This week, we detailed the history of Hillerich & Bradsby’s old Smoketown home—a block bound by Preston Street, Finzer Street, Jackson Street, and Jacob Street. According to Hillerich & Bradsby, over 100 million Louisville Slugger baseball bats were manufactured there between 1901 and 1974. That block has had quite an evolution over the past 150 years, moving from predominantly housing to large industrial uses in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the barren wasteland on display today. Soon, its next chapter will unfold.
As the neighborhood continues to change around this chain-link-fenced asphalt desert—most notably with the rebuilding of the Sheppard Square Homes into a mixed-income neighborhood—Hillerich & Bradsby is letting go of of the block. On Monday, it announced the two-acre site was being donated to the Community Foundation of Louisville to be reused for the benefit of Smoketown.
“It’s been a 43-year vision of my dad—our chairman, Jack Hillerich—who has always wanted to do something special with this piece of property,” John Hillerich IV, H&B’s president and CEO, said at the news conference held at the site. “We wanted something that could benefit the Smoketown community, but we weren’t sure of what that should be or how to make it come to life until we connected with YouthBuild Louisville, the Community Foundation of Louisville, Mayor Fischer, and champions of The Wheelhouse Project Heather and Marshall Farrer. This is a true collaboration that will greatly benefit the people who live here.”
According to a press release from Hillerich & Bradsby:
The Wheelhouse Project is designed for people who have lived in Smoketown for generations and who deserve a proper place to eat, green space for recreation, an improved quality of life and greater employment opportunities. The project also supports YouthBuild Louisville programs which champion young people to be great citizens who build productive lives and sustainable communities. Groundwork for the Wheelhouse Project was established by work from the 2014 ArtPlace America grant for the Smoketown Creative Innovation Zone.
Additional funding is already pouring into the Wheelhouse Project. Heather and Marshall Farrer and Dace Brown Stubbs have jointly committed $200,000 to the effort, the neighborhood, and Youth Build. Metro Louisville, the Federal Housing Authority, IDEAS 40203, the Commission on Public Art, and residents of Smoketown are also contributing to the project.
“We’ll use the property H&B is donating to focus on how we can work with the people in the Smoketown neighborhood to connect the dots for what is right for this community,” Susan Barry, Community Foundation of Louisville president, said at the event. “We want to be sure there is the right combination of green space, recreation and local business in a way that creates a safe, healthy, creative community where residents can work and play.”
The block measures 500 feet by 175 feet, about two acres, and is valued at $1 million, according to the city. Two years ago community residents and stakeholders convened a charrette at the Urban Design Studio to come up with ideas about turning the block into Louisville Slugger Park.
Smoketown residents are invited to look around the parcel and offer ideas for its reuse at today’s “Smoketown GetDown for Democracy” block party, going on now through 10:00p.m. tonight Shelby Street and Lampton Street.