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(Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

Here’s a new feature we hope to run periodically where we’ll dig into our photo archives to spotlight a part of town that has changed dramatically. The first installment is in the Phoenix Hill neighborhood on Shelby Street between Marshall Street and Muhammad Ali Blvd. Currently, two new construction townhomes occupy this site on the eastern side of the street, but about five and a half years ago, back when the Clarksdale Homes were still standing, the picture was quite different.

An abandoned two-story mixed-use commercial building sat decaying and boarded up. You can see the intent to demolish sign hanging just above the door. The brick structure was quite deteriorated, but if it could have stood just a few more years, the century old structure would have found itself in the middle of a rapidly gentrifying new neighborhood. There was plenty of space to build a set of infill townhomes adjacent to the building.

Directly north of the now-demolished structure was an Operation Brightside community garden cleverly named the “Garden of Eatin,” but when this picture was taken, the place was little more than a grassy field. Another building directly south of this spot has also been demolished and remains an empty lot, but sadly we cannot locate any photos of the corner of Shelby and Ali from that time.

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Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

4 COMMENTS

  1. This area is not Phoenix Hill. According to the encyclopedia of Louisville the historically accurate name for the area west of Phoenix and Irish hill and north of Butchertown/E Market is either the east end or Uptown. The Phoenix Hill Neighborhood Association does good work but to try to artificially rename a large area is not conducive to building community. A more appropriate solution would be to rename the PHNA to the East Downtown NA and it would include the Phoenix Hill, Uptown, NuLu/E. Market and Liberty Green neighborhoods.

  2. According to a map produced by the Kentucky State Data Center, the area is Phoenix Hill. According to the C-J’s book, “A Place in Time: The Story of Louisville’s Neighborhoods,” the area is in Phoenix Hill. In fact, they define it as being “bounded by Main Street to the north, Preston Street to the west, Broadway to the south, and the Baxter/Broadway intersection to the east.

    The area was first known as simply the “East End.” (Or if you want to go REALLY far back, “Preston’s Enlargement.”) Later on it was called “Uptown,” while what is now Russell was “downtown.” I have seen old documents at church, from the 1920s, refer to our parent congregation, Concordia Lutheran Church (which is at Barret and Broadway), as the “uptown” church, while my church (Redeemer Lutheran), which was at 22nd and Madison at the time, called the “downtown” church. I think most anyone would call Barret and Broadway Phoenix Hill. The Phoenix Hill name came from a neighborhood park that opened in 1861.

    The point is, names and boundaries are fluid, and change over time. It all depends on the source you look at, who you talk to, and what the people living there identify as. I don’t think the boundary is etched in stone by any means.

    -Eric

  3. Yes, I get your point but the flat part of east downtown that has historically been known as the east end, Uptown or Preston’s enlargement was not renamed Phoenix Hill until the PHNA was formed in 1972 and the borders were drawn from Broadway and Barret to Main and Preston. At the time the area needed strong representation to prevent the planned industrialization of an area that is now scored as the 3rd most walkable neighborhood in Louisville. However, artificially renaming a large area after a topographical feature that it lacks is not conducive to strong neighborhood identity. I think the Phoenix Hill neighborhood is great but its borders should be historically accurate and end at the bottom of Baxter Ave. Again the PHNA does great work but they need to evolve to allow true neighborhood identities to be formed. The PHNA could easily morph into the East Downtown Neighborhood Association and encompass the true Phoenix Hill, Uptown, Liberty Green and NuLu/E. Market. As long as the residents of condo buildings across from Slugger Field theoretically live in the same neighborhood as the homeowners next Phoenix Hill Tavern it will be difficult to establish a true sense of neighborhood identity.

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