The oldest continually operating commercial airfield in America is in Louisville, Kentucky. Bowman Field opened in 1921 and is still a popular port for private planes. It also houses a fine-dining restaurant, Bistro Le Relais, where you can eat and watch the small planes come and go.
Eastern Cemetery, one of Louisville’s oldest, was abandoned after a scandal erupted in the 1980s. Today, it is cared for by the Friends of Eastern Cemetery, a volunteer group dedicated to its restoration.
The cemetery is a 30 acre tract adjacent to Louisville’s famous Cave Hill Cemetery (the final resting place of Colonel Sanders). Designed in the picturesque style, the cemetery is park-like — filled with trees and a rolling landscape. Burials on the site began as early as 1843, and possibly as early as 1835. It was the burial ground for Louisville’s high society, black and white. Nearly all of Louisville’s 19th century black leaders were buried here. Additionally, numerous fraternal societies have lots and clusters of lots. The Odd Fellows, the Masons, the United Brothers and Sisters of Friendship are just a few organizations that occupy lots in Eastern.
Records at Eastern Cemetery indicate that the reuse of graves began as early as 1858. It is estimated that 48,000 people are buried in just 16,000 graves. Comparison of maps for Eastern Cemetery (circa 1880, 1907, 1962 and 1984) indicates entire sections were renamed and reburied. In some cases, sections were renamed as many as three and four times (i.e., Old Slave Ground, became Cheap Willow, then became Public Section 2, then became Cave Hill Corner, and finally became Sections 11 & 14). When this information, as well as information regarding the mishandling of cremains (crematory ashes) came to light in the 1980s, the cemetery was abandoned. For two decades the property was neglected – it became a site for illegal dumping, parties, and vandalism. To this date, no one has been prosecuted for mishandling the cemetery’s burials or its neglect.
Currently, the Attorney General’s office is the manager of the trust for maintenance. The interest on the trust generates only nine thousand a year to maintain this cemetery and two others. The FOEC’s ultimate goal is to create a self-sustainable model for the continued upkeep of the historic property.
Recent calculations indicate that it takes about 65 years for an energy efficient new building to save the amount of energy lost in demolishing an existing structure.
Last fall in the lead up to Halloween, I wrote about the ever fascinating Waverly Hills Tuberculosis Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky – one of the most haunted sites in America. At the time, the old hospital’s future was in limbo.
An $18 million adaptive reuse development was planned to convert the the former sanitarium into a four star hotel, but the economic downturn put the plans on hold indefinitely. In the meantime, the old hospital was maintained by funds generated from paranormal tours. About 10,000 people visited the site each year between 2007 (when they began) and today. The $22 tour revenue was used to to improve the old hospital, including installing windows, doors and a new roof, as well as upgrading mechanical systems.
Late last week, reports out of Louisville revealed that new plans for Waverly Hills are taking shape. Owners Charlie and Tina Mattingly filed a zoning request to convert Waverly Hills into a 120-room hotel, office space, conference center, restaurant and liquor-bottling business! The Mattinglys also want to include a museum-style exhibit focusing on the old hospital.
But don’t make your reservations just yet! There are still a number of obstacles to clear. The Mattinglys currently have no other investors and need millions in tax breaks, grants and financial incentives to complete the project.
If you have a few million to spare and would like to be an investor in this project, get on the horn! If not, you can just cross your fingers like me, and hope that some day soon Waverly Hills will be the host to guests, conventions and hungry diners as well as the ghost for which it is so famous! (However, I might leave the over night stays to those braver than I!)
* All images via the University of Louisville Digital Collection unless otherwise noted.
Learn more about Waverly Hills, its facility, TB treatments, patients and haunting here!
The preservation movement is not the acting out of a desire to live in the past; rather, it is an attempt to fashion our world, at least in part, from the world that was fashioned for us. A society needs that continuous harmony in order to see itself as an extension of – and improvement upon – that which came before. ‘Preservation, is thoughtful evolution.’
-Ann Hassett, first director of Louisville’s Historic Landmarks and Preservation District Commission