Planting Roots In Shelby Park

The River City’s recent recognition as a top tourism destination may have confirmed its reputation as a great place to visit, but ask any fellow Louisvillian and he or she will likely assert that it’s an even better place to call home.

Residents of the friendly Shelby Park neighborhood will boast that their little slice of the ‘Ville is proof of this.

Established in 1847 and originally settled mainly by German immigrants, Shelby Park sits between the Old Louisville and Germantown neighborhoods, with a nearly 17-acre Olmsted firm design park as its main feature. Metro Parks and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy are currently in the third phase of a master plan to update the park, one of the first play parks laid out in quadrants for recreational purposes, around its original design.

“The neighborhood association is focused on both the park development and encouraging people to consider our shotgun housing stock as a viable option for downtown living,” shared Shelby Park Neighborhood Association President Charles Rogalinski. “We are branding ourselves as the next walking neighborhood as we have a supermarket, various churches, Billy Hertz’s art gallery and a small commercial district focused on trades.”

“Shelby Park is not for everyone, but we have affordable housing and the chance to create new homes,” he added. “I moved there three years ago and see so many opportunities for contemporary living within walking and biking distance.”

A mix of shotgun-style houses and larger turn-of-the-century homes dominate the area. Typical interiors offer classic features like hardwood floors, original wooden supports and numerous uniquely-shaped passages. A neighborhood association member and his wife, who both chose to remain anonymous, offered The Voice-Tribune a glimpse inside their not-so-typical shotgun style home, which reached its landmark 100th birthday this year.

“I definitely like the character of older homes,” the Shelby Park resident explained. “I enjoy the unique details and just how well the old homes are made.”

Favorite aspects of the house’s cozy interior include two windows retaining frames and glass original to the structure, and soft, blonde-colored pine flooring that has weathered a century of living by the many families who’ve called it home. The current homeowners are in the process of uncovering and re-staining wooden supports that frame the sitting room entrance, with the hopes of matching it to the glossy fireplace mantle.

“They did a terrible thing when they covered up the original wood,” asserted the lady of the house. “You can get back inside the closet where they didn’t paint, and you can see the original wood is just gorgeous.”

But while uncovering the home’s original elements is important to the couple, so is introducing aspects of modernity to make the place feel like their own. Bold red trim and corresponding accents keep the spacious dining room, a feature which distinguishes the house from a classic shotgun, feeling fresh and up to date. An heirloom cabinet in the corner helps to ground the room. In the living room, a comfy neutral-covered couch is accented by yellow pillows and creamy corresponding walls. A wooden coffee table will soon be painted a complementary color to keep the room from feeling too wood-heavy.

Upstairs, a brightly painted, newly-installed second bathroom ensures that the couple will never have to fight over a space to get ready in the mornings. “You think this is the act of a loving husband, but really it’s because he didn’t want my makeup all over his bathroom!” the young woman laughed. In addition to the bathroom, walk-through closet space was added to maximize space for the couple’s respective wardrobes, beyond which lies a guest room with a whimsical sloped ceiling, the ideal space for a children’s bedroom someday.

It’s not just their house, but the neighborhood as a whole that makes the couple want to stay in their Shelby Park home for the forseeable future. They make the most of the location by regularly enjoying casual dinners on the front porch, socializing with a mix of both longtime and new neighbors, and opening up their doors for church and community gatherings. “We’re kind of here to plant down roots and stay,” the young man confirmed. “We’ve got lots of friends who live in the neighborhood, and we enjoy the neighbors who were here, and others that have moved here since.” As far as children, his wife joked, “We’ll see how many we can pack in here!”