Owensboro Historical Fifth street Walking tour
1.3 mile tour of 12 of Owensboro's oldest and most distinctive buildings centered around 5th street
From 1924 to 1926, the third and present St. Stephen’s Church was built here on Locust Street. It cost $100,000 to build and at the time was considered one of the "most beautiful and interesting buildings in the South." It was the pride of the city and its many citizens, Catholics and non-Catholics alike, contributed money to help fund the building. The building is a cruciform shape and has large rose windows in each of the transepts as well as in the facade. It is made in the Italian Lombardian style of architecture and was designed by Louisville architect Fred Erhart. In the belfry hangs the bell from the previous church along with a set of Deagan Tower Chimes. It was designated a “Cathedral” in 1938. The stained glass windows were installed after the ﬁrst dedication of the building in 1926. The bishop’s cathedral (chair) was added in 1938. In 1970, following the Second Vatican Council, the high altar was removed, and mosaics and other sanctuary furnishings were installed. On November 18, 2012, Bishop Medley re-dedicated the Cathedral after a year's long restoration.
Stirman’s Folly is a prime example of the Italianate style, complete with a Tuscan tower. The pet project of Dr. William Doswell Stirman, it supposedly earned its nickname from the community for its perceived exorbitant cost of construction, $5,000 in 1860. The exact origin of the name, however, is still unknown. The property was eventually bought by tobacconist Samuel R. Ewing, before finally being sold to the Haley-McGinnis & Owensboro Funeral Home in 1945. A major renovation in 1995 included the enclosure of the front porch. It was designated a state landmark in by the Kentucky Heritage Commission in 1970, and added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1986.
Old Trinity church was founded by a small group of prominent Owensboro citizens in 1875. Old Trinity Episcopal Church serves as a good example Medieval, Lancet-style architecture that was popular in the United States in the 1800's. Since 1973, the building has been home to the Owensboro Theater Workshop. Old Trinity Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
The Empress Theatre was built in 1912 and owned by George A. Bleich. It was considered to be the most modern and largest theater in town at the time. Several years later, Bleich opened the Bleich Theatre next door. Community events such as private parties were held at the two theaters, including the annual Goodfellows Christmas Party. In 1937, The Empress was bought by Malco Theaters and underwent cosmetic renovations before re-opening on Christmas Eve, 1937. "Goldie" Payne bought the building in 1989 after new theaters were built and opened "Goldie’s Best Little Opry House in Kentucky." Goldie retired in 2008, and the Theatre Workshop of Owensboro became the new owners in 2011. They have since reverted the name back to The Empress.
The Callas Sweet Shop was built by Greek immigrant Mike Callas in 1921. This is the only surviving example of complete terra cotta tile fronts in downtown Owensboro. The building is especially refreshing because it lacks the overly elaborate detailing of many Beaux-Arts structures. It is currently occupied by Bill's restaurant.
This stately home site on Frederica street and is one of the most impressive examples of Victorian architecture in the city of Owensboro. It was most recently used as the Campbell Club which was a private dining club. It is currently vacant. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
The Federal Building is considered the ﬁnest example of Renaissance Revival architecture in Owensboro. It sits on the former site of the home of Ben Bransford, a prominent businessman, tobacco merchant, and Owensboro mayor. Construction began in 1909 by architect James Knox Taylor and ﬁnished in 1911. In 1989 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was founded in 1839 by Rev. Samuel Calhoon. The lot at Fifth and St. Ann streets was bought in 1886 for $1500. Construction of the current church began in 1886. It is a great example of the Gothic architecture that was popular at the time and cost $20,000. It had a large lecture room and pastor's study beneath the auditorium. The building wasn't dedicated until 1893. The program announcing the services stated that "the building was erected in 1886 but owing to indebtedness was never dedicated." The other main architectural components are the stained glass windows. The glass was imported from Belgium, and depicts many of the common symbols of Christianity. These symbols include: the lamb, the open Bible, the cross and crown, and the lamp. Also interwoven in the windows are many forms of the cross such as the equilateral, the equilateral diagonal or Cross of Templar, and the cross of ovals or Teutonic cross. Missing from the building today is the belfry, which was struck by lightning in November 1955. The church decided to not replace it, instead placing a Celtic Cross on the tower. In 1909, the church changed its name from Cumberland Presbyterian to Central Presbyterian due to church politics. The name “Central” was chosen in part to match the C.P.C. that labels the front entrance to the church. The next year, they commissioned a new pipe organ to be built by the Pilcher Organ Company in Louisville, which today is considered a historic musical treasure by organ enthusiasts. Their original organ was the first pipe organ in Owensboro.
Third Baptist Church was formed in 1896 as part of the temperance movement that occurred in Owensboro during this time. The congregation, lead by Pastor Fred Hale, broke off from First Baptist Church as result of a divide in members concerning the manufacturing and retail of alcohol. The church was designed and built by renowned Southern architect, Reuben H. Hunt, who also designed the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. The building still retains much of its original exterior structure. It is renowned in the community for its acoustics. A tornado in October 2007 struck the church, causing the steeple to collapse into the sanctuary. It was restored and re-opened in April 2009.
The James J. Sweeney House, colloquially known as the Sweeney-Birkhead House, was built by the Drach & Thomas architectural firm for prominent lawyer James J. Sweeney in 1893. It is in Queen Anne style, with a polygonal tower and projecting bays. Other notable aspects of the house include the beveled and stained glass windows. A necklace theme can be seen throughout the all of the windows. After Sweeney’s death in 1921, the house was bought by the Jagoe family. During the 1940s, the Birkhead family purchased the house. Eventually, the house passed out of the family and became the Old House Restaurant. The restaurant had closed by 1980, and today is a private residence. It still retains much of the original woodwork.
Temple Adath Israel is home to one of Kentucky's oldest Jewish congregations. The temple was founded in 1858 by German - Jewish immigrants who had fled religious persecution. The synagogue was constructed in 1877 - 1878 for the eighteen families that made up the congregation, many of whom were prominent merchants. The building's unique architecture is a combination of Moorish, Classical and Gothic styles. The Moorish style is most visible in the small domes that used to rest atop the front facade. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986.
The Miller House was built in 1905 by prominent entrepreneur Elmer Miller as a luxury home for he and his wife. When the plans for the house were shown to the public, the local paper referred to it as “a model of beauty, elegance, and convenience throughout.” J.W. Whitehead served as the architect for the building, which included 1,800 bricks. After the passing of the Millers, the residence passed through multiple owners, and was named a Kentucky Landmark by the Kentucky Heritage Commission. In 2006, Larry and Jeanne Kirk bought and restored the house. It is now a restaurant and bourbon bar.