Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Nostalgic tour of West Broadway, Louisville

We'll start today's tour at the streamline modern office building of the Courier-Journal, headquarters of a once-great newspaper. Fresh out of art school, I interviewed for a job in the art department. It was the only time I was in this impressive building and hoped I would get the job. Though they gave me some encouragement, I didn't. I suppose I hoped I could one day be the next Hugh Haynie, their fine editorial cartoonist who was nominated for a Pulitizer in 1970.

Not having lived in a city with a White Castle since 1977, I'm always keen to go, but rarely do. This recent trip, however, I was determined to make a pilgrimage. When I was a kid, White Castles looked more like miniature castles with tiny turrets and inside were all stainless steel. But the good news is the food tastes exactly the same. How many fast food chains can make that claim?

The downtown Sears, designed by architects Nimmons, Carr and Wright and built in 1928, is typical of Sears built in America's downtowns in the 20s and 30s -- Art Deco and blocks away from the retail district. Fearing Sears powerful discount competition, retailers across the country banded together to keep Sears as far away from them as they could and in Louisville, that was 4th Street. Sadly, all of Louisville's grand old department stores have closed, including this Sears, and those that weren't torn down were converted to office space. My family generally relied on the catalogs (see this site about the Sears wishbook for some fun) but every few months we would pile in our Rambler and head downtown. Naturally I went directly to the large toy department, with model trains chugging above shoppers' heads.

Just past Sears and before Union Station is the Beaux Arts styled Louisville and Nashville Railroad Building, designed by architect W.H. Courtenay, completed in 1907 and expanded in 1930.

Just past L & N is Louisville's limestone, Romanesque Union Station, which opened in 1891. There are rose windows at opposite ends of the station. Now the offices of Transit Authority River City, the front doors were locked. When I was in the first grade, I missed out on a school field trip on a steam train excursion because I had the mumps or chicken pox or some childhood malady, so my mother took me the following summer of 1960 to see my grandparents in Pennsylvania. We left from here, then changed trains at Cincinnati's spectacular Art Deco Union Station. Somewhere in Ohio, we were left on a siding for hours and didn't arrive in Pittsburgh until the next morning. It was clear even then the railroads were on their way out.

1 comment:

ZihuaRob said...

Ahhh, the Courier-Journal building. My stepmother was Barry Bingham Jr's secretary. Enjoyed a few Pegasus Parades either from one of the offices or sitting right out in front of here. Fascinating place! Thank you again!