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Our City > Surrounding Areas | Photo Gallery | Neighborhood Arboretum Project 
Block Watch
| Seneca Gardens History  


Surrounding Areas

Cherokee Park
Doup's Point
Bowman Field
Seneca Park
Douglass Loop
Woodbourne
Alloway House
Woodbourne Manor
Bardstown & Taylorsville Roads
Air Devil's Inn

Seneca 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:

Cherokee Park

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 country.

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Doup's Point

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.

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Bowman Field

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.

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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.

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Douglass Loop

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.

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Woodbourne

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.

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Alloway House

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 house.

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.

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Woodbourne Manor

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).

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Bardstown  and Taylorsville Roads

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 the 1960s.

Both 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 summer heat."

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Air Devil's Inn

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.

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