Historical marker #2584 in South Louisville commemorates the Highland Park Neighborhood.
As the railroad industry expanded throughout the United States in the late 1800s, many areas changed. This was the case for a small area in southern Louisville known as the Highland Park Neighborhood. Although the Highland Park Corporation was formed in 1871, the area was not used until 1890 when the neighborhood was formed thanks to the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
In 1889, the L&N Railroad company begin to expand their switching yards. The Vance Land Corporation saw this as an opportunity to create a manufacturing suburb for the employees of the railroad company. They wrote up a charter in 1890 for the neighborhood of Highland Park. It was adopted and the area was created. It included Oakdale, Wilder Park, Ashton, and Beechmont and made them part of the Highland Park Neighborhood.
The neighborhood grew very quickly in the next ten years as work for the railroad company increased. There were about 190 families living there in 1890 when the neighborhood was established and by 1900 there were 322 families. With so many workers and their families moving in, the L&N Railroad Company decided to add more amenities to the area. In 1902, L&N decided to open car shops next to the yards and other stores for residents. With the boom in industry they also decided to sell more lots at $125 a lot to entice more workers to live near the railyard. The neighborhood grew. The population mainly consisted of Irish and African American workers and their families. They were promised a nice neighborhood with a park appearance, paved roads, transportation to the railyards, and gas and sewer lines. But, for years those promises were not realized.
As the years went on, the Highland Park area suffered neglect from L&N. It became so bad, in fact, that the area earned the nickname, “an ugly duckling.” However, in 1915, the area began to change. When Camp Zachary Taylor was built in 1916 to train and house soldiers for World War I, county officials were no longer able to overlook the health and safety issues in Highland Park. With the help of Camp Taylor, sewer lines were finally installed in 1917 and the neighborhood’s sanitation began to improve.
Just as conditions were beginning to improve Highland Park began a five-year court battle with the city of Louisville, who wanted to annex the Highland Park Neighborhood to become part of the City of Louisville. In 1922, the case went to the US Supreme Court. The court found in favor of the City of Louisville and Highland Park became part of the city.
Once annexed, the sanitation problems improved greatly, but living expenses increased, causing many residents leave the neighborhood.
Although the area struggled through the Great Depression in 1930s, World War II brought the area back to prosperous times. Many industrial manufacturing companies moved into the area, which brought it more work and more people as the population reached almost 7,000.
In 1947, the City of Louisville moved all commercial aircraft from Bowman Field to Standiford Field, now Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport. The new airport sat right next to Highland Park. Houses were torn down to expand the airport on the eastern side. In 1950, the Watterson Expressway, or I-264, began construction and more houses were demolished on the southern end of the neighborhood. In the early 1950s, the Kentucky Exposition Center and Fairgrounds was built on the north side of the neighborhood, which also resulted in more homes being razed.
Most residents left as the city expanded around the neighborhood. By the mid-1980s, only 2,500 residents remained and in 1988, the airport planned an expansion, which resulted in the city buying the remaining homes.
The marker reads:
In 1890, Highland Park was created for railroad workers when L&N expanded in south Louisville. The neighborhood quickly thrived. In 1950, it had nearly 7,000 residents. The self-sustaining community had churches, schools, grocery stores, saloons, a bank, & a post office. In 1922, the area was annexed by Louisville, after the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed an appeal.
(Reverse) The neighborhood shrunk as the city expanded. The construction of the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center, the expansion of I-264, and the growth of the Louisville Airport all led to a decline after 100 yrs in neighborhood residents, homes, and businesses. This marks the former northern intersection of Park Blvd and Wawa St.
This marker was dedicated on May 18, 2019.