1872-1873 Louisville Scenes

Recent Acquisitions at The Filson

By Samuel W. Thomas
Author of Views of Louisville since 1766

Occasionally an old photograph of Louisville comes to light. But when 21 pristine images dating to 1872-1873 reappear, it is astounding! Part of a packet of stereograph cards, they were acquired by The Filson Historical Society at a May 2003 auction in Cincinnati.

These streetscapes, views of individual residences, and images of the Louisville Industrial Exposition provide a new glimpse of Louisville precisely before its post-Civil War boom period was extinguished by the Panic of 1873. These scenes will not be found in any publication about Louisville and most represent the only known photographic account of the subject matter. They are exciting additions to the local pictorial repertoire and our understanding of Louisville’s physical development.

This collection also includes 26 stereograph cards that depict the devastating effects of Louisville’s March 27, 1890 tornado. Although these destruction scenes are worthy additions to The Filson’s photographic collection, they are not one of a kind. Several different sets of similar views were published for popular consumption and are in other repositories.

Stereograph cards contain two identical images side-by-side, which, when viewed through a binocular device called a stereoscope, produce a three-dimensional image known as a stereograph. Stereoscopes with varying degree of ornamentation could be found in most parlors by the Civil War, and production of the viewing cards became very commercial with the advent of paper photographicprints.

Most of the cards in this collection were published by Frank Wybrant, whose studio was on Market Street near Fourth. Others were the work of Edward Klauber, located on the northeast corner of Third and Jefferson streets, and I. B. Webster, on Fourth Street between Main and Market. These photographers were well known in Louisville and highly regarded.

Eleven images have been selected for this issue of The Filson. Due to space limitations, only one of the paired photographs on each stereograph card is reproduced.

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1. Jefferson Street west of Fourth. Out of the picture at left was the Masonic Temple. The Federal-style structures at right would be replaced by the Vorster Block in 1875. In background is the City Hall tower. Wybrant

2: Only the eastern third of the huge Mansard-domed City Hall envisioned by architect John Andrewartha was built. The clock and bell tower completed in 1873 burned two years later and was replaced by one designed by Henry Whitestone. This may be the only extant photograph of the original tower. Webster

3: Fourth Street looking south from Jefferson . At left is James Guthrie’s Greek Revival block of business houses incorporating Owen’s Hotel, designed by Gideon Shryock in the early 1850s. In 1874, the structure was renovated by architect Henry Wolters for Guthrie’s son-in-law, Dr. J. Lawrence Smith. At right is the east façade of the Italianate Masonic Temple, designed by E. E. Williams and erected in the 1850s. It was replaced by the Paul Jones (later the Marion E. Taylor) Building in 1905. In background at left is the Central Market Building of about 1867 that later housed the Polytechnic Society, forerunner of the Louisville Free Public Library . It was replaced by the Kaufman-Straus Building , now part of the Galleria. At right in background is the spire of the Walnut Street Baptist Church of the early 1850s. Wybrant

4: Diagonally across Fourth Street from the old Walnut Street Baptist Church was pork packer Richard Atkinson’s house, shown partially at right. The adjacent residence, also designed by Henry Whitestone, later housed the Pendennis Club. Wybrant

5: Antonio Canova’s Hebe, the Greek goddess of youth, was exhibited at the Louisville Industrial Exposition, which opened on the northeast corner of Fourth and Chestnut streets in 1872. (The Industrial Exposition site was purchased in 1883 for the U.S. Post Office, which was razed in 1943.) The marble statue had been sold in 1871 by Louisville monument maker Michael Muldoon for $10,000 to the Polytechnic Society of Kentucky, forerunner of the Louisville Free Public Library . The work is now on loan to the Speed Art Museum , where it has been conserved and is on display. Klauber

6: Michael Muldoon’s father-in-law, James Smith Lithgow, a stove manufacturer, displayed his wares at the Louisville Industrial Exposition. Both the former Louisville mayor and Muldoon declared bankruptcy in 1873. There are no other extant photographs of this exposition besides the three in this collection. Klauber


7: One of several new residences photographed on Broadway belonged to the retired proprietor of the Galt House, Capt. Silas Miller, designed in the prevailing Renaissance Revival style by Henry Whitestone. After serving as a medical school, it would become the first home of the University of Louisville’s academic department in 1907. After the College of Arts and Sciences moved to the Belknap Campus in 1924, the structure was replaced by a Studebaker dealership. Wybrant

8: View of the north side of Broadway west of Second Street , now a McDonald’s. At mid-block was the residence of the distinguished chemist and educator, Dr. J. Lawrence Smith, and his wife, the former Sarah Julia Guthrie, daughter of James Guthrie. Wybrant


9: Straight on view of the J. Lawrence Smiths’ house, possibly designed by Henry Wolters, architect of the Tyler Block, who did other work for Dr. Smith. Quoins mark the pavilion and corners of the front façade. Wybrant

10: On the south side of Broadway between Third and Fourth streets was pork packer Samuel S. Hamilton’s residence designed by John Andrewartha. It was razed about 1904 for an addition to the Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments. The site is now a parking lot. Wybrant


11: In early 1872, Maryland entrepreneur Samuel Taylor Suit was trying to corner the whiskey market by commissioning the local firm of Newcomb, Buchanan & Co. to buy up all the old bourbon it could secure. S. T. Suit & Co. began construction of a warehouse and office, designed by John Andrewartha, on the south side of East Main between Brook and First streets, diagonally across from the second Galt House. During construction, the structure collapsed internally. Four days later, 13 August 1872 , its side walls fell during a wind storm. The structure was strengthened and rebuilt under the supervision of architect W. H. Redin. The scheme failed during the Panic of 1873, but it put Louisville on the fine-whisky map. Klauber


These street scenes and landmarks demonstrate that by the early 1870s, the core of Louisville’s residential development had migrated from Main Street out Fourth Street to Broadway. These views show a uniform setback in the houses, with front yards behind iron fences set in stone curbing, marking the wide sidewalks in which young trees have been planted and protected with slatted cages from girdling by horses.

Volume 4, Number 2

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