"The best offering is to try to provide training in West Louisville, for West Louisvillians, to help incentivize them to help redevelop and to provide services for their community. Louisville is second, only to New Orleans for the largest population of shotgun dwell homes in the country. So, that vernacular is a significant cultural and affordable housing product that people can readily look at improvements on and provide incentives and train someone going into that industry, not home remodeling but home restoration. We want to them to look at preservation as an incentive to culturally preserve the character and the dignity of the community through education and workforce development. Within that, the city has provided the dollars for a 3 year period. We've gone through two years of that.
We went through the initial name of the other program, which was the Samuel Plato Academy. It was named after the black architect, Samuel Plato, that lived right down on Old Walnut, in the 2400 block. It's Muhammad Ali, now. The stories of that community have not been told. Young people do not know who Samuel Plato was. In the 1920's and 1930's, Samuel Plato was a black architect that developed and provided and built over 34 U.S. Post Offices, in the midst of Jim Crow segregation and in a very strong KKK influence in Southern Indiana and Kentucky. He fought against segregation and discrimination in everything he did in his life. So apart of that was to build the integrity of the man and his character in the body of this program, which is to provide the means so people teach themselves or be taught how to restore and preserve the culture and heritage in West Louisville and regain some of that history, character and sustainability. Samuel Plato taught himself. The schools that he went to were correspondence courses because blacks were not allowed to go to colleges in architecture and in leadership positions. His father trained him to be a carpenter and to be a trades person. So, he took all of that and built a legacy from that and we're just leveraging that.
The story of why the name changed. Things happen. You have to work through those complications. We've worked through them with the state guidance. We renamed the program to the Commonwealth Preservation Trades Program. As Fred and I looked at providing names, we thought that if we are going to look at this as sustainable model, it should be broader that just the West End. But to build from this foundation, a broader solution of preservation trade, and Commonwealth Preservation Trades provides all of that story to be told throughout Kentucky, so that every community can gain from just this foundation, here. Everyone that has pride in their community and their neighborhood can stand on that and build and sustain their community through what they learn in the program.
Why can't we see the beauty in what we have, within the body of our community and want to preserve it and want to restore it? That's the incentive, that's the goal and direction that we want to instill in people who come into the program. The overall goal is to get as many people in the West End interested, so that they can start controlling their own destinies, being their own boss and recreating quality product, to fill the homes in the West End, again. That's overall goal." - James, Russell
"It's what connects me to preservation and that way preservation connects me to the past. I like going into a building and seeing something that I can replicate or I repair. You go in and you see a piece, no matter what it is, an architectural piece, and you touch it and think that 'Some guy, 150 years ago built this originally with hands like mine and I'm going to go in and build another one or try to repair what this guy did'. That connects me to the past. A lot of this stuff is old technology. We incorporate new technology and old technology to make something look like it did 150 years ago. You recapture the old building. You can build a new building to look like an old building but that charm is not there. There's nothing you can do to give it that ambiance and that charm. The charm is in the old building, and the lives that touched that old building and the lives that the building touched. You can't replace that. I love preservation, that's why I do it.
There are many contractors in the area but there are very few contractors that can do what we do, because they don't know how. It's not that they couldn't do it, they just don't have the knowledge to do it. So instead of trying to repair something, to make it what it once was, they just gut everything out and remodel. We teach people what to look for and how to assess something. We go inside and have an assessment there, too. What can we do without gutting everything out and fix it? A lot of people have this idea that it's going to cost so much to fix it and just tear it out and put new in it. If you're not buying the material to put the new material in, you're not spending as much money. You may be spending more in your labor, but if you're a home owner and doing it yourself, you're not worried about the labor. So if you preserve something, you don't have all of that extra money to go into materials, you already have the materials that already exist in the house." Fred, Russell