By Sarah-Jane Poindexter
The Filson is pleased to announce that after years of preservation and cataloging efforts, the D. X. Murphy & Bro., Architects Records (1854 – 1949) are complete and open to researchers.
This massive collection of historical architectural drawings and business records documents 95 years of Louisville’s rich architectural history, mainly through the business records and drawings generated by two of the city’s most renowned architects: Henry Whitestone (1819–1893) and D. X. Murphy (1853–1933). (Whitestone was famous for his work on the original Galt House and the L & N headquarters (located at the corner of Main & Seconds Streets which now anchors Whiskey Row) while Murphy’s firm was responsible for the iconic grandstand and twin spires at Churchill Downs and today is still extant as Luckett & Farley, Inc.).
Many of the grand buildings which once graced downtown, Broadway, and residential areas are documented in this collection, providing an invaluable glimpse of Louisville’s former architectural landscape. Additionally, a variety of late-19th and early-20th century Louisville building contractors and businesses are represented in the collection which provides valuable information on regional businesses, industry and technology, as well as substantive insights into architectural and decorative arts.
While most of the drawings in the collection are in excellent condition, a number of them have become severely brittle with time as well as exposure to fluctuating environment conditions, which hastened the breakdown of the papers’ composition. Until rescued in the 1970s by local preservationists and historians Mary Jean Kinsman and Penny Jones, the collection resided for years in the turret of the old Louisville Trust building where it was exposed to the elements and an overly cozy population of pigeons. The fragile nature of the collection as well as the dense amount of historical information it contains, made processing and stabilizing the historical drawings a slow process.
This work could not have been completed without the assistance of two dedicated, patient interns, Lori Wilson and Lena Gimbel, both of whom worked at the Filson while completing their Master’s in History at the University of Louisville. Lori Wilson surveyed, arranged, re-housed and described project files, correspondence, business records, and account books associated with the D.X. Murphy & Bro. architectural firm and its predecessor Henry Whitestone. Lena Gimbel indexed, preserved, and described architectural drawings representing nine decades of the area’s residences, churches, and medical, industrial, commercial, and federal buildings.
The two plus years it’s taken to process the D. X. Murphy & Bro., Architects collection have been an exciting and rewarding experience in building community and connections between historians, archivists, students, and architects all the while exposing a rich historical treasure for researchers.