Finished in 1893, the Conrad-Caldwell House is the masterpiece of Louisville architect Arthur Loomis of the architectural firm Clark & Loomis. At a cost of $75,000, it is one of the finest examples of a residential Richardsonian Romanesque structure. Referred to as “Conrad’s Castle,” the home at 1402 Saint James Ct. is known for its beautiful woodwork, parquet floors, stained glass windows and limestone exterior displaying gargoyles, massive archways and intricate architectural designs.
The house was one of the first in Louisville constructed with electric wiring, natural gas piping and indoor plumbing. An intercom system was also installed early on by the second owner, William Caldwell. The original coal-burning furnace and steam-producing boiler sent heat throughout the home via fireplaces and radiators. In the formal rooms of the house were radiators designed by Mr. Caldwell and custom-made in his factory. Installed during the 1905-1907 remodeling, they still provide heat to the house. The design was never sold commercially so the radiators are truly unique to the mansion. Other window radiators were manufactured by the American Radiator Company, forerunner of American Standard.
The home’s walls, floors, moldings and trim feature seven types of wood: Birdseye Maple, Golden Oak, Walnut, Cherry, Spruce, Cedar and Cypress. German master carpenters and woodworkers created the exquisite carvings seen throughout the home using only hand tools. It also features numerous carved fleurs-de-lis (over 120 on the first floor alone), reflecting the French heritage of its first owner, Theophile Conrad. Parquet floors in the family areas of the home reflect American quilt patterns as requested by Mrs. Conrad.
A carriage house originally sat on the southwest side of the lot. It included quarters for the coachman and stables for horses and carriages and later housed Mr. Caldwell’s finest automobiles.
The house has seen many iterations in its 120+ year history. After William Caldwell’s death in 1938, the home became a boarding house. The 1940 Census shows a salesman, stenographer, office worker, cashier, interior decorator and teacher living there. A few years later female students and professors from the University of Louisville took up residence. In 1947, it came under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church, which ran it as the Rose Anna Hughes Presbyterian Home. Once the retirement home outgrew its space, members of the St. James Court neighborhood association were concerned about the future of the Conrad-Caldwell House. Not wanting to see the building used for non-residential purposes, neighbors established a non-profit foundation in 1987 into which they combined resources used to purchase the house. For several years, the St. James Court Art Show office was located in the rear annex, and the addition we call Haskins Hall served as headquarters during the show itself. After years of work, it debuted in 1992 as the Showhouse for the Junior League of Louisville. It has since been run as a non-profit museum.
The Conrad-Caldwell House is regularly featured on the annual Holiday Home Tour, during which time it hosts a Holiday Victorian Tea (visit www.conradcaldwell.org to purchase tickets).
The Conrad-Caldwell House Museum is run by executive director Kate Meador and assistant director Chris Kirkland.