Smoketown is in the middle of a dramatic transition. The Sheppard Square housing projects are being replaced by a new mixed-income neighborhood, individual houses are being rehabbed throughout the National Register historic district, and new investment like the YouthBuild offices are popping up on the neighborhood’s main drags, Shelby, Preston, and Logan streets. With its location between Downtown, Nulu, and the Medical Center on one side and Germantown and the Highlands on the other, Smoketown seems poised for new growth.
Even with positive happenings all around, some of the neighborhood’s oldest buildings are falling through the cracks. Such is the case of a vacant two-story duplex townhouse dating back at least to 1876 at 721 South Preston Street on the corner of Jacob Street. Look closely or you might miss the historic structure behind a modern commercial addition that last housed the now-out-of-business Harrison Medical Supply.
The brick townhouse is simple in form and one of the typical mid-19th century dwelling types in this part of Louisville, along with the predominant shotgun house. The structure sits just outside of the 78-acre Smoketown National Register District, roughly bounded by Preston, Caldwell, and Jacob Streets, and an alley east of Shelby Street. The townhouse appears on the 1876 Louisville atlas (below), but likely is older. Judging from the atlas map, this structure is one of only four remaining from the era in an eight-block surrounding region. According to National Register documents:
The earliest houses were probably built as farm dwellings between 1830 and 1855, when the area was still basically rural. No trace of these rural dwellings has survived in Smoketown, and therefore, the oldest surviving structures are ones that date from the early years of dense residential development in the area during the years 1855 to 1865.
The structure sold in June for $175,000, below the asking price of $295,000 as listed by Hoagland Commercial Realtors. The listing indicated the building has 6,060 square feet, includes adjacent surface level parking, and warehouse space in the back of the addition.
The new owner, a doctor from Prospect, purchased the house under Cardinal Ventures, LLC and has since filed for a demolition permit, which can be issued on August 22. As is typical for buildings of this age, a 30-day stay of demolition is required. The lawyer representing Cardinal Ventures declined comment and the owner could not be reached for comment on any future plans for the property.