Underhill Associates is currently working hard to revive Colonial Gardens to its former glory. Construction will be complete in 2019, with 4 new restaurants and outdoor entertainment. Starting its life in 1902 as Senning’s Park, the corner of New Cut Rd and Kenwood Drive featured dancing, dining, picnics and political rallies. During the Prohibition Era the grounds were transformed into Louisville’s first zoo. Attractions included alligators, bears, deer,exotic birds, leopards, lions, monkeys, ostriches, and tigers.
In 1940 the park was sold to B. A. Watson who opened a restaurant on the property and was the first to name it Colonial Gardens. For several years, popularity swelled with the performances of big bands and dance competitions. Eventually, issues such as losing its right to sell rationed foods, illegal gambling devices being found on the premises, and a fire in 1950 caused the property to again changed hands. After repairs were made it operated for several years as a dance club for teens, then evolving into a honky-tonk bar. Jerry Lee Lewis is said to have performed at the restaurant; also, Elvis Presley had an unscheduled performance at the restaurant in 1956 while in town for a show at the Armory and staying at his grandparents’ home near Iroquois Park.
The last business operating in Colonial Gardens closed in 2003. The building was then abandoned in mid-2008, and was in danger of being demolished by investors interested in developing the property. In hopes of saving the building, a petition was widely circulated and on November 20th, 2008, the Louisville Metro Landmarks Commission named Colonial Gardens an “Individual Local Landmark”. In June 2013 the city purchased Colonial Gardens and subsequently sold the property to Underhill Associates. Opportunities like Colonial Gardens are what Underhill Associates excels at. Embracing Louisville’s history, revitalizing its architecture, and giving back to the community. We look forward to celebrating the rich history of this site and hosting many celebrations for the South End at the new Colonial Gardens.