On Sunday, April 15, my photography group took a tour of several late-19th-century mansions in the Old Louisville area of the city. While I was only able to tour two of the mansions because of other obligations, I was able to go through the Grabfelder-Handy mansion. This was described as the most ornate of the mansions on the tour and, like all but one of the mansions, is still occupied. The other mansion I toured briefly, the Conrad Caldwell House, is a museum in the St. James Court neighborhood.
The Grabfelder-Handy Mansion was built between 1896 and 1900. It is recognized as one of the finest examples of Beaux-Arts architecture designed by architect William Dodd. Mr. Grabfelder was a bourbon merchant and distiller as well as a philanthropist who founded Jewish Hospital. In addition to the Grabfelder family, another prominent Louisville family, the Tarrants, owned the mansion at one time. It later became multiunit housing — a fate of many of the large mansions in the Old Louisville area, which is adjacent to the University of Louisville. In 1973, Ben and Reba Handy purchased the mansion and restored it as faithfully as possible to the original plan.
Conrad Caldwell House
The Conrad Caldwell House, built in 1895, is one of the finest examples of Richardson-Romanesque architecture in the United States. It is considered the masterpiece of famed architect Arthur Loomis. The home, was built by Theophile Conrad, who owned a tanning business. In 1908, the home was purchased by William Caldwell, a tank manufacturer and friend of Conrad’s. The former home has operated as a museum since 1987.
Other Homes on the Tour
- Old Louisville Fleur-de-Lis Inn — neoclassical, 1897
- Fenley House — federal, 1903
- Adams-Robinson House — neoclassical, 1899
- Peyton Clark House — Victorian, 1892
- Ferguson Mansion — Beaux-Arts, 1905
- Crane House — Italianate, 1880s
I am also familiar with the Crane House since it now houses the Asian Institute. The institute provided educational and cultural programs to the public and works to increase the capacity of local Asian communities to share and preserve their heritage. Although the institute is primarily centered on the Chinese culture, it has recently expanded to include other Asian cultures. Thus I have visited there to increase my knowledge of Japanese culture.
Photos from my tour are available in the Old Louisville Mansion Tour gallery. Due to the private ownership of the buildings and artifacts, none of the photos from the tour are available for sale.