Featured Holiday House Tour Home: 511 Belgravia Court (The “Light House”)

Featured Holiday Home Tour House
511 Belgravia Court, Connie and Ric Light

511belgravialightrgb72dpiConnie and Ric Light are unassuming Old Louisville pioneers and record-setters (and breakers) in many ways. Both found their way to Belgravia Court while looking for housing in other parts of the city. Both chose to live in Old Louisville when it was blighted. Both lived in the same house, but at different times. Ric has owned more than one home on Belgravia, and together they have lived on Belgravia Court (and in their house) longer than any other of its residents.

Fresh from Ohio in 1965, Connie got lost during her search for an apartment, ending up in Old Louisville. She ventured to Belgravia, where resident matriarch Mary Eva Karsell held court on her front porch. Ms. Karsell volunteered to help Connie in her search for a home and quickly called local preservationist Bob Smith for a recommendation. Motivated by the impending demolition of national historic landmarks such as Penn Station in Manhattan, Smith had partnered with other like-minded men to form Restoration Inc. in the early 1960s. The only place the partners could find contiguous properties to restore was on Belgravia Court, where they invested $110,000 to purchase and renovate nine houses. The first one they set to work on was 511, including brightening the French Eclectic brick townhouse with white paint.

After renting an apartment at 514 Belgravia Court for two years, Connie moved across the green to the first floor of 511 (which since Restoration Inc.’s work had been sold and converted to five apartments). Eventually she became the building manager, with no inkling that it would become her “forever home.”

Ric’s job brought him to Louisville from Indianapolis in the fall of 1977. He just happened upon Belgravia Court in his housing search and ended up renting an apartment at 514, the same building Connie had lived in when she first moved to the city. He was given the keys and told to move in at the beginning of October, the very weekend of the St. James Court Art Show! Undaunted, he parked several blocks away and carried boxes one-by-one to his new apartment. Committed to Old Louisville, Ric purchased and moved into 411 Belgravia Court a year later.

During this time, neighbors Connie and Ric had gotten to know one another well. Married in 1982, they made 511 their home and planned to eventually convert it from apartments back to single-family. Two years later, when their daughter Elle was seven weeks old, she and Connie were in a terrible car accident, leaving Connie unable to walk. Doctors told her she’d have to move into a one-story home, which she flatly refused to do. (She reasoned that the Victorian-era doors were plenty wide for a wheelchair, and lifts could be installed on the stairs.) Her recuperation and new limitations slowed down renovation plans, but after three decades that delay now seems immaterial. 511 Belgravia Court is not only a beautiful single-family home, but a completely energy and usage-efficient, accessible residence.

The transformation from apartments to single-family included removing multiple kitchens, covering untreated exposed brick, and either replacing walls that had been removed or removing walls that had been added to divide apartments. They also had to replace old pipes and repair parts of the roof (which consists of slate, metal and roll roofing). Luckily, virtually all of the elements that Bob Smith incorporated during his work were still in the home. Some of the 1893 home’s original features, such as the living room’s marble fireplace surround, cast iron fireplace in the master bedroom, radiator and Carrara marble in the master bath, also remain.

Over the years Connie and Ric have added central air, crown molding and art glass windows in addition to converting a back porch to a butler’s pantry and installing a state-of-the-art, fully-equipped, accessible kitchen. Another major project was their master bedroom, for which they give contractor and master carpenter Bob Lyon major kudos. He meticulously executed Ric’s designs for items such as the incredible dental molding in the master bedroom. Together they devised the idea of drawer facades to hide the bedroom radiator.

They believe the home was built by a single Jewish female as a spec house: an incredible accomplishment in 1893! Next to the Lights, the longest resident of 511 Belgravia Court was Arthur Loomis, one of Kentucky’s premier architects of the late 19th century, particularly in the area where the Southern Exposition had stood just six years prior. During his time with his architectural firm of Clarke and Loomis, he designed the Conrad Caldwell House (now a museum, the imposing Richardsonian Romanesque mansion at the corner of St. James Court and Magnolia), the J.B. Speed Art Museum, the Levy building downtown, and the Louisville Medical College. He purchased 511 Belgravia Court in 1911, having never designed and built a home of his own! Loomis made several changes to the house, including adding hardwood floors. Connie and Ric found receipts for the flooring as well as many other purchases that Loomis made in the lathe walls during renovations. In 1935, Loomis died in the house, where he laid in state and his funeral service was held. The Lights have a copy of his very lengthy will.

The “Light House” is a visual and sensory delight. There is abundant art from the St. James Court Art Show, of which Connie has served as the director of the Belgravia Court section for, as she laughingly says, “too many years to count.” However, many of the items are distinctly their own, including an original coin-operated Nickelodeon, which features a traditional piano keyboard, bass drum, tambourine, triangle and accordion! In the master bath you’ll find a cloud mural they had painted in and brought back from Vietnam, complete with recessed lighting for a celestial effect.

Ric says of their longtime occupancy of 511 Belgravia Court, “Unless you’re institutionalized or incarcerated, no one lives in the same place this long.” Connie adds, “there are not enough boxes in Louisville for all of our stuff,” implying that they can never move. That’s just fine with the neighbors. You’ll understand why we love having the Lights around when you visit this year’s 40th anniversary Old Louisville Holiday Home Tour!

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