Tag Archives: KY

Waverly Hills Sanitarium, Louisville KY

Waverly Hills was built in the early 1900s and was a tuberculosis hospital. During this time the hospital was one of the most modern in the United States. Many people were cured but more than 63,000 people died there.

There was a body chute that was a tunnel that ran from the hospital down the hill. During the time of when so many people were dying each day from tuberculosis- the bodies were taken out through the tunnel as not to upset the remaining patients.

After closing in the 1960s rumors of ghost and strange sightings began to surface.

Plans for Waverly Hills Sanitarium

(from the Courier Journal)

The rooms may be standard, and the location is a bit out-of-the-way, but Charlie Mattingly thinks his planned hotel in southwest Jefferson County will have a unique draw:

It’s a creepy, old, five-story building with a morgue, a “body chute” and guest rooms where people once lay dying of tuberculosis.

Mattingly and his architect, Kevin Milburn of Urban Designz, are dead serious about turning the old Waverly Hills Sanatorium into a 78-room boutique hotel with a spa, fitness center and meeting space for business groups.

The former hospital off Dixie Highway already is a mecca for ghost hunters, who come by the thousands each year to search for paranormal activity. A film crew from the Travel Channel was there last month, and talk-show host Maury Povich sent a crew this week.

Its haunted history was the focus of a six-hour special on the Sci Fi Channel last fall, and the property regularly turns up on lists of the nation’s most haunted places. Web sites dedicated to the property feature photos of people who mysteriously appear in windows, and audio files of unexplained noises.

Mattingly, who bought the 30-acre property for $225,000 in 2001 with his wife, Tina, said preserving the site’s haunted character will be a key part of what he estimates will be an $18 million renovation. Project details were to be announced to local officials and the media at 4:30 p.m. today.

“My intent is for this to be first class all the way,” Mattingly said of the hotel, which he said could open in early 2010 — assuming financing is arranged.

Mattingly, who grew up in Shively and until recently worked at Ford Motor Co., said that banks “more or less laughed at me” when he first began applying for loans to renovate the property.

But after seven years of upgrades, historical research and architectural studies, he said conversations about financing now are under way with Porter Bancorp, StockYards Bank & Trust, Republic Bancorp and JP Morgan Chase, and he’s confident he’ll be able to start construction late this year.

Milburn said the project should qualify for federal tax credits because of its historical significance. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, though it remains heavily damaged by years of vandalism and decay. Already, Mattingly has had dozens of windows replaced, rooftops and mortar repaired and ceilings insulated. And Milburn said they soon will select contractors to oversee further construction.

Chris Poynter, a spokesman for Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson, called the project “exciting for south Louisville and for the entire city.”

He’s a believer

Mattingly, 49, said he wasn’t a believer in Waverly Hills’ haunted reputation until he bought the place and began recording video inside. He said his films show streaks of light and glowing orbs at times when footage of the surrounding neighborhood was perfectly normal.

For the last year, the Mattinglys have lived on the property, where Tina Mattingly runs the nonprofit Waverly Hills Historical Society. The couple has relatives on both sides of the family who were treated for tuberculosis at the sanatorium.

The main hospital building, with 160,000 square feet, was built in 1926. It sits on a ridge just a few hundred yards from the bustling auto dealers, apartments and restaurants of Dixie Highway, but is shrouded in trees and dense undergrowth.

Signs posted at the entrances warn trespassers, and cameras mounted on the hospital’s exterior are there to catch would-be vandals.

The hotel plans call for a solar-powered electric system, floors made of sustainable materials such as cork or recycled rubber, and a geothermal heating and cooling system.

A parking structure would be built in front of the hospital, with a rooftop garden visible from the long concrete sun porches where patients once spent their days lying in bed. The infamous body chute is an underground steam tunnel that hospital officials used to remove bodies on gurneys, out of sight of the surviving patients.

About 3,000 people tour Waverly Hills annually, with most of them paying a $20 donation. Ghost hunters also can pay $100 each to roam the hallways all night in search of spooky noises and paranormal activity.

Jim Wood, president of the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau, said ghost tours are a growing tourism draw, and he called Waverly Hills “an architectural wonder.”

But since haunted hotels cater to a niche market, Wood said Waverly Hills may need to attract a wider audience to be a viable business.

That’s the approach at The Lemp Mansion, a bed and breakfast in St. Louis in a home where three members of the Lemp family committed suicide between 1902 and 1949. About two-thirds of the mansion’s guests today come for the haunted history, but spokeswoman Mary Wolff said the property also holds wedding receptions, private parties and other events.

Read more about the ghost investigations at Waverly Hills

Baxter Avenue Morgue AKA Vanderdark Morgue


The Big Four Bridge, Louisville KY

The original/first Big Four Bridge had a pedestrian walk-way on the west (downriver side). It was opened in 1895 and in use till 1929 when a newly constructed replacement bridge using the same bridge piers replaced it. Everything old is new again- the pedestrian usage is an idea that was put into effect over 100 years ago.

The viaducts or high trestle elevated structures of the Big Four Bridge stretched out for a little over three miles and in three different directions. On the Kentucky side one arm split off crossing over the current skate park and toward Louisville’s Baseball Park-this formerly housed the big four rail freight terminal. The rail touched down just east of the expressway at Hancock Street.

The other split, the lengthier of the two, crossed over dozens of streets with another access ramp at Franklin and Wenzel Streets. It continued airborne for many more blocks until finally touching down at East Main Street and Mellwood Avenue (east of the Old Bourbon Stockyards).

On the Indiana side the elevated structure continued northward with
the exception of the access ramp immediately after crossing the bridge which touched earth about four blocks later.The elevated structure carried on for another 3/4 of a mile northward finally coming to rest just west of The Quartermaster Depot.

Louisville’s elevated trains ran day and night over many homes and businesses They carried all manner of goods, merchandise, passengers, and daily commuters, all of which created a scenario more likened to Chicago or New York.

A high speed lightweight electric train of the Indiana RR crosses the Big Four Bridge some time in the 1930’s. The last electric trains crossed this bridge in October 1939, while electric trains continued on the K&I Bridge until the eve of 1946.

One organized outing by the 4-H clubs in and around Columbus, Indiana chartered three trains, each consisting of 3 cars cars each for a trip into Louisville in September of 1939. The 800 or so farm kids and their escorts then took a river cruise and returned the same day.

Electric trains survived in Louisville until the eve of 1946. The above newspaper advertisement is cira of 1941. Electric rapid transit was smart, swift and a thrifty buy for either group or individual travel.

All information contributed by Ron Schooling- Thanks!

Fire On The Big Four Bridge

River Walk-Louisville Ky

The Great Flood of 1937


Rising waters, soaring spirits
An excellent account of the 1937 flood

For generations of Louisvillians, the 1937 flood was much more than a historical event. It was a watershed. And hundreds, maybe thousands, grew up on the stories of good humor, courage and endurance that marked the months of January and February 1937.

Rick Bell, who is overseeing the restoration of the Marine Hospital in Portland, has pulled all of these emotions, as well as many, many facts together, quite remarkably, in his new book, The Great Flood of 1937. For those who care about our city, and its history, this is an indispensable book.

(It is also the third significant contribution to local history in recent months by Butler Books of Louisville, which published Louisville Then and Now and Brandeis at 150 in 2006.)

In a comprehensive, yet breezy text, with an outstanding collection of photographs, Bell recreates the weeks of seemingly endless sacrifice. Remember, the flood came at one of the lowest points of the Great Depression. Louisville and other cities already were suffering; the rains of January 1937 only made matters much worse.

Those who lived through the flood, those whose families survived to tell the stories and those for whom it was merely a historical event will welcome The Great Flood of 1937.

(From the Courier-Journal)

Louisville and Portland Canal

In 1830 the Louisville and Portland Canal opened for business. Until then the only way down the Ohio River was through the Falls of the Ohio. These were a series of rapids that had to navigated by experienced river men. During the course of the rapids the river dropped 26 feet and was a very dangerous trip.



Many boat that carried goods had to unloaded at the 4th Street Wharf in downtown Louisville and taken to the Portland Wharf that was pass the Falls of the Ohio. This took time and as time changed a new way to navigate the river was needed.

The canal had to be dug through rock and cost more than first estimated. It was plagued with finical difficulties all the way through the project until Congress had to invest money for it to be finished. When finished the canal was only 50 feet wide.

Finical difficulties continued for many years after the canal was built and the government ended up owning the canal. In 1960 the Louisville and Portland Canal became the McAlpine Locks and Dam. Since there has been many improvements to the canal has been made. The canal is taken care of by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

To read more about the exciting things happening at McAlpine Locks and Dam today visit:
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The changing views of the canal





Shippingport, Kentucky


Shippingport, Kentucky was given to John Campbell in 1785 for his service in the French and Indian War. At that time it became known as Campbell Town. It was sold in 1803 and renamed Shippingport.

The population grew from 98 to over 500 and at one time challenged the 4th Street Wharf in downtown Louisville. At that time a warehouse and mill was built on Shippingport and soon began to export their goods. Elm Tree Garden became a popular spot for horse-racing and was well known. In 1817 a six-story flour mill built because how successful Shippingport had become.

In 1825 the building of the Louisville and Portland Canal and made Shippingport into an island. It soon became known as Shippingport Island and is locally known by that name today.

Over the years the Louisville and Portland Canal was gradually widened to keep up with the steamboats and later barges that carried products from one end of the country to another. A hydroelectric plant was also built on the island as time changed. Slowly residents and businesses began to close and leave.

The area was devastated by the flood of 1937 when most of Louisville was under water. It forced the island to evacuate until the river returned to it’s banks. Many people never returned because their homes were completely destroyed.

In 1958 the government acquired the property by eminent domain to widen the canal. They evicted many families that had lived there for over a 100 years.


Some Quick Things To Look At To Date Bottles

Side Seams:

None: bottle may be free blown and uneven shape dating before 1860 or the bottle may have an even shape but spun in the mold to smoth out the seams- a common practice around 1900-1920.

BIM: side seams run from base and end below the top of lip. This is a result of Bowing In Mold (BIM). The lip is usually applied by hand later.

3PM: (3 piece mold) Bottom half (from base to shoulder) has no seams then there are seams near the shoulder that runs completely around the bottle. Two side seams run up the neck and end below the top of the lip. This was used from 1840-70. The lip was also applied by hand later.

ABM: if the side seams run through the top of the lip then it made this way. AMB stands for Automatic Bottle Machine. This type of bottle making started appearing in 1905 and by 1920 most bottles were made like this.

Some Items That Lewis And Clark Took On Journey

55-foot (17-meter) Keelboat
2 Pirogues (open boats)
Square sail (also called a broad sail)
35 Oars
2 Horses
150 Yards (140 meters) of cloth to be oiled and sewn into tents and sheets
6 Large needles
Oilskin bags
25 Hatchets
30 Steels for striking or making fire
Iron corn mill
2 Dozen tablespoons
Mosquito curtains
10.5 Pounds (5 kilograms) of fishing hooks and fishing lines
12 Pounds (5.4 kilograms) of soap
193 Pounds (87.5 kilograms) of “portable soup” (a thick paste concocted by boiling down beef, eggs, and vegetables, to be used if no other food was available on the trail)
3 Bushels (106 liters) of salt
Writing paper, ink and crayons
45 Flannel shirts
20 Coats
15 Frocks
Woolen pants
15 Blankets
30 Stockings
15 Pairs wool overalls
50 Dozen Dr. Rush’s patented “Rush’s Thunderclapper” pills
1,300 Doses of physic
1,100 Doses of emetic
3,500 Doses of diaphoretic (sweat inducer)
15 Prototype Model 1803 muzzle-loading .54-caliber rifles “Kentucky Rifles”
15 Gun slings
24 Large knives
Powder horns
500 Rifle flints
420 Pounds (191 kilograms) of sheet lead for bullets
176 Pounds (80 kilograms) of gunpowder packed in 52 lead canisters
1 Long-barreled rifle that fired its bullet with compressed air, rather than by flint, spark, and powder

Surveyor’s compass
Hand compass
1 Hadley’s quadrant
1 Telescope
3 Thermometers
2 Sextants
1 Set of plotting instruments
1 Chronometer (needed to calculate longitude; at $250 it was the most expensive item)
1 Portable microscope
1 Tape measure

12 Dozen pocket mirrors
4,600 Sewing needles
144 Small scissors
10 Pounds (4.5 kilograms) of sewing thread
Silk ribbons
Ivory combs
Yards of bright-colored cloth
130 Rolls of tobacco

Tomahawks that doubled as pipes
288 Knives
8 Brass kettles
Vermilion face paint
20 Pounds (9 kilograms) of assorted beads, mostly blue
5 Pounds (2 kilograms) of small, white, glass beads
288 Brass thimbles
Ear trinkets

A Practical Introduction to Spherics and Nautical Astronomy
Antoine Simon’s Le Page du Pratz’s History of Louisiana
Barton’s Elements of Botany
Dictionary (4-volume)
Linnaeus (2-volume edition), the Latin classification of plants
Richard Kirwan’s Elements of Mineralogy
The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris
Tables for finding longitude and latitude
Map of the Great Bend of the Missouri River

Vintage Postcard Views of Louisville KY

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Vintage Postcard Views of the Ohio River

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Lewis and Clark Closing Ceremony

Lewis and Clark
Bicentennial Commemoration
October 2003
Louisville KY
All pictures taken by Sheila Barrett

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Mingo and Shawnee Nations

Lewis and Clark
Bicentennial Commemoration
October 2003
Louisville KY
All pictures taken by Sheila Barrett

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Lewis and Clark at Louisville KY

Lewis and Clark
Bicentennial Commemoration
October 2003
Louisville KY
All pictures taken by Sheila Barrett

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Lewis and Clark Opening Ceremony

Lewis and Clark
Bicentennial Commemoration
October 2003
Louisville KY
All pictures taken by Sheila Barrett

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Lewis and Clark- Portland Tent

Lewis and Clark
Bicentennial Commemoration
October 2003
Louisville KY
All pictures taken by Sheila Barrett

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Fontaine Ferry Amusement Park

Fontaine Ferry Park



. Aaron Fontaine bought the site where the amusement park would stand from William Lytle in 1814. At that time the property was called Carter’s ferry which later was named Fontaine Ferry. Here stood a house that faced the Ohio River and a landing for boats.It was located at 230 Southwestern Parkway, Louisville KY.

In the 1880’s a resort was built on the Fontaine estate. The Fontaine Hotel and Restaurant opened and was a great success. Not long after the owners began to build an amusement park.

The grand opening was in May of 1905. It had four roller coasters, ferris wheel, games as well as a bicycle track where many major races were held. It was so successful that it soon became one of the most famous parks in the country.


As time passed other attractions were added like a swimming pool and a dance hall. In 1960 to keep up with the changing times the park unveiled it’s newest attraction which was the Turnpike. It was a concrete road that was a half mile long, which you drove miniature sports cars.

Over the years some of the most memorable attractions have been Gypsy Village, Hilarity Hall, Scenic Railway, Velvet Racer, Wheel of Joy, Sugar Bowl, and the Comet.



Stone craving and glass ornament made by Al Nelson especially for one of my history exhibits.



Fontaine Ferry Postal StudioFontaine Ferry Postal Studio


After operating for more than 80 years Fontaine Ferry closed. It was bought and named Ghost Town on the River and later Glen Park but the magic didn’t seem to remain after Fontaine Ferry closed.



Fontaine Estates replaced what was know as the “Dude” Ranch- the street is called Fontaine Landing


In 1976 a fire destroyed most of the building. I was a young child at the time and remember my father and I went to see what had happen. We parked down the street and walked up to where the front entrance was. We stood across the street watching while flames seemed to grow higher in the air as the fire fighters tried to put it out. Even at that time I could see how sad that my dad was to see this great piece of history go up in flames. He still has many fond memories of this old park.

Not long after the fire the city bought the land and it became part of Shawnee Park.


Aaron Fontaine   Design A Roller Coaster Kentucky Life Memories of Fontaine Ferry

If you have fond memories of Fontaine Ferry please leave a comment.
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1937 Flood Stories

Catherine Warer, interviewed by neighbor Georgia M. Denk- 2400 Block of Slevin Avenue

On Sunday, the police came to the house and made us leave. They took us to the tobacco factory at 24th and Main Street. People with dogs had to go to the fifth floor.

There was no heat, no place to wash up, and no way to flush the toilets. The smell got really bad. We slept on the floor and there were people everywhere. We had brought blankets, so we did have something to lie on and cover up with.

They brought food in skiffs, prepackaged, and coffee in washtubs. Sometimes Father Arnold from St. Cecelia’s would come to visit, and Father Hermes from St. Anthony’s (Church) took in people.

Sanitary conditions at the factory got so bad they started moving people out to the country in cattle cars, I think.

Mama was worried they’d ship us out, so Friday we left and came home the back way.

Mrs. F.L. (Theresa Cissell) Spalding, Rudd Avenue, Age 11

The firemen came knocking on our door in the middle of the night telling us we had to get out right away. My father worked for the W.T. Adams Broom Co. He borrowed a truck from them the next day and managed to get most of our possessions out of the house and took them to a house on Maple Street. Before we could get to this house the water starting coming up there and eventually got to the ceiling. We lost everything except for the clothes on our backs.

They took my mother to the old St. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital at 11th and Hill Streets, where she gave birth to my youngest brother on January 26, 1937.

St Cecilia

St Cecilia is located at 25th and Slevin Streets. During the 1937 flood the basement and the parish hall had about 2 1/2 feet of water standing in it. they were able to take in and care for 300 refugees. They gave Typhoid shots and medical care to many.

Jim Fulks Sr.

Jim Fulks Sr. decided to stay at this house at 1111 S. 28th Street. This remained above the flood crest. A neighbor, whose first name was Bob, was salvaging things from the water that flowed down the street, pulling out tanks of chemicals and oil drums. One day he showed Fulks his salvaged treasures, all the while looking at the dirty water for more.

Suddenly the neighbor stopped talking, Fulks turned and the two men stared into the water.

There among the boards and car tops was something that terrified them. Fulks remembered “the nude body of a woman floating face down in the slow-moving flood.”

They ran to the neighbor’s skiff and pushed it into the water. “I took the oars and started rowing toward the corpse while Bob reached out from the bow, seeking to get a handful of the woman’s hair. When he finally succeeded I quickly turned the skiff toward the shore and rowed with all my might.”

His heard was pounding, he felt weak and nauseated, and his arms numb from rowing. the boat nudged the ground and Fulks jumped out, grabbed the woman’s feet and pulled her ashore. Suddenly Bob was at his side. They turned the corpse over and looked into the staring eyes.

They two men looked at each other and began to laugh. “Our corpse,” said Fulks “was mannequin from the window of the nearby clothing store.”

Fontaine Ferry Amusement Park

Fifty people marooned in the Fontaine Ferry Park dance hall spent the flood playing the piano music while the kids scampered around the dance floor. A house brought from far upriver had come to rest against the roller coaster.

St. Ann’s Convent

The convent was located on Portland Avenue. It was used to house the Sisters of the Charity of Nazareth who taught in the Portland area. most had already left going to St. Joseph Infirmary or to the Motherhouse but eight nuns remained until forced to evacuate.

A boat made a dangerous journey up Bank Street rescued them. After the nuns were on the boat they continued down Bank Street and turning into 19th Street where the boat struck a light post and in half. Sisters and oarmens both went into the ice-cold water which was up to 10 feet deep.

They were rescued shortly and taken to the Convent of the Good Shepherd at 8th and Madison.

Not one of the Sisters became ill from the icy waters.

Kroger Store

The flood was over! As manager of the Kroger Store at 34th and Broadway, (which) had been covered with water, Jim Fulks was shocked to see that every shelf in the store had been overturned, and thousands of cans were in a jumble on the floor without a label on a single one. He had received instructions to load all the cans on trucks so they could be sent to a store in Jeffersonville. Ind.

When he arrived there he was told to sort all the label-missing cans by six. They would be offered to the customers at three for 25 cents and three for 10 cents. He suggested to his manager that he could open a can and if they found a real bargain they could buy them for themselves.

When he opened up one of the cans he asked his manager if he liked corned beef hash. He told him to put 48 cans aside for him and his family.

Six months later he was stocking shelves at another store when he saw the code on the can he had in his hand. It was the same as what was on the corned beef hash cans he gave to his manager. You can imagine how he felt when he realized he was holding a can of Dog Food.

(Research from the Courier Journal and other sources)
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