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USACE instrumental in preservation of one of Louisville’s oldest historic homes

Published Oct. 3, 2022
Updated: Oct. 3, 2022

A piece of Louisville’s history has been preserved thanks in part to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District’s Regulatory Division.  

The Paget House, a home which was originally built in the late 1700’s and then added onto in the early 1800’s at the request of Margaret Wright Paget, a descendant of George and Martha Washington, has been restored as part of a preservation project. It is one of the last intact structures of Louisville’s early neighborhood, The Point. The majority of the neighborhood was destroyed by the 1937 flood leaving The Paget House as the oldest standing house in the City of Louisville. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places Inventory in 1978. 

“Preservation of historic properties is important, and it matters,” said Leiellen Atz, Louisville District Regulatory Division archeologist. “Once these resources are gone, they're gone forever, and we lose a significant part of our history and the story of how the City of Louisville changed over the years and how settlement patterns changed. There was an entire mini-city around the Paget House. These are the stories of the people that are responsible for making Louisville the City it is today and it's important to remember that and to preserve history.”

The Louisville District’s Regulatory Division was heavily involved in the preservation project.

“It was actually a Department of Army permit non-compliance matter,” said Eric Reusch, Louisville District Regulatory Division chief. “And because we required action on it, restoration/preservation was successfully completed.”

The Louisville District had been involved for nearly three decades as the initial Department of the Army Permit Application was received from the developer, Waterfront Development Corporation, in 1992 for impacts to jurisdictional waters of the United States associated with a proposed residential development.

“As part of the permit review process, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) was executed to mitigate for adverse effects to archaeological sites, and the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP)-listed Paget House; one stipulation required preservation/rehabilitation of the Paget House,” Atz said. 

In 1995, USACE issued both a Section 404 permit and a Section 10 permit to the developer. That project did not come to fruition, but developers made a new proposal in 2005 at the same location as the 1992 project. Although the location was the same, the project was substantially different, according to Atz, meaning a new application for Section 404 of the Clean Water Act and Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act DA permits was required.

Due to the change in regulations over that time period and the substantial changes in the proposed project, Regulatory Division decided the best course of action was to vacate the existing MOA and execute a new one through consultation with interested Native American Tribes, the Kentucky Heritage Council (KHC), Waterfront Development Corporation and other consulting parties. 

“A new MOA was executed in 2007, and the stipulation requiring preservation/adaptive reuse of the Paget House was included in the MOA; DA permits were also issued in 2007,” Atz said.
USACE's role, per the MOA, was to oversee the implementation of all stipulations of the MOA including the one requiring preservation of the Paget House. Per the MOA, the specific preservation/rehabilitation plans were to be developed and approved in consultation with the KHC.

However, by 2019, Waterfront Development Cooperation had not begun the required preservation/rehabilitation work, which resulted in Regulatory Division taking an enforcement action to ensure compliance with the permit. In 2021, a contractor was hired to complete the rehab, who took on the challenge and completed it through consultation with the KHC as required by the MOA, and USACE oversaw the process, according to Atz.

The length of time of the project and staying on top of leadership changes were significant challenges, according to the team. 

“But the biggest challenges were forces outside of our control like the real estate market collapse, a restaurant pulling out of the deal, tax credit regulations changing, and a pandemic. We really had the kitchen sink thrown at us trying to get this done,” Atz said.

But the team overcame the challenges by being resilient, persistent and continuing conversations with all parties Atz added.

The project was completed in April 2022, and Waterfront Development Corporation received an official certificate of preservation from the State Historic Preservation Office in May.