Louisville Conservatory of Music

Today’s guest blogger is Pam Yeager from the University of Louisville Libraries Photographic Archives.

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Unidentified images in the Photographic Archives provide me with lots of opportunities to indulge my love of getting the story under the surface.  But one well-identified photo from a recent acquisition provided some fun and surprises, as well.  The Speed Art Museum recently de-accessioned a small group of Louisville photographs.  One of these is a photo of a Louisville mansion at 214 W. Broadway that was identified on the back as belonging to William H. Dillingham.  Three people sitting on the front steps are almost invisible in the picture, which includes the entire massive façade of the building.  Caron’s City Directory for 1885 tells us that Mr. Dillingham owned a woolen mill supplies company at 421 W. Main St.  There’s another figure off to the side of the house and farther back – so I assume she is not part of the family – perhaps an employee?

group portrait

Louisville Conservatory of Music, formerly the Dillingham mansion [Caufield and Shook Collection, 071488]

By 1905, the residence is listed as owned by J.C. Lewis, and the company on Main St. is not listed.  In 1914, Caron tells us that at 214 W. Broadway, Ms. Mattie B. Russell had furnished rooms to let, one of which was occupied by Pauline Bredelli, a music teacher.    Perhaps Ms. Bredelli was the connection that led to 214’s next occupant:  In the 1916 Directory,the Louisville Conservatory of Music is listed at the address.

From Robert Bruce French’s article about the Louisville Conservatory of Music in The Encyclopedia of Louisville, I learned that the Conservatory opened on September 7, 1915, “in the former Dillingham mansion at 214 W. Broadway.”  The Conservatory was a great success, so much so that another larger school was built on Brook St. in 1926-7. But after the Depression hit, student enrollment dropped and the school ultimately declared bankruptcy and closed in 1932.  It then merged with the University of Louisville’s part-time (no degrees granted) Department of Music.  Faculty and students from the Louisville Conservatory became U of L teachers and students, and in only four years the School was accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music.  French’s article also tells us the Brook St. site is now covered by I 65.  And instead of the soaring arches of the Dillingham mansion at 214 W. Broadway, you’ll find a Subway restaurant, across from the more modest golden arches of a McDonalds.

Through October 25, 2012 the photo of the Dillingham mansion is part of Special Collections’ exhibit:  “Samuel W. Thomas, Louisville Historian”, in the Photographic Archives gallery.  Dr. Thomas used the photograph (when it belonged to the Speed Museum) in his book The Architectural History of Louisville, 1778-1900.



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