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This small urban park offers a pavilion and monument dedicated by the Colonial Dames in 1912 recognizing the site as the very first European settlement of modern-day Kentucky. The fort was built in 1781, when Kentucky was still a part of Virginia, the park was named after then-governor Thomas Nelson, Jr. The fort replaced a previous fortification that had been destroyed and served in defense against both Native American and British attacks. This land was later home to a bourbon warehouse and became an urban park sometime in the 1960s. The park was redesigned in the early 1990s to include cast iron light poles to recognize the former cast-iron building facades that graced the downtown area.


  • Fort Nelson Park
  • A time capsule, buried on September 1st, 1975 to be opened 100 years later.
  • Fort Nelson - Note on slide: Sketch by Col. Durrett Filson Club 1885, 1782
  • Building, Horse, Wheel, Window

Built in 1781 by Richard Chenoweth, Fort Nelson was the second on-shore fort built along the Ohio River. The first fort, Fort-on-Shore, was built in 1778. Within three years, however, the military considered the fort insufficient and required a new fort, leading them to build Fort Nelson.

The park includes a few other interesting pieces of history. In one corner is a plaque that commemorates the founding of the town Louisville. Elsewhere visitors may stumble upon the plaque above a buried time capsule. The capsule was buried in 1975 with instructions to open it in 100 years.

Klayko, Brandon. There used to be a fort at Fort Nelson Park: The complete history of West Main Street’s pocket park, Broken Sidewalk. February 23rd 2015. Accessed March 27th 2021. https://brokensidewalk.com/2015/fort-nelson-park-history/.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

University of Louisville Photo Archives