A History of Louisville's Douglas Loop Area
By Jack Berry of the Louisville CJ
Daniel Doup was the principal landowner in the area, along with Louis and Fred Kaelin, who operated a quarry and a horse and dairy farm. Today, the strip from Douglass Loop south to the intersection of Bardstown and Taylorsville roads, known then as Doup's Point, is a busy commercial district, featuring a supermarket, fast-food restaurants, shops and rental homes. Residential sections radiate from the roadway -- a far cry from the rolling farmland that survived until the 1920s.
Most of the valley through which Trevilian Way runs, including the quarry that has become Lakeside Swim Club, was owned by the Kaelins until they sold it in 1923.
If you headed north on Bardstown from Doup's Point during the 1920s, the biggest landmark was the Woodbourne House, located on what is now the grounds of the Douglass Boulevard Christian Church at Woodbourne Avenue and Bardstown Road.
Built in the 1830s by Starks Fielding, a Mississippi cotton planter, the Greek Revival home was a true Southern showpiece, according to the church's research.
George Douglass, president of Western Union Telegraph Co., bought the home and the 200 acres that stretched east to Big Rock in Cherokee Park in 1870. But many area residents remember the mansion as Rugby University School.
The exclusive preparatory academy for boys operated from the mid-1930s to 1949. Many, according to the church history, became Louisville business leaders.
"Rugby had the quality people," said Cornelius Hubbuch, 80, who lived on Alfresco Place in the 1920s.
That's about the time that the Outer Highlands began to spring up outside the Highlands proper.
A recent history of Lakeside, written by former club director Jack Thompson, includes a copy of an advertisement about the 1923 auction of the Kaelins' property that noted, "Most Louisvillians now appreciate that the Highlands, for refined social environment, unusual natural beauty, high elevation and convenient accessibility to the city, is unequaled.
"It is in the Highlands that you will probably seek location for your home, and when you do, you will be surprised to learn how few really choice sites at reasonable cost, are still available."
So, the ad suggested, potential homeowners would be wise to look a little farther out, specifically at the new Lakeside subdivision, for "home sites that will suit the most discriminating home-seekers."
At the time, the Lakeside subdivision comprised Lakeside Drive and Eastview and Page avenues.
"The mapping out of the subdivision was planned by Olmsted Bros., the famed architectural firm of Brookline, Mass.," according to a 1923 article in The Louisville Civic Opinion, referring to the firm headed by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of New York's Central Park and Louisville's parks and parkway system.
"This assumes," gushed the writer, "beauty and symmetry to the entire plan of the subdivision."
At that time, only two houses stood on the property. One was the big farmhouse that still overlooks Trevilian Way on the curve of Eastview Avenue's final hill. The other is located still at the back of Glanz Plumbing, near the intersection of Bardstown and Taylorsville roads. Both were built before the Civil War.
Besides the Woodbourne House, the best-known structure in the area was William R. Belknap School, named for the hardware magnate.
Built in 1915, the rectangular, three-story, brick structure containing 18 classrooms, an auditorium and a cafeteria was called "one of the city's unheralded architectural treasures," by The Courier-Journal because of its exterior ornamentation, exquisite detailing and high ceilings.
The building was designed by architect J. Earl Henry, who worked for the firm of Louis Henry Sullivan, designer of the world's first skyscraper.
Belknap School was closed in 1978 and was sold in 1983 by the Jefferson County Board of Education to Transport Association Inc.
Just down the hill from the school was Kaelin's Quarry, which became known variously as Kaelin's Lake, Highland Lake, Spring Lake and, finally, Lakeside Swim Club, when underground springs filled the quarry with water to a level that at one time reached all the way up to -- and sometimes across -- Trevilian Way.
The lake was probably about 20 feet deep, enough that brave souls were seen to dive off the cliffs along Eastview Avenue, careful to avoid the rocks at water's edge.
Much of the quarry water was pumped out in the mid-1920s, and in 1929 300 smallmouth bass were placed in the lake, providing a popular fishing hole.
The creek into which the lake occasionally overflowed was covered by sewers in the 1930s, but before then it was known to be populated by water moccasins, which had the unpleasant ability to find their way into nearby houses, according to neighborhood legend.
After World War II, Lakeside Swim Club began to develop into the establishment it is today.
Although Bardstown Road is packed with storefronts from Highland Avenue to the Watterson Expressway, one of the first commercial districts started in what's now known as Douglass Loop.
Long before developer Bernard Dahlem ripped down an old clapboard building in 1935 and built Steiden's grocery, Arnold's Five and Dime and Taylor Drug Store on the west side of Bardstown, several businesses already lined Dundee Road, said Dahlem, 60, who lived then on Rutherford Avenue.
"That was always a bunch of neighborhood shops," he said.
The streetcar turn there gave it the name Douglass Loop and its attraction as a business hub, Dahlem said.
One popular '30s Loop spot was Drew's Restaurant, where Taylor Drug is today, recalled Hubbuch, of Middletown. "They had good steaks. It was just good family dining."
Later, Drew's moved south on Bardstown and eventually gave way to a succession of restaurants. Today, a Wendy's restaurant is there.
Across the street in the 1930s were two families whose names are well-known now.
The Kunzes, of restaurant fame, moved in 1939 to a large, two-story frame house in the block of Bardstown just south of Kroger.
"Streetcars were still running then, " said Fred Kunz Jr., 61.
The nearest neighbors to the south were the Dattilos, who own produce markets at Douglass Loop and on Taylorsville Road, said Kunz, who now lives in Indiana.
In 1956, Fred Kunz Sr. tore the house down and developed the property that later became Louisville Trust (now a Liberty bank branch), a post office (now a Roadrunner video store) an adding machine shop and furniture store.
Fred Jr.'s sister, Marjorie Ann Kunz Godecker, still owns the bank property and the building that houses the video store.
But longtime residents probably remember better the big neon sign south of the Kunzes' home at Bardstown and Trevilian Way. Cream Top Dairy, an institution from 1930 to 1970, proclaimed itself home o "The World's Largest Milkshake."
"Probably back then, all they had was vanilla, chocolate, strawberry," Kunz said, but "it was popular. It really was."
LANDSCAPE OF LANDMARKS INCLUDED KAELIN'S QUARRY, WOODBOURNE HOUSE, BELKNAP SCHOOL