Louisville Magazine

MAR 2014

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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3.14 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 5 5 Counsel for Yesteryear Attorney Stephen Porter has spent much of his heritage-protecting career duking it out with developers. merson Elementary School was built to matter. Its tall arched windows and its pediment-shaded entrances gave the two-story brick structure the so- lemnity and swagger of a courthouse. Attorney Stephen Porter stood on the sidewalk one Saturday and watched as a wrecking ball turned that signifcance to dust. Tat was more than a decade ago, the day after a client told Porter that Jeferson County Public Schools planned to raze the 1904 struc- ture, despite its presence on the National Register of Historic Places, where nominators called it one of the city's fnest examples of Renais- sance Revival architecture. It was the day after Porter told his client he'd see to it frst thing Monday. It was moments after the police and By Jenni Laidman Photos by Chris Witzke a school board attorney told him to get of the elementary school property or face arrest. It was some years before JCPS would vow to never demolish a historic building again. Epilogue to the lost landmark: Te developer who had promised to buy the Schnitzelburg property once the school was razed didn't, and the land is now Emerson Park — another lot marking a community's fair-weather attachments to its history. One might bookend Porter's law career between two buildings. At one end is Emerson, the extinct auk in this struggle for survival. It never had a chance. On the other, a Walmart Neighborhood Market on Tierman Lane near Shelbyville Road. Tis is a symbol of another type, its signifcant architectural features more difcult to detect. Start with its sign on the building's Shelbyville Road side: It's not il- luminated. It might be the only Walmart sign in the country without illumination. Hidden, too, are the bafes that surround the noisy refrigeration and air-conditioning units on the store roof, directing the oppressive buzz of condensers and fans away from the immedi- ate neighborhood. Alongside the building, a 12-foot-high brick wall shields homes from a view of dumpsters, delivery trucks, and, well, Walmart. Each of these features were hard-won compromises from the Bentonville, Ark., retailer. Porter, representing the city of Richlawn next door, wrung them from the company over months of negotia- tions. At the end of the process, as Porter applied the fnal arm twist to assure the construction of bafes, a Bentonville Walmart guy took him aside. "You have us in checkmate," Porter recalls him saying. "I want to shake your hand." Tese two buildings are the two sides of Porter's law practice, one side often unpaid — a sometimes quixotic quest to preserve the city's historic buildings. Te other, usually paid: an efort to shield neigh- borhoods and homeowners from the impact of new development. One is a symbol of defeat, the other of compromise — whisking omelets from broken eggs, the realpolitik of development. Harder to E Herald-Post Collection, Archives and Special Collections, University of Louisville. Handsome victim: Emerson Elementary in the 1920s. 54-59 PORTER.indd 55 2/19/14 9:47 AM

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