Brandeis’ Boyhood Home For Sale

14Nov13

Do you have 3.2 million dollars burning a hole in your pocket? If so, you can own one of the houses Louis D. Brandeis grew up in. Today’s Courier-Journal has a story about how the dermatologists who own the old Brandeis home on Broadway are looking to relocate to the east side of the city, so they are putting the historic building up for sale. It would be great if the University of Louisville would buy it, but I probably shouldn’t get my hopes up.

I have written about this house before, but it looks like I might have gotten some information wrong in the previous post. In it, I quoted a Courier-Journal article from 1939 that said the Brandeis family built the house in 1872. (The article also claimed that this was the same year that Adolph Brandeis started his grain business with William W. Crawford.) However, today’s Courier-Journal article states that the house was built in 1864. After looking into the discrepancy, I have decided that the 1864 date is probably the correct one. The earlier Courier-Journal article states that Brandeis and Crawford supposedly built houses next to each other the year they started their business. But they were a going concern long before 1872; they apparently made a lot of money selling supplies to the Union Army during the Civil War. Philippa Strum states the business was founded in 1855. Strum also gives the following chronology: “When Brandeis was four, his parents moved from their little house on Center Street … to a larger one on First Street, which they had remodeled. A few years later they moved again, this time to an impressive limestone-fronted house they had built on fashionable Broadway.” The 1864 date is a much better fit with this chronology than 1872 is. Also, 1872 is the year that Brandeis’ father disbanded his business, which seems like it would have been an awkward time to have had a new house built.

The difference in dates is significant because of the historical marker in front of the house on Broadway that proclaims it as “Brandeis’ Boyhood Home.” If the house had in fact been built in 1872, then Brandeis would only have lived in it for a matter of months. Shortly after disbanding his business, Adolph Brandeis took his family of a trip to Europe. Louis Brandeis would not return to Louisville until 1875, and then he would leave shortly thereafter for Harvard. Other than occasional short visits, Brandeis never lived in Louisville again. So if the house was built in 1864, then Brandeis would lived there for about 8 years, longer than in either of his two other Louisville homes, thus making it indeed his boyhood home.

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