The Blue Grass Trust plaque property at 234 Eastern Ave (formerly 140 Vertner Ave) has a rich history associated with the horse-racing industry.
This parcel once formed the eastern boundary of Gunntown, a settlement composed largely of formerly enslaved people who had purchased lots from farmer Winn Gunn. Built by 1874, the brick Italianate cottage with double brackets and corbelled hood moulds was owned by a series of non-resident landlords until the late 1880s, when renowned African-American horse trainer Edward Dudley Brown acquired it.
Born into slavery in 1850, Brown worked as a groom at the Woodburn Stud Farm near Midway. There, he encountered Ansel Williamson, who was considered to be the “the best Negro trainer in the world.” Under his tutelage, Brown emerged as a successful jockey; having rode Asteroid, whom the horse Lexington sired, he won the Belmont Stakes in 1870 on Kingfisher. When farm manager Daniel Swigert began his new venture, Stockwood Stud, Brown followed and went on to train legendary horses including Baden-Baden, Hindoo, and Spendthrift.
By the 1890s, Brown had begun his own training operation and was paying African-American jockeys such as William Walker and Isaac Murphy to race his stock. Murphy, who had amassed a fortune in winnings by this time, resided nearby in a large brick house at the intersection of Nelson and 3rd St. Meanwhile, fellow trainer Abe Perry lived close to Brown at 216 Eastern Ave.
Suffering from rheumatism and tuberculosis, Brown relocated in 1904 with his wife, Lucy, and conveyed the property to son Lee (a journalist and civil rights activist), who quickly sold it to grocer Fred Luigart. Born in Indiana to German parents, Fred resided on 3rd St. and likely rented out the house. His son, Joseph, and granddaughter, Katherine, remained its landlords until the 1960s.
Edward Dudley Brown died in Louisville in 1906 and was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1984.Follow this link to an article from the Paulick Report for more on Brown's inspiring life.