History of the Olmsted Parkways

 

Olmsted’s plans for ideal parkways called for land acquisition 250 feet wide.  In all his vast works, he rarely achieved this full build-out. Louisville was no exception, but there is much more land to the parkways than most know. Southern Parkway (on land purchased and laid out in the early 1890s as Grand Boulevard) is not just the asphalt between the curbs, but actually is 150 feet wide! This encompasses the service/frontage roads to either side of the central four driving lanes, plus the row of trees immediately beyond each of the service drives. The original design had three parallel rows of trees to either side of the central carriageway, and included a bridle path (sometimes called the “speedway”) on one side between trees and pedestrian walkways on each side outside the third row of trees.

Similarly, Eastern Parkway is 120 feet wide along most of its length, with the exception being the “median block” between Baxter Avenue and Barret Avenue which is only 100-105 feet wide.  Algonquin Parkway and Southwestern Parkway out to Shawnee Park are uniformly 120 feet wide. Southwestern Parkway’s width reduces as it wraps around the east side of Shawnee Park, because the adjoining parkland is already green recreational space and there are only two paved driving lanes.  As Southwestern Parkway turns north along the sports fields (former site of Fontaine Ferry Park), it regains the sense of a parkway with the double row of trees on both sides but only two driving lanes instead of four. Incredibly, its width varies from 100 feet at its narrowest around 39th Street to 130 feet at its widest around 42nd Street.

 

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