Arts and Culture

At 27th and Portland Avenue, there’s a boarded up red brick building with a white butterfly painted on the side. The word “Ali” spans the butterfly’s wings.

According to the building’s new owner, Paul Coffey, the boxing legend once trained in this now run-down space.

“The Portland Boxing Club, which was active from the late 60s to 2000 had a plethora of individuals who were amazing,” Coffey said.

He continued: “Jimmy Ellis taught there for a bit; he was also a heavyweight champion from Louisville. We have [Muhammad] Ali who came by and would work out — was here for one fight camp, and then later on just came by to be a presence in the community.”

Submitted by Paul Coffey

Muhammad Ali training in Shafer’s Hall

Coffey is the founder of Jutsu Aiki — a nonprofit that trains underprivileged children and adults in martial arts. He would like to see the building restored to its former glory, and now he’s now a step closer.

The Kentucky Historic Preservation Review Board unanimously voted on Monday to approve the building’s nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

Now, the nomination will move to a national vote in DC; Coffey will have the results in about 45 days.

But according to Coffey, it’s not just the boxing legacy of the building that inspired him to petition for its place on the Register. The site was once called Shafer’s Hall, and was built in 1877. It operated as a busy neighborhood gathering place from 1892 through the mid-20th century.

And, Coffey says, that sense of community in Portland is still strong today.

“The members of this community care a lot about their past, and so it’s important for me to capitalize on the history of the building, as well as the mission of the building,” Coffey said.

The state Historic Preservation Review Board considered ten Kentucky buildings’ nominations for the National Register of Historic Places; all of them, including the Puritan Apartment Hotel in Old Louisville, were approved.

Ashlie Stevens is WFPL's Arts & Culture Reporter.