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Block Watch | Seneca Gardens History
Gardens' history should be set in the context of other events and places
surrounding it. Following are
some of those which hopefully are of interest:
The land for Cherokee Park was
purchased and named in 1891. Its
name remembered the Cherokee Indians who spent time there.
The park was developed by
Frederick Law Olmstead & Co. of Brookline, MA.
Olmstead designed Cherokee Park near the end of his long career
when he was in his early 70s. Three
Louisville parks - Cherokee, Iroquois, and Shawnee- are considered
"the last great burst from the father of American Landscape
Architecture". In 1858 Olmstead had developed New York City's Central Park.
Early in the development of
Cherokee Park, Olmstead called it one of the most beautiful parks in the
George Doup served as a county
magistrate and sheriff in the mid-1800s.
His nephew, Daniel Doup, was one of the wealthiest men in Jefferson
County. Between them they owned more than 200 acres along Bardstown
Road near Trevilian Way - an area that was known then, and is still
referred to by some longtime Louisville residents as Doup's Point. The 175-year old cemetery that holds the graves of both men
and other family members still stands on the west side of Bardstown Road
between Eastview and Lowell Avenues.
In the early 1900s, the county
boasted the nation's largest onion farm near Doup's Point.
In 1774 John Floyd received a
military grant of land in Jefferson County.
After Floyd was killed by Indians, his widow married a member of
the Breckinridge family, also prominent in the county's early history.
A portion of this land passed to a descendent, Mary Elizabeth
Caldwell. On one of her many
European travels, she met and eventually married a member of European
royalty. Their son, Count
Waldeman Conrad Von Zedtwitz, became heir to some of this property at the
death of his parents before World War I.
When war was declared by the U. S., the government seized all
properties in this country owned by enemy countries or their subjects.
Accordingly, the Count's land in Jefferson County was confiscated
and placed in the care of the U. S. alien property custodian.
Bowman Field dates its origin to
1918, when it is believed the first aircraft touched down on a cow pasture
in what was part of the old Von Zedtwitz estate.
In 1919, a local freight transfer operator, Abram H. Bowman,
subleased 50 acres of the land. The
following year he formed a commercial flying business with pilot Robert H.
Gast. In 1921 Bowman and W.
Sidney Park formed the Bowman Aero Company, one of the first firms in the
U. S. to specialize in aerial photography.
In 1923, Bowman and Park persuaded
the Army Air Corps to lease the property as an airfield.
Soon thereafter, an Air Corps reserve unit with 12 aircraft was
placed at that location. Already
known informally as Bowman Field, the facility was formally dedicated as
such in 1923.
A year later, the Yellow Air Taxi
Service Company opened Louisville's first air passenger service at Bowman
Field. In 1927, in the wake
of the enthusiasm generated by Charles A. Lindbergh's nonstop flight to
Paris, Louisville voters approved the purchase of Bowman Field as a
municipal airport. In June,
1928 the Board of Park Commissioners purchased 540.7 acres of the Von
Zedtwitz estate for $757,269.
Airline service began a year later
when Continental Airways (later American Airlines) began mail service
between Louisville and Nashville. Eastern
Airlines began service to and from Louisville in 1934.
Before long, Bowman Field was handling 13,000 passengers annually
on eight scheduled daily flights.
The Bowman Field purchase was much
more land than was necessary for the airport.
The excess land was developed as Seneca Park.
Excess land from Louisville's
purchase of Bowman Field was developed as Seneca Park, named for the
famous tribe of American Indians. Plans
for the park were drawn by Olmstead Brothers, successor to the firm of
Frederick Law Olmstead, the original designer of Louisville's park system.
Gifts and purchases of strips of
land adjoining the original tract have added 13 acres, making Seneca Park
the second largest park in Louisville.
Cherokee and Seneca Parks were linked in 1929 by purchase of four
acres from R. S. Reynolds and C. K. Reynolds for $12,862.
In 1912 the Bardstown Road street
car line was extended from Bonnycastle Avenue to Douglass Boulevard.
At the end of the line a "loop", or turnaround, for the
street car was constructed. As
is typical, commercial development soon began to occur around the loop.
By the late 1930s the Douglass Loop district included several
groceries, three drug stores, a bank, a garage and automobile supply
store, a florist shop, two restaurants, a hardware store, two bakers, and
a Sears-Roebuck store. The
district's main feature was a modernistic branch of Steiden's Grocery
Company, which was located in the center of the streetcar loop.
During the 1930s, an estate called
Woodbourne was assembled by Starks Fielding, a Mississippi cotton planter. The focal point of his estate was a large, columned southern
colonial mansion. The home,
purchased in 1949 by Douglass Boulevard Christian Church, still faces
Bardstown Road north of the church, and has been renamed Briney Hall.
At the center of the nearby
Cherosen neighborhood is the Alloway House, one of the finest Tudor
Revival residences in Louisville. It
was built in 1907 by a prominent manufacturer and civic leader, Colonel
Andrew Cowan, to overlook the eastern tip of Cherokee Park.
Well-known Philadelphia architect, Wilson Eyre, noted for designing
numerous private residences and estates in the Northeast, designed the
The house took its name from the
locality where the Scottish poet laureate Robert Burns lived and wrote.
Andrew Cowan was born September
29, 1841 in Ayreshire, Scotland. He
came to the U. S. in 1848 and served in the Union army during the Civil
War, where he attained the rank of Lt. Colonel.
He came to Louisville in 1866 and established the firm of Andrew
Cowan & Co., manufacturers of leather belts, boot and shoe leather,
harnesses and saddles and railroad and mill supplies.
He also became a director of the Bank of Commerce and the Columbia
Finance & Trust Company. He
served as a member of the first Board of Park Commissioners.
At Cowan's death in 1918, the
estate was sold to Richard S. Reynolds, co-founder and president of
Reynolds Metals Company, pioneers in the aluminum products industry.
The Reynolds family owned the estate until 1951.
In 1952 the estate, which then comprised a little over 20 acres,
was subdivided, leaving the house with about a one-acre lot.
Located at 2513 Woodbourne Avenue
is a classical revival structure influenced by Mediterranean architecture. The house was built about 1907 for Richard W. Knott, founder
and editor of the Louisville Evening
Post. Knott was active in
local politics and helped found the Louisville park system.
The Knott family occupied the house until 1924.
From 1941 to 1979, the house was owned by the C. K. Reynolds
family. Reynolds was
co-founder of Reynolds Metals (see Alloway House).
Bardstown Road was the first main
route through eastern Louisville. Its
origins date to April, 1784 when the Jefferson County Court authorized men
to "view and search out the nearest and most convenient way from Col.
Isaac Cox's to Beard's Town." John
Filson's 1784 map shows that the road was to be approximately where
today's road runs. Major
construction on the road did not begin immediately.
In 1832 the Louisville Turnpike Company ordered construction of a
turnpike road extending from Louisville to Speed's Lane (entrance to
Farmington). Bardstown Road later became an important route for the street
car line (see Douglass Loop).
In 1848 legislation was passed to
build a route from near George Doup's (see Doup's Point) on the Bardstown
Turnpike by way of Jeffersontown to Taylorsville.
Taylorsville Road, as it now called, was expanded to four lanes in
roads were on important street railway lines.
Local historian George Yater describes the "Beargrass line,
whose cars rolled alongside Bardstown Turnpike to Doup's Point, then along
the Taylorsville Turnpike to the vicinity of present-day Bowman field,
ending at 'Mrs. Smyser's hotel', apparently a retreat from the city's
Across from Bowman Field on
Taylorsville Road, Air
Devil's Inn began operating around 1928 or 1929.
The building dates to 1905, when it was used as a one-room frame
schoolhouse (look at the "bell tower" on the building).
The inn became especially popular during and after World War II,
when Bowman Field was used for training pilots.