and Peaslee would have met him. A record at Olmsted Association shows a 1956 involvement with Nitta Yuma and it seems unlikely they would have used an out-of-town firm unless there had been previous work. A Subdivision Plat from 1919 shows the area as laid out with roads, dwellings,, gardens and orchards.
One of the three houses is occupied by descendants of the original families. Nitta Yuma represents a unique feature in suburban development in Jefferson County in the early 20th century. It is the only enclave of this type in the county.
Interview Amelia Payne Sweets Runyon, November 5, 1982
Taylor, Hewitt, "Harrods Creek," The Herald Post, 12 September, 1936.
Smith, Katherine, Louisville Times, 23 February, 1903.
Telephone interview with Dr. Charles Bevridge, Editor: Olmsted Papers, Washington, D.C. November 5 and 12, 1982.
Telephone interview with Elizabeth Banks, Olmsted Associates, Brookline, Massachusetts, November 5, 1982.
† Elizabeth F. Jones, Administrator, Jefferson County Office of Historic Preservation and Archives, Nitta Yuma Historic District, Harrods Creek, Jefferson County, KY, nomination document, 1982, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.