The Commodore (2140 Bonnycastle Avenue) opened in 1929 as a luxury apartment. In 1978 the building was sold and restored. It was resold in 1980 and converted from rental apartments to 59 condominium units. The 11-story building is named for Commodore Joshua Barney [1759-1818] who served in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
The Commodore is located in the National Register Highlands Historic District, which, in turn, is located within the Bonnycastle neighborhood.
Listed on the National Register
The Commodore Apartment Building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]
The Commodore Apartment Building is located in the eastern section of the city of Louisville in the Bonnycastle neighborhood. The building sits at the edge of Cherokee Park, an Frederick Law Olmsted designed park, in a residential area of generally large, brick dwellings built in the second and third decades of the twentieth century.
The Commodore is an eleven-story, light orange brick structure in a T-plan, designed in a Spanish Renaissance Revival style. The first floor of the building has a veneer of large terra cotta tiles of a cream color. The windows on the first floor are simple and have six-over-one lights, as do all windows in the building. The second floor windows contain engaged terra cotta twisted columns on the frames supporting an arch decorated with a channel molding and scroll keystone. The columns have acanthus leaves at the base and capitals decorated with acanthus leaves and scrolls. The tympanums of the windows contain the same decoration; a central urn with foliage. Panels below the windows contain griffins, flanking a central cartouche with a fleur-de-lis. A denticulated stringcourse divides the second and first floors. A deeper stringcourse with egg-and-dart and enriched talon moldings divides the second and third floors. All windows on the third through ninth floors are simple, with no decoration. The tenth floor windows have the same engaged columns, but do not have the panels below or the arch above. The eleventh floor windows connect the tenth floor windows with all of the same decorative motifs found on the first floor. The eleventh floor is also veneered in terra cotta panels like those on the first floor. The cornice of the building has large consoles and a dentil molding. Above the cornice is a parapet wall. All corners of the building contain single, twisted columns which rise the full height of the building, and contain the same base and capital as found on the window frames. The entrance of the building faces Bonnycastle Avenue. It contains a large, arched entry with a central cartouche, and has roundels with eagles on either side. The door has sidelights and a tripart transom, all in leaded glass. A balustrade on the roof line of this one-story entry also has corner posts with panels of cartouches and swags.
A garage on the back of the building contains all of the same window decorations found on the main building. It is one story in height and attached to the main building. The foyer of the apartment building continues the Spanish flavor of the exterior design, The walls are all stuccoed, with a coffered ceiling and rinceau crown molding in the main lobby area. A large fireplace with carved griffins, egg-and-dart molding and foliate patterns, and black marble is located directly across from the main entrance. Small, arched openings on either side of the fireplace pierce the wall and contain decorative wrought iron. Large archways lead to a small sitting room to the left of the main lobby area, and to the right lead to the secondary lobby area. The arches spring from large griffin corbels. The secondary lobby area has an exposed beam ceiling, with urns and foliage patterns painted on the beams. The floors are all tile with decorative tile borders. Stained glass is used in nearly every doorway on the first floor. Frequently, a Spanish ship is part of the stained glass design, as seen in the large transom of the main entry. Brass is also used frequently, particularly in the entrance, The doors are fully plated in brass, and the radiators, just inside the entrance, are covered with highly stylized brass grills.
The Commodore Apartment Building is one of Louisville's finest high rise apartment buildings, designed by the prestigious local firm of Joseph & Joseph. It is the only known example of the Spanish Renaissance Revival style in a large scale structure. The rich, decorative elements used on both the interior and exterior of the building are of the highest quality, with few local counterparts in residential high-rise architecture, The Commodore was designed for Biltmore Development Company by the architectural firm of Joseph & Joseph, and constructed by Platoff Construction Company. It was completed in 1929. Joseph & Joseph was also responsible for the designs of the Willow Terrace, 1924, and the Dartmouth, 1928, both eight-story apartment buildings located nearby in the Cherokee Triangle Historic District. In the design of the Commodore, Joseph & Joseph combined their experiences from the Willow Terrace and the Dartmouth, to create an exquisitely rich design in the unusual Spanish Renaissance Revival style.
During the decade of the 1920s, Mediterranean motifs and designs were in vogue nationwide. Architectural journals of that period frequently featured Italian Renaissance and Spanish Renaissance Revival designs, but generally on a small scale, such as single family dwellings. Elements such as twisted columns, highly stylized tympanums and repeated arch motifs were frequently cited. Joseph & Joseph successfully interpreted the style into a large scale design. The terra cotta detail in a cream color contrasts with the light orange brick facades. The classical ornamentation, found only at the base and top of the building, humanizes the scale. The interior spaces are also very human in scale, and convey, with the multiple textures and ornamentations, the rich, warm atmosphere of the Mediterranean style.
Joseph & Joseph, founded in 1908, is still an active local firm. Some of their other outstanding works are the Rialto Theatre (no longer extant), YMHA Building, 1913, and the Elks Club, 1924..
‡ M. A. Allgeier, Researcher, Louisville Landmarks Commission, Commodore Apartment Building, Jefferson County, KY, nomination document, 1981, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.