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    Several years ago, John David Myles was researching a book about Shelby County architecture when he stumbled upon the work of Walter Kiser, a New Albany native who in the 1930s and early ’40s traveled the state doing detailed pencil sketches of everything from log cabins to mountain cottages to churches to downtown Louisville buildings. (The Filson Historical Society has many of the originals; 404 of them were reduced in size, inked and ran in the now-defunct Louisville Times.) “He really did do the first comprehensive survey of historic buildings in Kentucky,” Myles says. Regarding Louisville today, Myles says, “Kiser would have been thrilled that Whiskey Row has come back as much as it has. He would’ve been appalled by the Omni and the stupidity of the city in the letting the historic water company buildings go.”

    For his new book, Walter H. Kiser’s Neighborhood Sketches Revisited, Myles retraced Kiser’s steps, photographing roughly 300 sites. Not much is known about Kiser — his work was shown at the Speed in 1939, he joined the army in 1942 and was honorably discharged a year later, he died in 1980. A “Boo Radley figure,” Myles writes. In Green County, Myles says he did run into a man who, as a boy, saw Kiser sketching. “He said Kiser just sat on the wall and drew,” Myles says. 

    This originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

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