The famed Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion at Cherokee Park needs an expensive facelift, Louisville’s Parks and Recreation Department warned a city committee – or it needs to be torn down entirely to prevent a collapse.
The rounded pavilion, a well-known gathering place in the Highlands-area park also known as the “tee pee” or “witch’s hat,” has been closed since May due to structural concerns. And at a Parks and Sustainability Committee meeting Thursday, Louisville Parks and Recreation officials said it cannot safely be reopened without extensive repairs that would likely cost about $1 million or more.
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Replacing the pavilion also was discussed, though a project of that magnitude was estimated to cost more than $500,000 and may end up with a structure that doesn’t have the current pavilion’s unique characteristics. Demolition, meanwhile, is estimated to cost $56,000.
A presentation at the meeting from Louisville Parks officials noted that while repair is an option, it would likely “neither be economical nor preserve the architectural design of the pavilion.”
It’s a tough call, Metro Council members in attendance said. The venue is beloved by park attendees, several speakers said, and is one of the most memorable places in Cherokee Park, a nearly 400-acre green space near central Louisville that was designed by Frederick Olmstead in the 1800s.
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At issue are the wood beams that support the pavilion. They’ve “lost their structural integrity,” according to a report from the department, with assistant director Jason Canuel adding the beams aren’t your typical 2×4 beams – they’re much more difficult to replace. In some cases, Canuel said, the wood is so rotted it has “basically turned to mulch.”
Several steel casings on the beams are also rotting, the report said, and other beams are deteriorating as well.
Metro Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong, who represents the district that contains Cherokee Park, said she has fond memories of bringing her kids to the pavilion.
“Folks love that structure and see it as an iconic part of the park,” she said, but preserving public safety is a higher priority.
Metro Councilman James Peden shared a similar sentiment. Peden, a teacher, said he’s taken students on field trips to the park before and they’ve loved spending time at the Hogan’s Fountain pavilion.
“It’s a beloved part of our community – but if it’s unsafe, it’s unsafe,” Peden said.
The pavilion remains closed, and no moves are imminent.
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Money is not in the current budget to take action, according to Louisville Parks Director Margaret Brosko, so funds would either need to be put toward the project in the next budget or would have to be acquired through other means. The structure is also classified as a local landmark, so demolition would require approval from the city’s Landmarks Commission along with a chance for public comment and feedback.
The issue, though, has been on the city’s radar for a while. As part of a $30 million budget surplus from the 2022 fiscal year, Mayor Greg Fischer and the leaders of the Metro Council Budget Committee have already proposed giving $1.4 million to the parks department to fix “structural issues” at the Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion. Metro Council members could take up the budget surplus ordinance as soon as their Dec. 1 meeting.
Construction on the Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion began in 1964, and it opened a year later. It was given local landmark designation in 2012, and its roof was repaired in 2013 using funds from the city government and private donations.
Reporter Billy Kobin contributed. Reach Lucas Aulbach at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter at @LucasAulbach.