Local landmark in Cherokee Park will remain closed indefinitely
The much-loved pavilion near Hogan’s Fountain in Cherokee Park will remain closed into the new year, as city officials debate whether to tear it down or make costly renovations.
The Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion, known colloquially to Louisville residents as “the teepee” or “witch’s hat,” opened to the public in 1965. After undergoing repairs in the 1970s and early 2010s, it was designated a local landmark in 2012. Officials announced the temporary closure of the 56-foot-tall pavilion and part of a nearby playground back in May because of concerns about the stability of wooden beams that hold up its roof.
At a Metro Council committee meeting last week, Parks and Recreation Department officials said an engineering assessment showed the pavilion is not safe to use in its current state.
“The wood [beams] are so rotted, it’s basically turned to mulch,” said Jason Canuel, the assistant director of the Parks Department. “There is no structural integrity left in the eight base columns.”
Canuel said the solution for the wood rot in the 1970s was to encase the beams in half-inch steel. While the steel has not shown signs of buckling, he said the roof of the pavilion has started to slide as much as six inches in some places because they aren’t properly transferring the weight of the roof to the footing of the structure.
According to the city-contracted engineers, the Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion needs to be shored up or demolished as soon as possible “to prevent an unexpected or uncontrolled collapse.”
Metro Council, which controls the city budget, is expected to put aside $100,000 Thursday night for some sort of immediate action, ahead of fortifying the pavilion or demolishing it entirely.
Repairs would be the significantly more expensive option, Parks officials said. Completely fixing the structural integrity issues would cost anywhere from $900,000 to $1.3 million.
Even then, Canuel and the engineers who’ve assessed the pavilion said repairs and fortifications would leave the Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion unrecognizable.
“The repairs that would need to be made, we believe, would be so drastic that the original character of what you see there today would be completely changed,” Canuel said.
For example, he said, numerous support beams would have to be added inside the bottom of the pavilion in order to stabilize it. The current support pillars splay out, following the curve of the roof but providing insignificant support.
The cost of demolishing the structure would be an estimated $56,000. Metro Council members, however, remain hesitant to go that route because they say the pavilion is so popular.
District 23 Council Member James Peden, a public school teacher, recently recounted taking kids on class field trips to the Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion.
“It is a beloved part of our community,” Peden said during last week’s committee meeting. “But, if it’s unsafe, it’s unsafe.”
District 8 Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong said the city will not take any action on the pavilion until residents have an opportunity to weigh in. Chambers Armstrong’s district includes Cherokee Park and the surrounding neighborhoods. With the holiday season already here, she said public meetings won’t be scheduled until early 2023.
“This is something the public needs to have a say in and more than just, ‘Are we going to demolish or not?’” she said. “Before we even head down that road, we need to hear from the community about all the different options that are on the table.”
Chambers Armstrong said she believes it's important to make a decision on demolition or fortification as soon as possible, and not just because of the imminent threat of collapse. She said the instability of the pavilion has closed parts of the only playground in Cherokee Park that’s designed for families with small children.
“That’s something that parents in the community are really frustrated about,” she said. “I would love to have that playground open again by the time the weather starts to get warm next spring.”
If the Hogan’s Fountain Pavilion is demolished, the city could replace it with a similarly large structure, but it would probably look less unique. Based on recent projects in other parks, that would likely cost more than $500,000.
Chambers Armstrong has asked the Parks and Recreation Department to also explore a third option: demolishing the pavilion and replacing it with something that incorporates some iconic parts of the old structure, like its stone stairs.
Members of the public would have an opportunity to weigh in on whatever may replace the pavilion.
Because it’s designated as a local landmark, any decision to demolish or replace the pavilion will have to be approved by Louisville Metro’s Landmarks Commission. The Commission is required to get public input before making decisions.