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Posts Tagged ‘Shippingport’

At its height, Shippingport Island had a population of 600. (this was back when Louisville was a small town) After the 1937 flood, all the businesses left, but people lived on the island until 1958 when the federal government evicted them. Nothing is left except forest. The homes along the canal disappeared during a 1920’s widening of the Portland Canal.

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Until the 1937 flood, Shippingport was home to many businesses: Tarascon Mill (at different times, flour and cement) and the McHarry Hotel being the most famous. Before the canal was built, boats going downriver unloaded in Louisville and their load was taken by horse and wagon to Shippingport to be loaded onto boats bound for the Mississippi.

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In 1829, Elm Tree Gardens Racetrack was built on Shippingport Island. A gondola service ferried customers to the island. It also featured the Napoleon Distillery (Churchill Downs, are you listening?). Elm Tree Gardens was also the site of Louisville’s first amusement park; mazes, puzzle gardens, and a long rope walk. It closed in 1873 due to floods and changing times.

Alas, no photos remain of these early years. The 1850s 18th street Bridge is still being used. It was once called the Elm Tree Gardens Bridge. In the bridge photo, Elm Tree Gardens would have been on the far side from the viewer, right side of the canal.

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Deserted isle

Shippingport Island is beside the Falls of the Ohio, now part of Louisville. In 1785, it was named Campbell Town. After 1803, French settlers named it Shippingport. A thriving community had a cement mill, distillery, and a racetrack. Construction of the 1825 Louisville and Portland Canal turned Shippingport into an island. The 1937 flood drove most of the town out, the last of residents being evicted in 1958. To my knowledge, it has turned to forest again.

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