Sometime in the last several days a portion of the historic Ouerbacker House’s east wall collapsed. The house sits just blocks west of downtown at the corner of 17th Street and Jefferson Street on a monumental lot overlooking the city’s oldest cemetery in the Russell Neighborhood. An emergency campaign to find a buyer for the house which has been in city hands for almost three years has begun.
The house is for sale for one dollar. That’s 100 pennies. Besides giving the house away, the city has offered to throw in $50,000 for structural stabilization of the damaged east wall. Still not a good enough deal? The city has additionally provided another $50,000 grant toward the overall renovation of the structure. Officials have calculated the cost of renovation could top $1 million, but preservationists say the house is important enough.
The Louisville Historical League has listed the house on its “Top Ten Endangered Properties in Metro Louisville” since 2005. If a party willing to stabilize and renovate the property is not found within a week, metro government will act on an emergency demolition order and Russell’s most grand house will be another memory.
So this mansion is really quite old. Here’s what Metro Housing & Family Services says about the house:
The Ouerbacker House is a two and a half story Ashlar townhouse, built in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, constructed for Mr. George S. Moore. Work began in 1860, and the house was sold five years later to Alexander Gilmore, a steamboat captain. He lived there with his daughter and his son-in-law, Samuel Ouerbacker, a prominent coffee merchant.The 1884 Atlas shows a smaller house. The facade and side were probably added after damage from the great tornado of 1890 which hit this area particularly hard.
This structure is significant as it is one of the finest residences ever constructed in the Russell neighborhood. It is one of the relatively few remaining examples of the Richardsonian Romanesque style of architecture not only in this city, but in this region. The distinguished Louisville architectural firm of Clarke and Loomis designed the building’s facade.
Arthur Loomis designed other well-known buildings in Louisville including the Conrad-Caldwell House on St. James Court and the original University of Louisville Medical School building downtown at Second and Chestnut Streets.
The Ouerbacker House is just the latest preservation battle in Louisville. Recent months have seen the near destruction of both the American Standard Building near the University of Louisville and the Vogt Mansion on Norton Hospital’s campus on East Broadway. The East Village continues to struggle with preservation issues surrounding Wayside Christian Mission’s proposed expansion. Stay tuned for more about this story.