Historic Structures

James Russell Lowell Elementary School, Louisville Kentucky

Date added: August 13, 2021 Categories: Kentucky School

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the suburbanization of Louisville focused on the southern section of the city, radiating from the principal new transportation belt, the Southern Parkway. As town expanded southward, suburban neighborhoods such as South Louisville and Oakdale, where historic Churchill Downs Racetrack is located, were incorporated into the city limits.

The town of Highland Park began to develop about the turn-of-the-century, a predominantly working class neighborhood with small-scaled, frame, vernacular residences for working class families. The first school in Highland Park School was "District School 45". It was built about 1898 at the intersection of Louisville Avenue and Almond Avenue. The three-story, brick masonry school, with cut limestone basement, contained six classrooms and two cloakrooms on the first and second floors and two rooms used as an auditorium on the third floor.

Overcrowding of the existing Highland Park School (No. 45) and Oakdale School (both part of the Highland Park Graded Common School system) prompted the School Board to hire Louisville architect, Henry F. Hawes to design a new school to be located on Ashbottom Road (now Crittenden Drive) in 1915. Request for bid proposals to construct the school as per Hawes' plans were advertised in May of 1915, the school was built during the summer, and occupied in the fall.

Despite the building of the new school, ever growing numbers of students attending Highland Park schools caused the Highland Park Graded Common School District to contract with the Board of Education of Louisville for third (3rd) and fourth (4th) year high school pupils (juniors and seniors) to attend Louisville girls and boys academic or manual high schools beginning in 1916.

Highland Park was annexed into the Louisville city limits in 1922 and Highland Park schools became part of the Louisville City School District. For reasons not documented, the Parent-Teacher Association of the East Highland Park School petitioned the Louisville Board of Education to change the school name to James Russell Lowell. The Board granted the request and, since December 1, 1925, the school was known by that name.

In 1932, the construction of a new building on the James Russell Lowell School grounds designed by engineer/architect J. Meyrick Colley, oriented the new front north, to Phillips Lane. The construction of the four lane, limited access Watterson Expressway in the late 1950s placed an on-ramp immediately north and parallel to Phillips Lane. This road construction significantly affected the residential character of the neighborhood and changed dramatically the school's physical setting. The Watterson right-of-way crossed and terminated Phillips Lane at the east end of the school grounds.

With the growing industrialization of the neighborhood and the expansion of the airport and associated facilities, the character of Highland Park underwent continuous transformation. Yet, until it closed in 1991, Lowell School served as both the educational facility for children of the Highland Park area and a strong nucleus for the neighborhood. The Lowell Elementary School PTA was recognized as one of the most active associations in the city. When the school system established junior high schools, Lowell Elementary became a feeder school to Southern and Henry B. Manly Junior High Schools.

Lowell Elementary closed following the 1991 school year. Outmigration of elementary aged school children from the area supported the Jefferson County Public School System decision to close the facility. However, the Louisville-Jefferson County Regional Airport expansion project prompted the final plan to demolish the buildings.