The Playhouse – then
It looks familiar, and yet, not so much. The Playhouse has been through many changes in its 100-plus-year history. Here it sits near the current site of Ekstrom Library on UofL's Belknap Campus.
The main building, originally a chapel for the House of Refuge, dates to 1874. UofL added the covered walk in 1932 and called it Garth Walk after Mrs. Charles Garth, then-president of a local theater group. The walk didn’t make the building’s move to its current location on the triangular piece of land surrounded by Second and Third streets and Cardinal Boulevard.
A new covered area that fronts The Playhouse serves an educational purpose — to teach passersby and other people about important figures in Louisville’s civil rights movement. The panels tell about activists, educators and ground-breakers Anne Braden, Rufus Clement, Lucy Freibert, Lyman T. Johnson, Eleanor Young Love, Joseph McMillan Sr., Charles Parrish Jr., Woodford Porter Sr. and Wilson Wyatt Sr. UofL dedicated the land around The Playhouse as Freedom Park in 2003. On the opposite side sits a city-owned monument to fallen Confederate soldiers. The park is intended to “serve as a starting point for meaningful dialogue about our history, about the struggle for freedom and about our role in securing and ensuring freedom for generations to come,” said President James Ramsey at its dedication.
Development continues. Plans include eventual installation of a large sculpture to counterbalance the Confederate monument.
(Photo Credits - Top: Playhouse, University of Louisville, circa 1977. ULUA.001.0289. University of Louisville Archives and Records Center, Louisville, Ky. Formerly the House of Refuge Chapel, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. See larger image. Bottom: Photo by Tom Fougerousse, UofL communications and marketing. See larger image.)