Development pace quickened rapidly after the Civil War as Louisville grew as a manufacturing center, the next twenty years brought substantial two and three-story stone and brick houses between Broadway and Ormsby Avenue.
In 1868, the city boundaries expanded outward again to include rural land that is now University of Louisville campus. But the Southern Exposition (1883-1887) located on a 45-acre site that today is Central Park and St. James Court inspired the real growth in the area. One million people visited the industrial and mercantile show that featured Thomas Edison’s light bulb, and brought the city international attention.
The following two decades the area became the fashionable place to live, mainly along Third and Fourth Streets, between Ormsby and Lee Streets. Revival architectural styles popular during England’s Victorian era were built as other subdivisions were added to the area.
The decline of the popularity of Old Louisville had begun by the beginning of World War I as families became enamored with the suburbs developing east and west of the city. The newer electric streetcar, followed by automobiles, made these newer suburbs accessible. Improved electric, plumbing, and heating technologies made the newer homes more attractive.
As families moved out, businesses moved in and from the 1920s through the 1950s, commercial development pressure dramatically altered the character of Old Louisville. Automobile dealerships took most of the homes from Broadway to Oak St. Other businesses also destroyed homes to make room for growing parking needs. Between 1950 and 1970, the neighborhood had the biggest lost of homeowners to the expanding suburbs.
Deeply troubled by the changes that had swept through the neighborhood, residents took action. In 1961, Restoration, Inc. was created to buy and renovate historic homes in Old Louisville, started with eleven homes on Belgravia Court, they inspired others to do the same.
By 1968, homeowners, tenants, and community leaders worked together as activists to get the area rezoned, prohibiting commercial use in residential neighborhoods, and to renovate houses. To support the efforts, the city gave Old Louisville official status and protection by designating it as a Preservation District in 1974.
Quality of life in Old Louisville is maintained through the efforts of many organizations including the Old Louisville Neighborhood Council, Property Improvement Committee, and more than a dozen different neighborhood associations, all of which are active in the Neighborhood Council.