“The biggest architectural change taking place is that of young couples moving out of old two-story houses inside the city, building one-floor houses on large suburban lots.” – Walter Creese, address to local American Institute of Architects chapter, 1953
In the mid-twentieth century, large cities across the United States experienced the decline of their old urban cores. The twin forces of suburban growth and advancements in transportation transformed city centers. In Louisville, this phenomenon was not immediately detrimental. Residential growth in the suburbs initially spread along trolley lines, which transported suburbanites back to the city’s shops and entertainment. Transit lines and exclusive amenities kept downtown integral to daily life.
As the twentieth century progressed, however, America developed a love affair with the automobile. Cars gave people greater mobility, accelerating suburban growth and encouraging commercial development on the outskirts of cities like Louisville. Office buildings, hotels, and businesses all rose in suburbia. Downtown movie palaces lost out to suburban cinemas. Suburban malls drew people away from downtown’s historic shopping districts. By the end of the 1950s, crowds had diminished, and downtown Louisville was in decline. Urban planners sought to reverse these changes and revitalize downtown—with major repercussions for the city center’s historic architecture.