From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

1125 W. Chestnut Street, Louisville, KY

(start date: 1905  -  end date: 1908) The address 1125 W. Chestnut Street in Louisville, KY is most noted for being the location of the city's first colored library, but it had also been a home. In 1905, William M. Andrews, a waiter at the Galt House Hotel, lived in the home with his wife Katherine and their infant daughter Edwina. The family shared the home with Eugene White, a porter at the Willard Hotel in Louisville [sources: Caron's Directory of the City of Louisville, 1905, pp. 103 & 1376; 1910 U.S. Census; and 1920 U.S. Census]. All of the adults in the home could read and write.

The home was rental property that was located in what was considered a colored neighborhood. The segregated library that was located within the house opened on September 23, 1905 with 1,400 library books on the shelves in three rooms. The rooms had been rented by the Louisville Free Public Library. It was the first public library for African Americans in Louisville and was a trial to see if African Americans would take to the idea of a free public library.

The first book to be checked-out was Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington. More than 4,000 patrons visited the library the first month it was open [source: Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky by R. F. Jones]. By the end of the first year, there were 2,797 books,and the library received more than 30,000. It was evident that the collection would continue to grow and the patronage would continue to increase. Plans were made to locate the library in a more permanent and proper library building.

The new building was finished and ready to be occupied by 1908. The library materials were moved from 1125 W. Chestnut Street to the first Carnegie colored library located at the corner of Tenth and Chestnut Streets and given the name Western Colored Branch Library. It stood just a block and a half from the home where the library had initially started. Funding for the new library was provided by Andrew Carnegie. It opened  October 28, 1908, and is still in operation in the same location today. 

The home at 1125 W. Chestnut Street, no longer standing, had been in the vicinity of the present-day location of the Coleridge-Taylor Montessori Elementary School. During the period that the library was housed there, 1905-1908, the building housed other renters in addition to the colored library, William M. Andrews and his family, and Eugene White. William Andrews and White were friends, both born around 1866 in Tennessee; they had shared a home on Center Street in 1900 [source: U.S. Census] before moving to the home on Chestnut Street.

By 1906, William Andrews and his family had moved to a new location; the home on Chestnut Street was then shared by the colored library, Eugene White, and John Q. Shores, a barber at Alex Morris [source: Louisville City Directory, 1906, p. 1266]. The following year, those   residents were joined by James King, a waiter at the Galt House, and Mary Mack, a domestic worker [source: Louisville City Directory, 1907, p. 820 & p. 931]. In 1908, the colored library was being prepared for the move to the new building; John  Shores was the only remaining tenant.

The house at 1125 W. Chestnut was occupied into the late 1950s; Birdie C. and Alonzo L. Royales lived there in 1956 [source: Caron's Louisville (Jefferson County, KY.) City Directory, 1965, p. 964]. There had been African American families living at the address since before the Civil War. In 1860, the family of William and Rachael Miller had lived in the home [source: Tanner's Louisville Directory and Business Advertiser for 1861, p. 174]. Rachael Miller, a widow born around 1800 in Virginia, was a free mulatto woman listed in the U.S. Census as early as 1850 when she and her son Abraham, born around 1832 in Kentucky, shared their home with 90-year-old Margaret Luckett (or Puckett). Abraham V. Miller was a porter [sources: 1850 U.S. Census and Tanner's Louisville Directory and Business Advertiser for 1861, p. 173] and later a barber at D. Straws [source: Edwards Sixth Annual Directory, City of Louisville for 1870, p. 245].

For more information about the property at 1125 W. Chestnut Street in Louisville, visit the Jefferson County Clerk's Office for property deeds and other official documents.

Kentucky County & Region

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“1125 W. Chestnut Street, Louisville, KY,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 14, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/index.php/items/show/300003644.

Last modified: 2023-01-11 00:17:56