The West End’s population is aging quickly. Many residents are grandparents and great grandparents who vividly remember walkable neighborhoods with flourishing businesses.

Photo from the personal collection of Shay West.

They were first generation home owners. Builders of neighborhoods like Hallmark and Algonquin. Caretakers of Chickasaw, Parkland, and Shawnee. They were pioneers. Pushing the boundaries of the city southward. Creating space for their families in order to build generational wealth that had long been denied. Our grandparents were brave. 

Photo from the personal collection of Shay West.

Shay West’s grandfather Donald Franklin Sr. owned several parcels of land in Chickasaw. He used much of his land to grow food in order to feed the community. Mr. Franklin moved to Louisville from rural Mercer County and was a veteran of World War II “He knew what it was like to struggle and wanted to ease that burden for his family and others. He grew food and allowed people to take it for free,” West remembers of her grandfather. Mr. Franklin’s brother purchased 3835 Hale Avenue one block away from his farm. When his brother died, Mr. Franklin continued to maintain the property. “He paid the taxes and kept the grass cut as long as he lived,” West said. “To him, owning property meant being responsible for it.” When Donald Franklin died, First Virginia Avenue Baptist Church bought the land he farmed and 3835 Hale was abandoned as he was not the owner and could not pass it down to his heirs. It remained vacant for more than 20 years.

The West Louisville Women’s Collaborative revitalized the vacant lot next to West’s family home through the Mayor’s Lots of Possibility Grant. They created a Peace Labyrinth on the site to provide a meditative space in the heart of the city. The Labyrinth is lined with more than 400 bricks with inspirational quotes painted by community members. A WLWC board member then purchased 3835 Hale, an anonymous donor provided funds to repair it, and the place that once held Franklin family get togethers was given new life as ELA House.

WLWC hosts Community Jam Sessions each first Friday of the month in the house. The community is invited to bring acoustic instruments and jam under the direction of an artist. Open Studio, held on the last Saturday of the month, is led by an art therapist. You can bring a project to work on or use materials provided and create something new. The group is committed to providing peaceful artistic spaces in west Louisville by addressing issues around vacant and abandoned property. Using their collective skills WLWC carries on the legacy of our grandparents and great grandparents by providing a place for residents and groups to meet, gather, and support one another. “It is the role of artists, to provide an outlet for others to achieve their potential,” says Board Member and art therapist Beth Henson. All WLWC programming and use of the space by community organizations is free of charge. 

Shay, now a board member of the organization, is grateful for the restoration of her family home. “It’s what we owe them,” she says. “Not because they paved ‘The Way’ for us. But because they deserved whatever The Way led to in the first place.”

You can learn more about the West Louisville Women’s Collaborative at wlwc4art.com or by following them on Facebook or Instagram.

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