Community

Louisville Metro Government is being asked to reconsider its decision to tear down a nearly century-old building that was once part of the Camp Zachary Taylor military training facility.

Preservationists and others met with city officials Tuesday to talk about the structure.

David Wilding of Louisville Metro Parks pointed out water damage that has led to the closure of the maintenance barn at Joe Creason Park, across from the Louisville Zoo. Wilding led visitors on a tour of the vacant building, now surrounded by a chain-link fence. He said the damage has made it unsafe and 70 maintenance workers have been moved to other buildings.

The structure, originally called the Motor School Garage, was built in late 1918 as part of the sprawling Camp Taylor facility. That’s where more than 100,000 young men underwent training before shipping out to Europe to fight in World War I.

Earlier this month, Metro Parks announced that the deteriorating structure would be demolished.

That came as a surprise to Ken Maguire with the Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society, who’s leading an effort to save the building.

“As far as we know, this is one of the last surviving buildings in the United States of this type, and it’s certainly the last building that was ever built at Camp Taylor,” Maguire said.

Metro Parks officials want to tear down the garage and replace it with a new facility, at a cost of more than $2.5 million. They say while they do appreciate the building’s history, it would cost at least $1 million just to make it stable.

Heather French Henry with the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs said she hopes they can find a way to involve the public in commemorating the building’s role in history.

“It is so beautiful on the inside, it’s a shame that the public can’t see more of it.” she said. ” No one really is alive anymore to remember World War I. We have no World War I veterans left, so no one’s service should be forgotten and these facilities should not be forgotten.”

Metro Councilman Pat Mulvihill, whose district includes Joe Creason Park, said he hopes a compromise can be reached.

“I think we want to do everything we can to have some — if not all — of the history preserved here with the building,” he said.

Metro Parks officials and those who want to save the building will meet again in September to discuss what to do next.

Rick Howlett is WFPL's Broadcast Managing Editor and also produces feature and general assignment radio stories.