Condos on the Big Four Bridge (Courtesy Unbuilt America)
Condos on the Big Four Bridge (Courtesy Unbuilt America)
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Condos on the Big Four Bridge (Courtesy Unbuilt America)
Condos on the Big Four Bridge. (Courtesy Unbuilt America)

Jasper Ward, the architect behind a proposal to turn a grain silo into a major housing development in the 1960s along with many other buildings including Portland Elementary, was interested in planning housing just about anywhere you could imagine. Among his other memorable proposals was a mixed-use neighborhood spanning the Ohio River on the Big Four Bridge.

Proposed in 1968 in the face of city officials who wanted the bridge demolished as an “eyesore,” Ward asked a city already too-eager with the wrecking ball to be more creative with reusing existing resources. At the time, the bridge approaches had already been removed, but the bridge remained standing because the city (thankfully) couldn’t afford to tear it down.

According to Ward (from Unbuilt America):

Early in 1968 theatrical producer Richard Block suggested that the Big Four Bridge should be “turned into a Ponte Vecchio type structure and bring fame and fortune to Louisville,” and the firm then proceeded to develop a number of possibilities.

A proposal evolved by Arthur Foran incorporated 160 apartment units, a restaurant, shops, cafes and a small marina into the bridge structure…Small rubber-wheel commuter vehicles running at shop level (below the pedestrian way), would transport people to and from the downtown and riverfront area.

While the proposal may seem far-fetched, it does present a visionary approach to design. Imagine if community leaders like Ward hadn’t stood up for assets like the Big Four Bridge? As the structure is in final stages of being turned into a pedestrian crossing, we can all appreciate that it was simply left alone by the city. Ward’s legacy begs us to take the same creative outlook to the rest of the city.

Condos on the Big Four Bridge (Courtesy Unbuilt America)
Condos on the Big Four Bridge (Courtesy Unbuilt America)
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Branden Klayko

3 COMMENTS

  1. Big surprise… city officials of the ’60s wanted to tear down a historic structure. Anyway, very interesting idea for the bridge, but I think it will do much better as a pedestrian crossing. You can live on a bridge for only so long 😉

  2. I’m enjoying the Jasper Ward stuff. I knew Mr. Ward – he was a neat old man. There are many mostly concrete buildings around with his mark on them, some a little too modern for my tastes, but all rather interesting. The last one that I know of is the 6th Street Garage just south of Main. His plan, never realized, was to fill the ground space next to the Republic Bank alley with retail or offices. It is presently used as a parking area for Republic. Thanks.

  3. I suggested to Jerry Abramson that the bridge become the home of the Kentucky Railroad Museum. (At the time they were looking for a new home.) I think that a steam locomotive and an array of interesting train cars would be a terrific landmark and a mecca for train enthusiasts. Some of the cars could have housed shops and restaurants. The view of the city, the river, watching the barges pass underneath, I could go on and on…

    He wasn’t interested.

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