As this is my first history-related entry, I figure I’ll start off with a location that has turned out to be well-discussed if not fairly well-explored: the home allegedly belonging to Dr. John Howell Hicks at 8601 Dixie Highway, Louisville, KY. Having recently returned from this adventure and full of questions, my search took me into the vast world of the internet wherein I discovered a great deal of speculation and conjecture, but not much in the way of proof that this home’s earliest purported owner was that of Dr. Hicks, a physician who moved to Louisville sometime in the 1940’s.
There are reports that Dr. Hicks both treated his patients and lived with his family in this house, which used to be an expansive farm with multiple homes once owned by Dr. Hicks and his kin. The farm extended across the Dixie Highway to where a strip mall now occupies what was believed to be Hicks family land and homesteads. Sadly, many of the other homes were demolished years ago (as late as the 1970’s) as time claimed their beauty and safety all in one hard blow.
Further reports from later dates in history indicate that this home was used as a stopping point for soldiers bound for home during WWII, a train depot, that it was once occupied by a British man and his three disabled children until one passed away, and, of course, most recently (as recent as the early 2000’s, to be exact), an apartment complex. Those who say that Dr. Hicks didn’t in fact build the home would lead one to believe that this home was once a farm that produced cattle and hay. It is also implied that it was used as a motel on the Dixie Highway during the 20’s and 30’s, even offering a laundry service to weary travelers whose only way to get from north to south in those days would’ve been by the two-lane 31W beyond the house’s front gates.
Further compounding the intrigue factor here is that a road that leads behind the house and up a hill will take you to yet another abandoned home–this one much newer–that was reportedly built by the son of Dr. Hicks. There are several abandoned cars and a piece of heavy equipment with ’06 Kentucky registration that sits in the vicinity of this second home. An RV was also spotted on this land, so needless to say, I ventured back down to the main house and focused my investigation there. While this post will focus on the exploration of the house at 8601, I will soon post another update regarding the Hicks family based on my findings on ancestry.com. Then and only then will I say with any certainty the history of the home and whom its owners/inhabitants may have been. The big white mansion off Dixie Highway near I-265 in Louisville, KY has long caught my attention. I first noticed it last year while making my way for 264. In the harsh exposure of fall, this house seems to spring out of the woods, beckoning the innocent passer-by to come in for a bit of exploration. So with little prodding, that’s exactly what I did.
Interesting, yes? Rest assured, it hardly ends here. After crossing the railroad tracks, I ventured up closer, eager for a closer look at this shy creature.
This is the view of the house from the south side. The addition on the back appears to be an old garage that was converted to apartments by my best guess. Wandering up some old steps and around to the back, I quickly found what appears to be a cinderblock addition to the back of the home on the second floor. The addition appeared to be a set of apartments, which ran three rooms deep from the back of the home to the front.
With doors standing wide open, this of course begged a thorough look-see.
This is a look at Apartment 3 from the back door of the apartment toward the front of the house. The back room (closest to you in the photo and painted in blue), which does not appear to be original to the house as it was constructed of cinder block vs. brick, served as a kitchen with a bathroom off to the left. The center and front rooms appeared to be living room and dining room areas and part of the original house.
Walking directly through the three rooms to the front of the house, I took a left turn through another front room and a short hallway and found myself standing to the right of the door pictured above. The door to the balcony, unlike the front door downstairs, stands wide open to the world outside.
This photo is from the balcony door, facing the Dixie Highway.
Walking past the balcony door (continuing south in the house or to one’s left), there stands a final large front room. A fireplace and the trim around the ceiling are still very visible.
Having located the attic steps, I explored the attic with the camera, noting a great deal of debris, discarded glass bottles, shoes of all sorts, and chairs.
Back downstairs, we check out the upstairs room in the cinderblock side addition.
Heading downstairs, I check out the downstairs first floor of the cinderblock side addition.
We head in an open side entrance, taking a hallway through the house and into the front rooms.
As both doors to the right were closed and the windows on the right of the house securely boarded, I did not disturb them.
This is a view through the north side of the house (1-story only) from the room immediately to the left as you enter the home, which had clearly been lived in for some time by vagrants. As this home was reportedly a physician’s home and office, this area may have been dedicated to seeing patients and tending the ill as it appears too small to have been apartment dwellings.
This is a view from the side of the home from the north, facing directly south. If this forgotten beauty is in fact a product of the 1920’s, she’s a rarity for her era. The interior appears to have been built with apartments in mind as doors adjoin every room, though the external structure would contradict that assumption and even a cursory glance will confirm that this brick-laid mystery will forever harbor more secrets than what can be found in the historic records.
Be sure to check out my subsequent posts on the Hicks family: