An Archipelago of West Berlins

4 thoughts on “An Archipelago of West Berlins”

    1. Louisville has amazing neighborhoods, that never really declined, just sort of wobble on a continuum, between stagnation and growth.

      Old Louisville is stunning, the pictures of St James Court are taken here. It’s but a blip. These houses got too big as family sizes declined, and many were converted to apartments. It saved the neighborhood. No longer uniformally wealthy, it is now populated with people from all over the spectrum (income, age, race, education, voting record), a little quiet, but still very much alive and there’s no reason to assume this will change.

      The Highlands is more than cheap housing. Some of it is quite expensive. It’s really is an archtetype for a neighbourhood that mixes styles in a way Andres Duany would approve of; mix back-to-back, but not side-by-side. Walk up South-North, it goes from capital G grand on Hepburn, to buttoned-up stern on Highland, to OMG-these-shotguns-are-so-cute on Christy: a 10 minute walk and a master class in urban planning from a bunch of cut-throat developers in the late 1800s who probably would have no idea why we are patting them on the shoulder 150 years later. More recent, but similar divisions stretch out south for miles and miles.

      Adjacent is the Cherokee Triangle, which is the nicest (and nimbyist) part of the city. It is like living in a post card. Seriously, it is ridiculously attractive, and right next to a great park. Residents here are very combative in keeping this place just the way it is. They seem to win most battles.

      Germantown is much more modest, but has perfectly sized houses for young families and seniors, which is incidentally the two groups that live there, and what makes it so desirable. While not all picture perfect, there’s no blight or vacancies here. Real blight is found at the `other side of the tracks`, which would be a funny and flippant thing to say, if it weren’t also real.

      These were all inner-ring suburbs, and many are kept alive by a cottage industry of handymen, amateurs, preservationists, young people starting, and flippers, so many flippers. Some of them are kept alive by copious amounts of money. All of them are remarkably intact. None of these have ever seen “gentrification”, since none of them were ever really dead. They just experience the natural ebb and flow as generations wax and wane. People have deep roots in these places.

      Nulu is weird. It’s basically downtown’s food court. Have you seen last week’s South Park’s Sopasosa episode? That’s what it’s like, the vibe. But it didn’t displace anybody since nobody lived there to begin with. Honestly, I have no idea who lives there now. Neckbeard maybe?

      Downtown Louisville is complete crap. Its name in brochures is CBD – central business district, which tells you all you need to know about it. There are remnants of the antebellum architecture here and there, and it absolutely breaks your heart when you contemplate the atrocities that were inflicted on downtown in the 60s and 70s. Nobody died, but if you’d tell somebody they bombed it, you’d believe it. The place is so ghastly that everything but office work displaced itself to the surrounding neighbourhoods and beyond. It’s only now, bit-by-bit that this hellhole is healing. It will take generations. Two redeeming qualities in downtown: Main St is very good looking and even bustling, and fourth st is completely acceptable as a place for conventioneers to shuffle from exhibit hall to exhibit hall. No, three! The Belle of Louisville whistles her warbly tune a few times a day. You can hear it over the highway traffic if the wind is in the right direction. Charming! Yes, you read that right, highway traffic, right through the middle of downtown. Djeezus christ, people were so stupid here 40 years ago.

      Suburban Louisville is complete crap. Funnily enough, all the growth in the region is here. No kidding, people and businesses flock to it. So maybe they know something I don’t.

      Come visit!

      1. Thanks very much for the exhaustive description. I enjoyed looking at the neighborhoods you mentioned on google maps. You’re right, some really attractive places not too far from downtown, infinitely superior to the bland suburbs. I’m from Indiana and we visited Louisville for a school trip, but that was basically just a bit downtown. Wish we had gone further.

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