Around 1876, Joseph S. Cotter, Sr. was the first "colored" resident in the settlement first called Homestead, a rural community founded in 1871 outside the Louisville city limits. Points of reference in the area included Cane Run Road, Greenwood Cemetary, 36th Street and Virginia Avenue. William McGowan, a Negro, was one of the keepers of the first home in the settlement, Davidson Place. William and his family moved into a nearby farm house during the 1880's. As more people migrated to the area, the black residents began to refer to their community as Needmore; however, as people 'up in town' began to refer to the area as Little Africa, that name became generally associated with the area's African American population while Parkland became generally associated with the white population. Over time, the area was also referred to as Sticks.
In the 1880's, development began to flourish and by 1916, there were 700 "colored" homes, six churches, seven groceries, one drug store, one county school, and other local professionals and craftsmen. Over this period, a very large proportion of the tin houses and old shacks were torn down and in their place modern attractive homes built. The Parkland Improvement Club was responsible for the organized efforts of Little Africa's residents to lay cinder block walks, put up mailboxes and improve city streets. Many accolades were received from prominent citizens of the era as to the noticeable achievements of Little Africa during its first twenty-five years.
Late on the eve of March 27, 1890, a devastating tornado hit Parkland, destroying nearly all homes and businesses. By 1900, however, the residents had completely rebuilt the city which continued to grow through the 1950's, with gas stations, theaters, bakeries, hardware stores, a bank, and a record store.
In 1952, the area was known as Southwick, the south-central portion of Park DuValle. At that time, the Housing Authority of Louisville spent $7million on the Cotter Homes housing project. In 1958, the Lang Homes housing project for larger families was completed at a cost of $8million. Additional investments totaling millions of dollars were allocated to building and school improvements over the next two decades, but the area deteriorated due to overcrowding, poverty, lack of services. Many businesses left the area in the late 1960's amidst civil strife and vandalism. Dr. Martin Luther King had been assassinated and race riots were rampant.
In 1994, Andrea Duncan, Executive Director of the Housing Authority, began work on a federal land grant of up to $50million that would allow the demolition of the Cotter and Lang buildings covering a 34-acre tract. Funding was sought from the federal HOPE 6 program.
Joseph S. Cotter, Sr., a Principal of the S. Coleridge-Taylor School, was an author, poet and family man. Born of indigent parents, he left school after reaching the third reader class in Nelson County to work at hard, manual labor. Years later, hard study and night schools afforded him the opportunity to secure his place as a scholar.
Miss Lucy DuValle was paid the highest salary, $1,250 per annum, of any local black citizen in 1890 as principal of the California Colored School. Concerned about the welfare of the "colored" children of the area, she attended a meeting of the Kentucky Humane Society held May 22, 1896 to report that children, male and female alike, between the ages of six and twelve were not being properly cared for. She feared their surroundings were such that they would be lead astray, ruin their lives, and possibly become criminals.
Parkland, as a whole, continued to grow through the 1950's.
This large-scale housing redevelopment has offered the opportunity to transform two distressed housing projects in a once neglected segment of Louisville, Kentucky into the city's premier mixed income neighborhood.
In 1996, the Housing Authority of Louisville (HAL) selected The Community Builders (TCB) through a national search process to act as development partner for the Park DuValle HOPE VI project. TCB worked with HAL, the City of Louisville, and neighborhood residents to design a plan for the new neighborhood in accordance with the principles of New Urbanism, the restoration of communities or neighborhoods based upon traditional development patterns used prior to World War II. New Urban communities provide pedestrian-friendly streets, a diverse mix shopping,educational and housing types for people of all economic sectors.
In the Park DuValle HOPE VI plan, two public housing projects built in the 1950's and a rundown market rate family apartment complex were replaced with townhouses, single and multi-family homes reflecting the architectural typology and details found throughout Louisville's older neighborhoods.
The new Park DuValle, covering 125 acres, links 650 rental residents and 450 homeowners with civic, recreational, and retail facilities. More than $200 million has been invested in this rebuilding effort with one-half the cost funded through private debt and equity.
HAL and TCB held a ground breaking ceremony for Phase II of this initiative in October 1998 and welcomed the first residents as they moved into the Villages of Park DuValle in July 1999. TCB also developed Phases III and IV of the project.
Representatives from a mixture of economically and racially-diverse populations, including single residents, families, elderly and disabled citizens are coming together to plan and improve business-related opportunities, schools, and other amenities. Neighborhood organizations have sprung up to address community issues such as child care, health care, job training, adult education, computer literacy, transportation, recreation, safety and security.
The Park DuValle community-building effort and is helping to create a strong neighborhood with a positive identity, excellent services and amenities, and a high level of resident participation in the planning and governing of the neighborhood.