Least known stories for most traveled Louisville roads - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Least known stories for most traveled Louisville roads

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Drivers use them daily to get where they need to go. However, few know how some of Louisville's most popular roads came to be.

Louisville has more than 3,000 miles of roads. 

"If there's a name on a sign, that person probably did something in that area. So, they probably have a story," said Mick Sullivan, Manager of Youth and Family Programs for the Frazier History Museum.

Stories are derived from Louisville's history beginning in the late 1700s. The name "Clarks Lane" references property that once belonged to the Clark family, which included George Rogers Clark -- who is widely considered the founder of Louisville -- and William Clark, who co-led the Lewis and Clark expedition. 

"He would have spent time learning outdoor skills on that area that he would carry with him as he co-led the Lewis and Clark journey, So Clarks Lane would have cut through their property as it stands now," Sullivan said.

The city sprouted downtown by the Ohio River. 

"The city started to get really dense and populated. So, you started to see the first wave of people starting to move out to the east, the Highlands and the west towards the park what it is now," Sullivan said.

In the late 1890s, leaders created a parkway system, which was a series of roads, to help people spread out. The area is now known for Shawnee, Iroquois and Cherokee Parks. 

Sullivan explained, "It was the first way to really easily get around the city. But it wasn't really intended to move lots and lots of people. It was really... they were beautiful streets with tree lines and big houses. That was the original intention."

The Watterson Expressway was built in the 1950s. The roadway was named after Henry Watterson. He merged the two newspapers in town, even winning a Pulitzer Prize. "I think he would have been the largest name in journalism up until that point," Sullivan said.

The city continued to grow. "As it expanded outward, there were streets that radiated to other destinations," Sullivan said.

Douglass Boulevard, named after George Douglass runs though the Highlands. "Would have actually been Thomas Edison's boss before Thomas Edison was fired from his short tenure as a telegram operator for Western Union here in Louisville," Sullivan said.

Sebastian Zorn, president of the water company at the turn of the century coined Zorn Avenue. "It was Pipeline Road, it was changed to Zorn, so it's still related to the water that you look at when you come down. It's a neat thought," Sullivan said.

The Gene Snyder was the final connector, named after a politician. Sullivan said, "He led the charge to get federal funds to actually pay for it because he saw the need and the economic impact that it would have to connect all of the city in that way."

In 1978, Walnut Street located in downtown Louisville became Muhammad Ali Boulevard, which was a controversial move at the time. Several street signs were even stolen.

Shelby Street is named after Isaac Shelby, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. In his roles, he had strong relationships with Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry and others. He was also the first and fifth Governor of Kentucky, playing a strong role in creating Kentucky as a separate state from Virginia, of which it was originally connected with. During the War of 1812, he led a militia in the field as the standing Governor, making him unique for leading troops while in office. 

Jefferson County gets its name from Thomas Jefferson, who was the governor of Virginia. He signed the town charter, making Louisville a town. 

Copyright 2016. WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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