On to Louisville

Annual preservation conference will offer the finest of the river city and region.

By Rachel Adams

Louisville, Ky., host city to this year's National Preservation Conference, is an amalgam of preservation successes: revamped historic commercial areas, grand Victorian-era mansions, and a surrounding countryside rich in Native American and agricultural history. Running from September 28 to October 3 under the banner "Restore America: Communities at a Crossroads," the conference will highlight these and other facets of Louisville's preservation story through a series of educational sessions, tours, lectures, and special events.

The conference—presented by the National Trust in conjunction with the Kentucky Heritage Council, Preservation Kentucky, Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, the National Park Service, the General Services Administration, the Department of Defense, and the Louisville government—will focus on three issues: the importance of saving cultural landscapes, real estate development and downtown revitalization, and preservation tactics in the transportation field.

Within Louisville, the gathering will present several educational sessions and tours. Topics include conservation of the city's renowned park system, designed by celebrated landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted; protection of abandoned cemeteries; problems facing the dilapidated antebellum U.S. Marine Hospital (one of last year's 11 most endangered sites); preservation of African American sites; and promotion of heritage tourism and smart-growth development.

The conference will also explore many areas outside the city. "Kentucky is recognized for its transportation achievements," says Renee Viers, senior conference education planner at the Trust, so one of the excursions will be an all-day tour of the Paris Pike, which runs from the town of Paris, some 90 miles east of Louisville, to Lexington. Participants will travel the centuries-old road by bus and on foot, stopping periodically at small towns and discussing the long-term mission to preserve the 12-mile road and its setting. Other featured transportation-based topics include development issues facing the Ohio River Scenic Byway, which follows the Ohio River along the Kentucky-Indiana border, and conservation of the mansion-dotted River Road, part of a 700-acre National Register District upriver from Louisville.

In Bardstown, south of Louisville, attendees will learn about the town's significance as an early Catholic community, settled in 1785 by a group of Marylanders, and its rise to fame as a linchpin of the bourbon-distilling market. North of the city, in 200-year-old Madison, Ind., the conference will offer lectures on the success of the town's Main Street plan, inaugurated by the Trust in 1976 as one of the program's first three projects.

Following its final plenary meeting and other sessions on October 2, the conference offers a celebratory Ohio River ride on the 1914 Belle of Louisville, one of only five remaining vintage steamboats currently operating in the nation.

"Louisville is charming because of its diverse neighborhoods and beautifully designed landscapes," adds Viers. "What's more, it's within a day's drive of nearly half of the nation's population. This makes it an excellent choice for the conference."