"Park" It Here

This property will be strictly private, and sold to only to first-class people, who will build first-class residences. Every lot sold has building restrictions, a great advantage to those locating their families," the advertisement in the September 10, 1890 Kentucky Leader said under the heading, "BUILDING LOTS FOR SALE IN BEAUTIFUL ELSMERE PARK."

While the language has some strange undertones (what does "first-class" mean exactly? No Yankees? No white trash?), I suspect this turn-of-the-century copywriter wished to say that buying a house in Elsmere Park is like buying into a private club. A club where children can play in the street with other children and neighbors sit on each other's porches as the sun goes down, talking about their gardens, their children, the weather or the stock market. Which is exactly what residents of "The Park" (as they call it) do in the year 2001.

A nomination for the National Register for Historic Places says, "Elsmere Park district has well-defined physical edges not unlike a room with one door." The layout of the park (a T that comes off Broadway between Six and Seventh streets) engenders closeness between neighbors - no through-traffic means that children can ride their bikes, scooters and Big Wheels in the street while the adults can sit, chatting because the only noise comes from the aforementioned children.

Elsmere Park resident Laura Callaway Bales, who lives in the house her grandparents bought in 1949, says her neighbors "Feel like they are part of her extended family. Everyone watches out for each other." When asked to explain, she recalls the story of Cinderella the cat. Her son Clay noticed a cat hanging around their garden. They put out a bowl of food for the cat and Clay named it "Cinderella." Then they noticed bowls of food on other porches in "The Park." They eventually discovered that most of the neighbors had adopted the cat as well and that Cinderella was eating at everyone's house. After a few weeks Laura noticed an abscess on the cat's back. The neighbors reached a consensus - they would all chip in to pay to have the cat treated and to bring it up to date on its shots. The vet successfully treated the cat and informed its many owners that Cinderella was in fact "Cinderfella." It touched Laura that everyone cared so much about a stray cat that they were not only willing to chip in to pay the vet but that they all continue to feed and care for the cat.

In 1975 residents of "The Park" threw their first official block party. Every year since, the neighbors gather for potluck, music and games. An Easter Egg Hunt, über-Halloween and casual drinks on the porches in summer round out the Elsmere Park social calendar.

Jana and Michael Curd, owners of 644 Elsmere Park, agree that the neighbors make living here better than living in most neighborhoods. Their boys are able to play until dark with their best friends and they need not worry about them.

The Dutch Colonial house was built in 1911 by George Curran, according to Jim McKeighen. Curran built four houses on the street including the house next door at 640 where he lived and his wife occupied until the 1970's.

A wide front porch with double swings bridges the space from "The Park" to the elegant front hall. Simple glass sidelights frame the front door. A large kitchen divides the formal spaces of the living room and dining room from the 31-foot family room, which Jana says, is where the family spends most of their time when they are inside. A wall-sized fireplace dominates one end of the room while doors open onto a large deck at the other.

Two years ago when the Curds were expecting their third child, they finished the attic to create a fourth bedroom for their eldest son, who is now nine. Hardwood floors and a cozy reading nook make it the perfect preteen retreat. He says his favorite thing about his room is the privacy and the quiet because he likes to read. (I tried to turn him on to Encyclopedia Brown but I could tell he wasn't going for it.)

Because the house she and her husband Michael own is for sale, some family has the opportunity to buy into this exclusive club of 29 families. Evidently this doesn't happen too often - George Curran and his wife moved onto "The Park" in 1904 and Mrs. Curran was not only around but provided the music at the first block party in 1975.


644 Elsmere Park


4 bedrooms, 2 and one half bathrooms

3260 square feet

Contact Jim McKeighen 268-4663

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.