Filson Historical Society
Filson to explore ‘shanty boat’ river history (from reporter Martha Elson at the Louisville Courier-Journal, August 3, 2016)
During the Great Depression, as many as 50,000 people lived on about 30,000 crudely-built “shanty boats” along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, including in Louisville.
Louisville’s floating neighborhood – part of the now-vanished area called The Point along River Road near Butchertown – was “part of a changing waterfront for more than a century as the city evolved from a river town into an industrial city,” according to historian Mark Wetherington, former executive director of the Filson Historical Society.
Wetherington will explore Louisville’s shanty boat community at the beginning of the 1900s in a Filson talk from noon to 1 p.m. Friday at the Library at Oxmoor Farm, 720 Oxmoor Avenue, behind Oxmoor Center off Shelbyville Road.
Admission is free for Filson members and $10 for others. Tickets may be purchased in advance at filsonhistorical.org or reserved at 635-5083. They may also be purchased at the door, if still available.
The talk will look at who lived in the shanty boats, why they chose this “alternative form of housing,” the influence of inner-city tenement housing and why city officials wanted to rid the waterfront of what were called “half house” and “half boat” structures.
In past days, the area had stately homes, including the Paget House, that were mostly destroyed or carried away by recurrent flooding and replaced by shanty boats and smaller homes and industrial operations.
The Point takes its name from a time when Beargrass Creek and the river used to form a nearly two-mile-long, point-like peninsula, before city engineers rerouted the creek channel in 1854.