Second Street Neighborhood Association

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Second Street Neighborhood Association



Radiant in the beauty of blossoming pear trees in early spring, historic Second Street beckons residents and visitors to explore its charm. Gracious, yet unpretentious, Victorian, Richardsonian and Italianate homes hint at the fashionable and elegant living of another era.

Centrally located in the heart of Old Louisville, Second Street homes have become one of the focal points of an impressive renovation and restoration effort. Bounded by Broadway on the north and Cardinal Blvd. on the south, it is difficult to imagine the once blighted condition suffered by so many of these splendid homes. Historically, many of the stately mansions and villas in the Old Louisville area were constructed during the phenomenal growth period of the 1890's. Spurred by the Great Southern Exposition of 1883, the area attracted some of the wealthiest and most notable citizenry to its environs. This was an era of leisure, wealth, and conspicuous display. Opulent decorations, meticulous craftsmanship, and lavish furnishings were meant to dazzle both visitor and passerby alike.

Today they still do.”

The Association Beginnings

The SSNA was brought to life in 1973 under the auspices of the Neighborhood Development Corp. with guidance from Mae Salyers, NDC Director, and long-term resident of Saint James Court. In September 1976, the Association was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)4 institution. Soon after its formation, the SSNA found itself embroiled in a major fight when the city announced that Second Street would be widened during the construction of Noe Middle School. Under the city’s plan, all trees and planting strips would be removed. The SSNA organized demonstrations and a letter writing campaign that eventually forced the city to back down, leaving the trees and grassy strips that neighbors enjoy today. Another early issue facing the SSNA was the infamous Rathskellar at Second and Magnolia. Known as “a hangout for hoodlums and undesirables” the Rathskellar was eventually closed and replaced with Scheler’s Food Mart. SSNA members assisted with the market design so it would blend in with the historic character of the neighborhood.

The Association continued to fight for improvements during the ‘80s. Working closely with the city, Second Street took pride in the installation of new sidewalks and trees. The Association insisted that sidewalks be replaced with the more expensive aggregate concrete instead of the usual poured cement and that original brick sidewalks be saved wherever possible.

Another major concern of the neighborhood in the early years was a blighted area just south of Magnolia Avenue that contained several dilapidated and vacant storefronts. The SSNA asked that the vacant land be turned into park, but the city had no money for a new park. Not taking “No” for an answer the SSNA recruited the Junior Chamber of Commerce and Community Development Cabinet to provide funding and backing for a new park. The result was “Magnolia Park,” which was dedicated in April 1981 “to the children of Old Louisville.” The park became a source of pride for the Association and showed neighbors how hard work and persistence pays off. However, there was one more problem. The city agreed to build the park, but there was no money for routine maintenance. The SSNA overcame this final hurdle by signing an agreement with the city that Association members would maintain Magnolia Park with plantings, weeding, cleaning, mowing, watering, etc. For ten years, neighbors took weekly turns mowing and working in the park. Probably for this reason, the Magnolia Park gazebo came to symbolize the can-do spirit of the Association and is used even today in the official logo of the SSNA.

The Association Today

A long-time dream of SSNA members, like many other neighborhood groups, was the installation of Victorian period lighting. For 25 years, Association members volunteered and toiled at various fundraisers, including chili suppers, selling sweatshirts, parking cars, holding plant sells, hosting garden tours, etc. Often earning a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a year, the money was saved for the day when the project could become a reality. Originally, leasing lights from LG&E was considered, but it was obvious that the Association’s income could not long support a leasing plan. Then the Third Street Association established another model by purchasing and installing their own lights. Using this model and a matching grant through Alderman Greg Handy, the Association purchased and installed Victorian-era sidewalk lighting along the 1200, 1300, and 1400 blocks of Second Street. The project was finished in 2000 and is now a beautiful reality. The SSNA continues to pay for their maintenance and electric use.

Like other neighborhood association in Old Louisville, the SSNA has its own character and unique activities that define the organization. Many members maintain their membership even after moving away. For this reason, SSNA claims members not only in Goshen, Fairdale, and Prospect but also as far away as Indiana, Georgia, Florida, West Virginia, and Iowa. One of the reasons that the SSNA continually attracts new members is the distribution of a monthly newsletter. The SSNA publishes and distributes over 350 newsletters nine times a year for residents in the Second Street neighborhood. Only the Council has a larger newsletter distribution.

For over 30 years, the Association has sponsored a neighborhood picnic in June to honor Police Officers of the 4th Division and local Firefighters. This event typically draws well over a hundred neighbors and has been highlighted in the Courier Journal. Each year an Officer of the 4th Division is selected for special recognition, as “Officer of Year.”

The Association sponsors at least two annual street cleanups in the spring and fall. The Association takes this opportunity to trim tree limbs, maintain Magnolia Park, and pick up litter around the neighborhood. The SSNA has twice won the city’s Brightside Clean Block Contest for its efforts. The $1000 monetary awards have been reinvested into the neighborhood by purchasing several benches and urns that can now be found along First and Second Streets.

Other activities sponsored by the SSNA include the placement of hundreds of American flags throughout the neighborhood to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday. Second Streeters are a very sociable group. After every general meeting, members gather for a pitch-in potluck dinner at someone’s house. In October, the SSNA hosts its annual Halloween Party, where neighbors and children try to outdo themselves with costumes and unusual food dishes. The annual Holiday Party in December is always well attended by both neighbors and guests. Adults are attracted to the traditional eggnog while the kids eagerly await Santa’s arrival and a bag full of presents.

To support these activities the Association must sponsor several fundraisers each year. The springtime Bedding Plant Sale is held every April, just before the Derby. Although the sale raises a few dollars, this activity is primarily a beautification project and a convenience for neighbors to buy high quality nursery plants delivered right to our neighborhood for easy pickup. The Association typically purchases, sorts, and distributes 10,000 to 15,000 plants a year with this project. Our most important fundraisers are the Hidden Treasures Garden Tour and St. James Art Show projects. The Garden Tour began in 1994 and typically attracts 700-1000 visitors each year to Old Louisville.

The Saint James Art Show has also provided fundraising opportunities. In 1982 the Association set up a both at the Art Show and sold souvenir t-shirts and sweatshirts designed by Association artist. This continued until 1995, when the Association started parking cars at the Filson Historical Society lot on Third Street. This project ended in 2004, however, a second project was started in 1998 when we tried our hand at setting up a food booth in the 1300 Block of Third Street and sold fried potatoes. This project worked well until a grease fire threatened to burn down the Art Show. That project was also labor intensive and ended in 2001. In 2002, a new addition to the parking project was started. Because of the shortage of parking in the Art Show area, a radical idea was proposed that the Association provide a shuttle service from the parking lot of the Jefferson County Community College at 2nd and Broadway to the Art Show. Although a risky venture, the shuttle parking has grown nearly every year and now a major fundraiser for the Association even today.

Monies raised from these projects continue to fund civic improvements such as twenty new litter containers, benches and planter urns by most bus stops, and of course the Victorian lighting project, which we hope to expand in future years. There have been many other smaller projects to improve the neighborhood and we look forward to making Second Street the most attractive and best preserved area of Old Louisville.


Old Louisville Holiday House Tour
SSNA Old Louisville Hidden Treasures Garden Tour
The Conrad Caldwell House Museum
Kentucky Shakespeare Festival
Visit Historic Old Louisville
Old Louisville Guide & Information
Saint James Court Art Show
Old Louisville Gifts & Apparel
Old Louisville Historic Preservation District
Photograph of Second Street in the Spring

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