By Walter Munday
Welcome to Waverly Park – one of Louisville’s best kept secrets.
Most commonly known for its “allegedly” haunted sanatorium, Waverly Park is 300 acres of beautiful woodlands, along with a nine-hole course named for Louisville golf legend Bobby Nichols, a 4.4 acre fishing lake, a fishing dock, hiking and mountain bike trails, a playground, bathrooms, dog park, shelters, grills, and serene picnic areas.
Waverly Park is located along Waverly Park Road off Arnoldtown Road and Clayton Terrace in the Waverly Hills neighborhood. This southwest neighborhood sits atop a hill along the east boundary of Dixie Highway at Pages Lane. Until the 1990’s, the area remained largely rural and heavily forested, but has since been developed with many upscale subdivisions, and is now one of the most affluent areas of Louisville’s South End.
Records indicate that the land was originally owned by Major Thomas H. Hays, a Hardin County native, lawyer and Civil War veteran. Hays purchased the land currently known as Waverly Hills in 1883. He had a school built on the land to educate his eight daughters and hired Lizzie Lee Harris as the teacher. Ms. Harris loved the writings of Sir Walter Scott.
Scott’s first novel, published in 1814, was titled Waverley, and subsequent novels became collectively known as the Waverley Novels.
Ms. Harris loved the writings so much that she named the school Waverley School. Major Hays liked the name as well, and he named his entire property Waverley Hills. Somewhere along the line, the spelling was changed from “Waverley” to “Waverly”.
In response to a growing tuberculosis epidemic, the Anti-Tuberculosis Association was formed in Louisville in 1906 and headed up by Judge Robert Worth Bingham.
Two years later, the association had incorporated as the Louisville Tuberculosis Association and construction of a hospital began on land purchased from Major Hays. It was completed in 1910, and the Louisville Tuberculosis Association chose to retain the name “Waverly Hills.” For more than 50 years, the Waverly Hills Sanatorium operated as a Tuberculosis Hospital, and closed in 1961.
A letter dated February 16, 1963, from Charlie Vettiner, then Superintendent of the Jefferson County Playground and Recreation Board, to his fellow board members talked about the proposed new park at Waverly Hills as part of the new Chain of Rainbow Parks. Mr. Vettiner indicated the Jefferson County Board of Health already owned 273 acres there, and that the board should ask Fiscal Court to purchase an adjacent 29 acres known as the Joseph Kessler property being sold by Kessler’s heirs. The Louisville and Jefferson County Board of Health purchased the land for $13,500 on January 28, 1965, and it became known as Waverly Park.
Over the past few years, Waverly Park has had been the beneficiary of several upgrades including a new fishing dock, parking lot, pavilion, new spillway bridge, dog run and restrooms.
In addition, Waverly Park has received many upgrades most notably are the new sustainable trails! The Kentucky Mountain Bike Association (KyMBA) continues to work closely with Louisville Parks and Recreation on a new bike trail segment to increase the current Mountain Bike Loop from a 6.4 mile moderately trafficked loop trail to roughly a 10- mile loop. KyMBA works closely with our Natural Areas’ Division to help maintain the park; specifically, the bike trails.