Remembering the Louisville Gardens venue

It’s come a long way since 1905.

A large, old school building with the words "THE GARDENS" emblazoned on the front stand before a sidewalk in downtown Louisville. The "ar" in "Gardens" is missing, but the imprint of the letters is still there. The Beaux Arts-style building features columns and is three stories tall.

Louisville Gardens closed in 2008. | Photo by LOUtoday

Photo by LOUtoday

From an armory to a 6,000-seat arena, the former Louisville Gardens venue at 525 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd. has had a more interesting life than most — and the city welcomes viable proposals to return the space to its previous concert-hall glory.

Originally built as the Jefferson County Armory in 1905, the Beaux Arts-style building was a drill hall and ammunition repository for the local militia + a community events space. Its amenities included a swimming pool, offices, and a rifle range in the basement.

Designed by Brinton B. Davis, the structure cost $450,000 to buildwhich would be $15 million to construct today. Louisville Metro Government estimates it would cost about $40 million to renovate the building now.

By 1923, the Gardens’ prominence as a community space eclipsed its military uses and by 1963 it was renovated for arena seating + air conditioning. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Although it closed in 2008 and has been used for storage ever since, the venue hosted events and speakers including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1960. According to Louisville Metro, its final concert was a My Morning Jacket show in 2006.

In recent years, developers have proposed turning the space into a new arts and culture district named after Muhammad Ali + converting the arena into a hockey rink.

What would you like to see happen with the Louisville Gardens? Tell us here.

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