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Preserving Louisville’s Shotgun Houses

It’s a style of house that symbolizes many of Louisville’s older neighborhoods…the shotgun.

There are many variations, but shotgun houses typically have a long, rectangular floor plan: one room wide, three to five rooms in a row with doorways often on the same side of the house.

One common belief is that the name shotgun house refers to the ability to fire a shotgun cleanly from the front through the back door.

The shotgun style likely made its way into the U.S. from the West Indies and became popular in the South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, offering affordable housing in working class areas.

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In-Depth News Local News Next Louisville Politics

Effort Underway To Preserve Louisville’s Iconic Shotgun Houses

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Early next month, a panel of preservationists will select a house in Louisville to be rehabilitated under a new project called Preservation S.O.S.—Save Our Shotguns.

It’s a style of house that symbolizes many of Louisville’s older neighborhoods.

There are many variations, but shotgun houses typically have a long, rectangular floor plan: one room wide, three to five rooms in a row with doorways often on the same side of the house.

One common belief is that the name shotgun house refers to the ability to fire a shotgun cleanly from the front through the back door.

The shotgun style likely made its way into the U.S. from the West Indies and became popular in the South during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, offering affordable housing in working class areas.

In Louisville, they’re a part of the fabric of neighborhoods like Germantown, Butchertown, Smoketown and Portland, but some are showing their age, and Portland in particular has a significant number of houses in distress (top two photos).

“In this area, you’re seeing a lot of blight when it comes to vacant properties, many of which are the shotgun houses, and I think that’s what inspired me to try to come forward and do something and start a program that would really make an impact,” said Marianne Zickhur, executive director of Preservation Louisville, which is spearheading the S.O.S. program. Zickhur grew up in the Portland neighborhood.

Zickhur and says shotguns are popular as starter homes for many young buyers. Others like how their simple design lends itself to fix-up and addition projects.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Group Lists City's Most Endangered Historic Places

endangered-01-shoutgun1A Louisville group identified the city’s 10 most endangered historic places along with some positive news. WFPL’s Elizabeth Kramer has more.

Preservation Louisville released the list today along with the city’s top 10 preservation successes. The group praises the renovation of the US Marine Hospital in the Portland neighborhood and Corbett’s, an eastern Louisville restaurant housed in a mansion that was part of a dairy farm.

Both lists reference Louisville’s shotgun houses. The successes include Habitat for Humanity’s rehabilitation of such a house in the city’s west end and the endangered list includes all the city’s shotgun houses, says Preservation Louisville’s executive director Marianne Zickuhr.

“They’re a very big part of our heritage and our history,” Zickuhr says. “And the fact of the matter is that they’re being torn down all over the city at a rapid pace.”

Zickuhr says Louisville has the most shotgun houses just after New Orleans and that this is the first time a local preservation group has released a list of successes.

“The successes are really a way for us to help the community understand that you can be a good steward to these buildings,” she says, “and you can be a part of to helping to keep that historic fabric of our community intact.”

Also among Louisville’ 10 most endangered historic places are structures in Iron Quarter of West Main Street and historic buildings in the Water Company block, which is to be developed by the Cordish Company as Center City District. The company also built Fourth Street Live.

Zickuhr says that preserving historical properties does not inhibit obstruct property development.

“It’s a protection,” she says. “It’s something that will help the developers in the future to keep the property values going up because of the how important the historical significance of their property is.”

Zickuhr says developments like downtown’s Henry Clay building are good examples. It houses apartments, a restaurant, a theater and offices.

THE COMPLETE LIST FROM PRESERVATION LOUISVILLE

Louisvilles Top 10 Most Endangered Historic Places List
Shotgun Houses
Water Co. Block Historic Buildings
Victorian House on Frankfort Avenue
Historic Firehouses
Old Dental School at Brook and Broadway
Park Hill district
Corner Store Fronts
Historic Properties within the Proposed New Bridge Route
Iron Quarter
Ouerbacker House

Louisvilles Top 10 Preservation Success
US Marine Hospital
Wayside Buildings
Vogt Building
Henry Clay
Reynolds Building
American Standard
1254 S. Brook St.
Howard Hardy House
Corbetts Restaurant
1702 Prentice St. (Habitat for Humanity House)

Criteria used to determine if a property is added to these lists:
1. On the National Register of Historic Places or be eligible
2. Within the metro Louisville region (Jefferson County; Floyd and Clark counties of southern Indiana)
3. For most endangered list – in imminent threat of demolition or in severely deteriorated condition

preservationlouisville.org