Belknap is an urban neighborhood three and a half miles east of downtown Louisville, Kentucky, USA. The neighborhood is bound by Bardstown Road, Douglass Boulevard, Dundee Road and Newburg Road. It is part of a larger area of Louisville called the Highlands. Belknap is often described as the neighborhood in the heart of The Highlands.
Belknap was recognized by Louisville Magazine in October 2010 as one of the most livable and lovable neighborhoods in Louisville and Jefferson County, Kentucky. In 2012, the neighborhood received a national award from Neighborhoods, USA. The recognition by Neighborhoods, USA is the first time a Kentucky neighborhood was recognized by this organization.
The Belknap neighborhood was once farm land, two miles (3 km) south of where Bardstown Road (then Bardstown Turnpike) began at Highland Avenue. There was a stagecoach stop at Douglass Boulevard and Bardstown Road called the "Two-mile House." Abraham Lincoln frequented the stagecoach stop when he was visiting the Speed Family at Farmington.
As the city of Louisville grew, so did the Highlands. The Catholic parish St. Francis of Assisi built its first church on the Michael Zimlich property in 1886. Zimlich sold 24 acres (97,000 m2) in 1901, paving the way for one of the first commercial strips along Bardstown and Dundee roads. In 1909, the Eiler family sold a 22 foot (7 m) easement for the streetcar turnaround and the annexation of the loop occurred, now called Douglass Loop. Zimlich later sold 26 more acres, and between 1916 and 1918 Boulevard Napoleon was developed.
William Burke Belknap, who established Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing Company on the banks of the Ohio River in 1840, and his family lived on Douglass Boulevard, north of Bardstown Road. They acquired land between Sewanee Drive and what is now Bellarmine University, and gave this piece of property to the University of Louisville to build a campus.
When 30 acres (120,000 m2) of adjacent property, owned by the Heintzmann family, was sold, it became the first section of University Park, so named because it would lead to the University of Louisville. The street names were changed in 1918 to Ivy League school names, such as Harvard and Yale, to connect to the new subdivision. However, a building bond to facilitate the new campus was rejected by voters in 1920, and the plan never materialized.
The original school on Sils Avenue was named for William Richardson Belknap (William Burke Belknap's son), and opened in 1916, two years after his death. When the school opened, it was a city school, but most of the area was still county. The county children had to go to Maple Grove, present day location of Air Devil’s Inn, across from Bowman Field on Taylorsville Road.
In the 1920s, there was another annexation, and the final annexation occurred in 1958. The sixth class cities were incorporated in the 1920s, making Strathmoor Manor within the boundaries of the Belknap neighborhood.
In 1923, the University of Louisville sold their property, and the development style in the area changed. Some of the land was sold to William F. Randolph, who preferred the curvilinear features that followed the natural contours of the land and other developers followed his lead.
When the Fred Kaelin farm was auctioned from a mule truck in 1923, there were two homes on the property. One still stands on Eastview Avenue (since converted to apartments). The other was razed to build a Walgreen's drug store at Bardstown Road and Trevilian Way. The stone part of a house on Lakeside Drive was originally the springhouse for the farm.
Lakeside Swim Club opened in 1924 at the site of a former rock quarry. This private club is known for its steep, 40 foot (12 m) rock walls and huge quarry "lake" – actually a 3.2 million US gallon (12,000 m³) swimming pool, with a flat concrete bottom and depths ranging from 3 to 20 feet (6 m).
The Trough Springs property once belonged to Jonathan Clark, brother of George Rogers and William Clark. It was built before Kentucky became a state. The Doup cemetery, at 2700 Bardstown Road, was incorporated in 1812. In 1949, Bellarmine University was founded in the area.
The Belknap neighborhood has many styles and ages of houses, the different styles represent more than a century of development. Some include: Bungalow, Arts & Crafts Movement, American Foursquare, Antebellum and Dutch Colonial. A handful of antebellum structures remain, including a former farmhouse on Eastview Avenue (now apartments), and a barn behind a house near the Douglass Loop.
A diverse and eclectic neighborhood, Belknap is rated as one of the most walkable neighborhoods in Louisville, based upon walkabilityscore.com. Belknap has one of the highest voter registrations of Democrats in all of Jefferson County and is ironically home to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao, former president of the United Way, director of the Peace Corps and U.S. Secretary of Labor.
In 2010, Kroger petitioned the Louisville Metro Planning Commission to install a five bay gasoline station in the back of the old Hollywood Video store in the 2400 block of Bardstown Road. Kroger forecast the gasoline station would sell 50,000 gallons of gasoline each week at the proposed location behind homes located on Trevillian Way and Lakeside Drive. The Belknap Neighborhood Association opposed the gasoline station based upon existing binding elements prohibiting a gasoline station, expected impact on traffic, environment, property values and quality of life. The Louisville Metro Planning Commission considered the case in an epic five and a half hour meeting on August 19, 2010. The commission denied Kroger's request by a unanimous vote with one abstention. The denial is the first case in which Kroger was denied the ability to build a gas station in Kentucky.
The Belknap Neighborhood Association voted unanimously in 2011, to support the restoration and landmarking of the iconic Hogan's Fountain Pavilion in Cherokee Park. Belknap was the first Louisville neighborhood to come out in support of the E.J. Schickli masterpiece which is considered by residents the most recognizable landmark in the Louisville Highlands. Belknap made two financial donations in 2011, and 2012, to support the campaign to restore the TeePee and challenged all other Highland Neighborhood Associations to step up and do the same. The structure, otherwise known as the TeePee or Witch's Hat is officially named the McCall Shelter in honor of Alderman C.W. "Ches" McCall who was killed in an auto accident in 1962.
The community, located in the outer Highlands, has an abundance of historic buildings and landmarks, including the Belknap School, Jonathan Clark’s home, the Zimlich stagecoach stop and the Lakeside Swim Club.
In 1916, two years after the death of William R. Belknap, the civic-minded son of the hardware magnate, residents opened the William R. Belknap School on Sils Ave. in his honor. The neighborhood derived its name from this landmark, which also inspired the Belknap Neighborhood Association logo. The Belknap family donated a piece of land to the growing University of Louisville with hopes of building a new campus. In 1917, the area east of this land was developed as the University Park subdivision, named because it was intended to eventually adjoin the future UofL campus. After a tax measure to underwrite the construction of the new campus was rejected by the voters in 1920, the land that the Belknaps had donated was sold to William F. Randolph for ninety-five thousand dollars. Subsequently he developed the Aberdeen and Tecomah sections of the neighborhood.
After a period of inactivity, the Belknap Neighborhood Association was reorganized in 1992 in response to a controversial property zoning proposal that would have changed the status of the old Bonanza building, formerly a supermarket, to allow liquor sales in a dining establishment. Since that time, the organization has committed itself to beautification projects and the preservation of the residential character of the neighborhood. The Douglass Loop, which serves with Bardstown Road as the commercial hubs of the neighborhood, underwent a major face lift in the late 1990s. The Belknap Neighborhood Association holds a fall festival at the Douglass Loop on the second Saturday in October.
Street names prior to development
Douglass Blvd. was Kaelin;
Dundee was Zimlich;
Harvard was Diebel;
Yale was Balke;
Overlook was Heintzmann;
Page was May;
University of Louisville property;
Aberdeen and Tecomah Subdivisions
The Belknap Building
The Belknap Building, formerly the Belknap Elementary School, is on the National Historic Register, it was one of the schools built with the city's first million dollar bond issue. The school opened in 1916, two years after the death of William R. Belknap. The school closed in 1978. The Belknap family ran Belknap Hardware and were civic minded and generous. They donated a parcel of land to the University of Louisville, intended to be the future campus. When the building bond failed the land was sold to William F. Randolph for $95,000 on April 2, 1923.
The Zimlich brothers, (Michael, Joseph and Robert) bought 80 acres (320,000 m2) of land for $10,000 from Edward T. Bainbridge on December 28, 1847. The land was adjacent to the Chamberlain’s (descendants of Jonathan Clark). The Zimlich’s stage coach stop, known as the two mile (3 km) house, still stands at the corner of Douglass Boulevard and Dundee Road (previously Zimlich Lane). There are some buildings on Dundee Road and Woodbourne that were built prior to 1901 when Michael Zimlich sold 24 acres (97,000 m2) to Victor N. Meddis. Some buildings, like the home of Ann and Paul Coats at 1819 Woodbourne, are believed to have been built around 1830. Since the Starks family owned a 200-acre (0.81 km2) cotton plantation called Woodbourne, we believe it is possible that some of these homes were part of that plantation. We know that the previous location of the Dundee Tavern was the Miller grocery store in 1915 when St. Paul United Methodist Church began their church in that grocery, and one of our older residents was baptized there. There is a frame house at 1916 Harvard that was moved from Princeton because it didn’t conform to the restrictions on building materials. As in other neighborhoods in the Highlands, the earliest development in Belknap occurred along Bardstown Road, a major toll-road. The first subdivisions were laid out in 1901 when Realtor, Victor N. Meddis recorded both sections of the Zimlich addition on a tract which began at the intersection of Rutherford Avenue and Bardstown Road and extended southward to Overlook Terrace, between Dundee and the alley east of Boulevard Napoleon.
Six years later, John H. Sils platted the Sils Addition on a section of land which once had belonged to Daniel Doup, bounded roughly by Bardstown Road, Dundee Road, Page Avenue and Wrocklage Avenue. Sils Avenue was originally the block long driveway back to the large white frame farm house where Mr. John H. Sils, his wife Mary, and three sons and a daughter lived on the site which is now occupied by the Belknap Building. Page Avenue was originally named “May” for their daughter, Anna May.
In 1916 the Cherokee Land Company, then headed by president John H. Sale laid out the first section of Cherokee Plaza, a five-block strip of land which lay along both sides of Boulevard Napoleon between Rutherford and Overlook Terrace. Two years later the same firm, now headed by Fred J. Drupler, platted an additional block to the south of Overlook Terrace. This area is part of the original Zimlich purchase of 1847.
The last subdivision in Belknap, before the United States joined World War I, was the first section of University Park. It was laid out in 1917 on a tract immediately to the west of Cherokee Plaza, and bordered on the north by Rutherford Avenue, on the west by Sewanee, and on the south by Harvard Drive. Unlike most other local subdivisions, University Park was developed by an out-of-town firm, International Realty Associates of St. Louis County, Minnesota. This area is also part of the original Zimlich purchase of 1847. University Park was so named because it was intended to adjoin the University of Louisville campus, the land that the Belknap family had donated to U of L.
The street patterns and housing styles in these early Belknap subdivisions are quite similar to those in parts of the adjacent Deer Park and Highlands-Douglass neighborhoods. Each of the half-dozen subdivisions was laid out on a traditional gridiron. However, the physical relationship between the individual tracts is highly irregular, with Dundee Road forming a link between the Sils addition on the east and Zimlich addition, Cherokee Plaza, and University Park on the west. The residences along Rutherford Avenue, Princeton Drive, and Harvard Drive between Sewanee on the west and Bardstown Road and Dundee Road on the east consist of a mixture of large, closely placed historical revival structures and bungalows similar to those along Alfresco Place and the north side of Rutherford in Deer Park. Further to the south along Boulevard Napoleon, historical revival homes are more modest, consisting primarily of smaller bungalows, frame houses, and a few older Victorian dwellings with a minimum of ornamentation.
Post World War I development
After World War I, the gridiron was abandoned entirely, while some form of historical revival style became virtually the only acceptable form of architectural expression in Belknap. Not until after World War II, with the advent of the contemporary ranch and split level styles, did an occasional builder challenge the hegemony of the historical revival mode. Primarily responsible for the abandonment of the gridiron was William F. Randolph, who earlier had developed the Lauderdale subdivisions back-to-nature movement, along with Wakefield-Davis Realty Company and its successor firms, who platted eight sections of the Aberdeen and Tecomah subdivisions between Rutherford Avenue on the north and Dundee Road on the south. Not only did Randolph’s developments incorporate winding, curvilinear streets which followed scenic natural contours, many of the streets were given Arcadian names such as Valley Vista, Forest Hill Road and Sylvan Way. Mark Wakefield, builder for William F. Randolph built his home at 2324 Saratoga Drive. Although lots were sold, no home could be built in these subdivisions until the plans were approved by Mr. Randolph. Wakefield-Davis built a home for the Webers’ at 2348 Saratoga at the same time he was building his personal home. Later he built a copy of the Weber house for their daughter and her husband across the street. In 1928 the McPhersons bought a furnished model home at 2359 Saratoga. Stratton Hammond built homes on Woodfill Way, Fleming Road, Valley Vista and Trevilian Way.
Other developers quickly followed Randolph’s lead. When International Realty Associates added a second section of University Park between Harvard Drive and Trevilian Way in 1923, Yale Drive and Overlook Terrace were laid out with sweeping curves. Typical perhaps of this new type of subdivision was Lakeside, platted in 1923, by W. L. Wheeler’s Auction Company and designed by Olmsted Brothers, the successor firm to the renowned Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr., of Brookline, Massachusetts. Bordered approximately by Bardstown Road, Sil’s Addition, Woodbourne Avenue, and the city of Strathmoor Manor, Lakeside was described at the time it was platted as being “so arranged and planned that it will be one of the show places of the city”. Among the subdivision’s amenities described in the journal Civic Opinion, was a 3-acre (12,000 m2) lake which provided opportunities for swimming, canoeing, and other recreational activities; two main drives, Trevilian Way and Lakeside Drive, each one 60 feet (18 m) wide, which formed boulevards 120 feet (37 m) wide when combined with 30 feet (9.1 m) building setback lines; deed restrictions which confined business activities to a few lots on Bardstown Road; and the availability of city water, gas, and electricity. Summing up, the announcement suggested that upon completion of Lakeside Drive, “There will be few short drives in the city which will offer better roads, better views, and more enjoyable surroundings.”
Doup family cemetery
On Bardstown Road, between Eastview and Lowell, is a cemetery where members of the Doup and Kaelin families are buried. Daniel Doups’ home and brandy distillery were located near a spring close to the lake. When the Kaelins’ owned the farm the stone portion of the house located at 2147 Lakeside Drive was the spring house and the lake was a quarry. Stone from this quarry was used to build roads. When this land was sold for development, two houses were located on the property. One still exists on Eastview overlooking the lake and the other on Bardstown Road was razed for the construction of the Walgreen Drug Store. A portion of the neighborhood, including a few houses on Saratoga and all the neighborhood to the south of Trevilian Way, were annexed into the city in 1958.
In the 1970s all the homes on Trough Springs, except one, were built. The home at the end of the street was built about 1784. This 1,000-acre (4.0 km2) plot was one of the original land grants from Patrick Henry to the men who fought in the French and Indian war. It was purchased in 1801 by Jonathan Clark for 200 pounds or about one dollar an acre. This was General Clark’s summer home, the winter home was in the historic Old Fort Nelson, overlooking the Ohio River, on Main Street in the new and growing city of Louisville. The presence of a strong, splendid spring no doubt determined the location of the dwelling and also gave the place the name for which it was known for generations, “The Trough Spring Farm.” As the home of General Clark, it became the seat of genuine Kentucky hospitality, and many distinguished visitors from Virginia and elsewhere were guests in what must have become one of the earliest homes of its kind in the county. The great naturalist, John James Audubon, became a warm personal friend and often spent many weeks there, while pursuing his studies amid the great virgin forests of the vicinity. Mr. Temple Bodley, a great grandson of General Clark, recalled the story of how, very soon after Audubon's marriage, he and his bride were visiting there and he went off on one of his trips of exploration; the days lengthened into weeks, and the weeks into months. When he returned safely, doubtless bringing many trophies with him, he found them in mourning. Another well founded tradition is that Dolly Madison was also a guest in this, the Clark's summer home.
Belknap Fall Festival
The Belknap Neighborhood Association stages the Belknap Fall Festival each year on the second Friday and Saturday of October. It's grown to become the largest Fall festival in the Louisville Highlands, in 2011 drawing a two-day crowd of 18,000 people. The festival showcases the work of over 100 artists, musicians, nonprofits, education organizations and community resources. The festival is produced completely by volunteers and proceeds raised go to support the mission of the Belknap Neighborhood Association - including neighborhood improvements.
In the 2010 census, the population of Belknap was 4,730 , making it the largest neighborhood in the Louisville Highlands. The population is comprised: 95.8% are white, 1.9% are people listed as other, 1.3% are black, and 1% are Hispanic. College graduates are 57.8% of the population, people without a high school diploma are 3.8%. Females outnumber males 55% to 45%. The Belknap neighborhood has the highest median household income of any neighborhood in the Louisville Highlands. It has the lowest percentage of homes in foreclosure, the highest percentage of owner occupied housing and the lowest percentage of households in poverty.
- Belknap Neighborhood Association
- Louisville Magazine October 2010 Ranking of Louisville's Best Neighborhoods
- Belknap Street Map
- Belknap Facebook Page
- Belknap Neighborhood Plan approved by Louisville Metro Council
- Images of Belknap (Louisville, Ky.) in the University of Louisville Libraries Digital Collections
- Lakeside Swim Club, a private and historic swimming club located in the Belknap Neighborhood
- Trough Springs, a historical place located in the Belknap Neighborhood
- Warheim Park, located in the Belknap Neighborhood
- Bellarmine University, located in the Belknap Neighborhood
- Sarabande Books, a nonprofit literary press
- William R. Belknap School, designated on the National Register of Historic Places