If you've driven down River Road, you may have noticed something seemingly out-of-place. Sitting in the middle of a roundabout, where Frankfort Avenue meets River Road, sits the facade of what once must have been a glorious home.
There was never a home in this location -- at least, not one that was connected to this facade. The home in question was originally located in The Point. The Point was a neighbourhood east of Downtown Louisville and north of what is now Butchertown. It was known as "the Frenchmen's Row," beginning in the 1840's, when many upper class residents moved from New Orleans to Fulton Street, Louisville.
These wealthy families from Louisiana built mansions all over the neighborhood. The most famous of these was the Heigold House, a home with a facade dedicated to proving a loyalty to America in the age of a civil war. The façade is decorated with the faces of many early American leaders, most prominently George Washington. Christian Heigold, an immigrant stonemason, finished building his home in 1853.
As you can see in this picture, the details are pretty high up. There is an inscription, but since I’m only 5’ 7” and don’t own stilts, I couldn’t read all of it or photograph it well. The picture still looks nice, though.
In 1854, many of the houses in the neighborhood were torn down to reroute Beargrass Creek. Then, the Flood of 1937 worked to damage more homes and the neighborhood looked to be a far cry from its former beauty.
Plans for a park and the construction of I-64 shut this neighborhood down for good. The Heigold facade or, "Door to Nowhere," and the Padgett House are the last remaining relics of what once must have been a glorious place to live. While very pretty, the Door to Nowhere is kind of sad once you know the history. It's one of the last pieces left of almost an entire century of Louisville history and beauty.
There is something depressingly poetic about it. This thing dates back to the Civil War, has the faces of people like George Washington carved into it, was built by an immigrant stonemason and still stands today. It’s a monument.
The flowers out front really cheer it up, though. They were planted and are taken care of by Botanica… And there are a lot of them.
The old neighborhood doesn’t exist anymore. While Padgett House still stands, it has been incorporated into RiverPark Place and, in 2007, the Heigold Facade was moved from the Louisville Municipal Boat Harbor to its current location. Both are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The facade now faces the new construction of Waterside at RiverPark Place.
Photos: Michelle Eigenheer