Beginning Of New Chapter For Storied Home

Staff Writer
The Voice-Tribune

Every home has a story, but not many harbor the rich, peculiar past like that of the Howard-Hardy House. Early Thursday afternoon, an all new narrative will begin for the 150-year-old Second Street structure, as it’s sold at auction to the highest bidder, who’ll walk away with much more than 6,000 square feet of space.

The property’s name is a combination of the surnames of John Howard and his daughter Charlotte’s husband, Nathaniel Hardy. Standing four stories high, the building was constructed circa 1830 by Howard, though records date back as far as 1826. The house is representative of the type built in the area south of downtown Louisville in the 1830s. The only other surviving residence of the period in the area is the former Old House Restaurant (the Butler-Canine House), located on Fifth Street. Unlike the Old House, however, the Howard-Hardy House retained its rear ell, with the only known example of slave quarters still in downtown Louisville.

Available documentation indicates the earliest owners of the Howard-Hardy House possessed slaves. But, in a letter dated in 1836, Nathaniel Hardy insisted the treatment of slaves in Louisville was humane, writing “(Slaves’) labour is no harder than the poor class of whites are obliged to perform to barely live and the Negro has no care upon his mind – he has his daily task to perform and when that is done sleeps undisturbed till the next.”

The former slave quarters with original hardwood flooring of the Howard-Hardy House.

Hardy and his wife, Charlotte, were among the earliest recipients in Louisville of the doctrines of the New Jerusalem, noted for its opposition to slavery. The Hardys, along with James Fulton and Charles E. Beynroth also formed the first society in the summer of 1846 that promoted the movement to abolish slavery. “They started a church here, it was out of Cincinnati, that had a reputation for being built to abolish slavery,” said Bill Menish, an auctioneer and advisor with Sperry Van Ness Ward Commercial Group, specializing in both commercial and residential real estate auctions. “So they started the movement of anti-slavery in Louisville, yet they had slaves.”

The evidence of slavery in Louisville is not all the history that lies within the confines of the Howard-Hardy House. Following the Hardys’ ownership, and later Patrick Joyes’ beginning in 1866, the Miller family took up residence in 1904, extending their hospitality to students at the University of Louisville.

“When the Millers bought it roughly the turn of the last century, they turned it into a boarding house and put up students who were UofL medical students

here, and they would serve their dinners family-style,” said Menish. “Everybody raved about it and then eventually (the Millers) decided to open up a cafeteria. They did some kind of extension out front and it became Miller’s Cafeteria.”

In 1937, the Millers also lent a hand to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who stopped by the house for sustenance and refuge while assisting Louisvillians during the 1937 flood.

In the late 1980s, the house again turned over ownership to a new individual, and in the early 2000s became property of Christ Church Cathedral. In 2006, it underwent major renovations and began leasing commercially.

Today, the Howard-Hardy House features a combination of old and new, with coal fireplaces, a geothermal heating and cooling system, sprinkler and Siamese fire equipment connection. “It’s funny how it’s history but it has a lot of new, modern touches,” Menish said. The house also includes a brick cellar enclosing a small, former jail cell.

Certain places within the home reveal the true character of the house dating back to the 1830s. A spot on the wall in two different rooms exposes the original 1830s wallpaper with hues of copper and a faint green pattern. A New Orleans-style deck can be seen outside the second floor of the estate, as well. And, just a week ago, Menish discovered, stowed away in the attic, antique dishes and bourbon bottles likely used by the Millers while they ran their cafeteria. “There’s just so many cool things about it,” Menish said of the house, which could be used for just about any purpose, whether residential or commercial.

Menish, with Sperry Van Ness Ward Commercial Group, will host a lender approved absolute auction of the Howard-Hardy House and the adjacent Cathedral Commons first floor commercial condo at 12:30 p.m., Thursday, May 23. “The way we work with an auction, everything that’s in the house on auction day goes. And a client knows that,” Menish said. “It’s an absolute auction, so starting at zero and it literally ends with the highest bid no matter what it is.” By mid-afternoon that new owner will be named, and take reign of the long-standing edifice, where he or she will begin a new chapter to a story that’s been written over the last 150 years.

The Howard-Hardy House is located at 429 S. Second St. For more information on the Howard-Hardy House and the auction, visit, e-mail or call 502.814.5174.

Contact writer Ashley Anderson at, 502.498.2051.

Photos by CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune