Bringing Back Portland

Portland Louisville History Museum

When the average Louisville resident thinks of the Portland neighborhood they imagine rundown houses, drug addicts, and empty streets. Portland residents on the other hand see a neighborhood rich with history that has been built by a diverse working class.

The area, originally settled over 200 years ago, thrived as a river port until 1937 when a flood devastated the area. Much of the neighborhood was submerged for nearly a month and by the time the city provided relief to Portland many industries had already left, taking their owners and workers with them.

Portland Louisville Abandoned Store

For over 70 years the neighborhood has seen a steady decline as residents have moved out, houses have become abandoned, and businesses have shutdown. But in the past few years there has been a revived interest in the Portland neighborhood.

Many Louisville businesses such as Please & Thank You and Hillbilly Tea have or are considering opening new locations in the neighborhood. The Tim Faulkner Gallery led the way, being one of the first Louisville companies to make the move to Portland. McQuixote Book & Coffee followed in toe, abiding inside the Faulkner Gallery with the hopes creating a “haven for the community to display their art, speak their minds, and express themselves.”

Tim Faulkner Gallery
McQuixote Coffee and Bookstore

Non-profits are also showing interest in the neighborhood, but their missions stretch further than simply trying to aid.

Organizations like Louisville Grows and Seed Capital Louisville are trying to do more than just provide food within the impoverished community. Louisville Grows’s Shippingport Memorial community garden, located on the Compassion Building property, strives to empower the Portland community by teaching residents how to cultivate their own fruits and vegetables.

Seed Capital also has a food centered mission. The organization is planning to develop a 24-acre food enterprise center called FoodPort. FoodPort will be a campus for local farmers, businesses, educators, and community members to invest in local food, sustainability, and education.
Portland Louisville Garden

Another Portland non-profit will be opening in November, and it’s sure to draw a crowd. The Table Cafe will be a “pay-what-you-can” lunch spot that hopes to cater to locals and non-Portland residence alike. The cafe, which will run like any other restaurant, will offer diners different payment options. People will be able to pay the suggested price for their meal, pay extra to pay-it-forward to someone who can’t afford a meal, or donate their time to pay for their meal or someone else’s. The founders hope to create a space where people in need as well as the average Louisville residents can come get a meal and build relationships.

The Table Cafe Portland Louisville
The Table Portland Louisville

Judson Kovasckitz is a transplant to the Portland neighborhood. He moved to the neighborhood as part of a non-profit effort and has since invested in a dilapidated shotgun house that he is renovating.

“Portland is definitely poor and there are a lot of people who are addicted to substances, but I think that a common misconception is that poverty equals danger. I think the coolest part of living in the ‘hood’ is getting to meet really good families and see the heart of the community.”

Portland Louisville

For Judson the move to Portland has been an opportunity to interfuse into the community and rebuild the neglected neighborhood. But in revitalizing the neighborhood there is also the urgency to preserve Portland’s history.

Generations of residence have called Portland home and their history and importance cannot be over looked. According to Judson, “for a true ‘Portland experience’ grab a pie at Annie’s Pizza.” It’s businesses like Annie’s, Shaheen’s, and Jane Bros that represent the heart of Portland. To keep Portland true to its history, revitalization must support these elements of the neighborhood. The goal should not be to push long-time residents out but to invite people in who are willing to acculturate in order to enliven the community as a whole.

Portland Louisville
Portland Louisville

If you’re interested in learning more about Portland’s history, be sure to check out the Portland History Museum!

6 comments on “Bringing Back Portland”

  1. Stephen Pate says:

    Remove the photo of my building.
    It is the one with the ducks on the gate that you use as bad example.
    First photo after PORTLAND museum.
    I’m in the process of a massive restoration on it, saving it, with my own hands and cash. Ned I’ve been at it a while.
    I’m doing more than most, just at a slower pace. Massive undertaking. The building wasn’t “worth” saving, but I’ll be living and working there. I’m sick of people using an in progress construction site… (That’s getting more attention and resources poured into it than any of the other things you mention), being used as a bad example.
    Maybe try talking to someone before you do something like this in the future.

    Stephen Pate

    1. Stephen, I apologize for offending you. Let me reassure you that I did not intend for this photo be a representation of the neglect in Portland but rather an example of the unique character of Portland that often gets overlooked. Many times people find it hard to get past the grass growing up between the cracks in the sidewalk and they fail to see the charm and beauty around them. Your building is a wonderful example of the charm in Portland and I am happy to hear that you are diligently working to restore it, Portland needs more residents like you to reach its full potential.

  2. this is wonderful! I see Portland as a blank slate where new people are bringing new energy and a deep respect for the history and the people there.

  3. Colleen Crum says:

    Love this article. I am interested in reaching out to West Louisville to try to find out what residents and businesses want from a sustainably developed community. My 3 generation family business Delmar and Fallon Moving was originally at 15th and Portland Avenue across from Ball Moving and has since been on 22/23rd and Main Street. Growing up in Shively and working on the West side of the 9th street ‘fence’ I know a little bit about the community but want to learn more. One thing I know for sure, is that if residents and church leaders aren’t behind the change, it won’t work in West Louisville.

    The Louisville Sustainability Council is having a summit on Nov 6th at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage and we want to use it as a start of a serious connectivity project. I have support from city leaders to start this community outreach and they are ready to listen!

    Please connect me to any groups that our action team, the Green Economy Action Team, can learn from because we want to hear what the community wants from any development and connect them to people who are ready to engage and make it happen.

    I can be reached at:, 502-744-9198. Our action team just created the Solar Over Louisville campaign that has gotten a resolution sponsored by 12 council members and is now being financially supported by the Louisville Sustainability Council and others. Together with all the cool businesses, faith community, residents, the West Louisville Chamber of Commerce, One West, the West Louisville Food Port, etc., we can help make many dreams come true!

  4. Judy Schroeder says:

    Thanks so much for all of the thoughtful support, friends. As a fifth generation Portlander who moved back here in the 70’s (!) to raise 3 successful kids with my husband, Gary Watrous (solar architect, Colleen) I’d welcome the chance to set up some actual dialogue between old and new residents. You’ll find me at Portland Now, Inc. meetings most months, the first Tuesdays, 6:30 p.m., at Neighborhood House on 25th St. OR just message me on FB. P.S. There’s already a Portland Neighborhood Plan that we’ve diligently been working on since 2007.

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