Written by Walter Munday, Outreach and Volunteer Manager for Metro Parks.
Waverly Hills is most commonly known for its “allegedly” haunted sanatorium, but this neighborhood has more to offer than just an eerie old hospital. Let me introduce you to Waverly Park. Waverly Park is one of Louisville’s best keep secrets. The Park is 300 acres of beautiful woodlands, along with a 9-Hole Golf Course named in honor of Louisville golf legend Bobby Nichols, as well as a fishing lake, hiking trails, mountain bike trails, a playground, grills, and peaceful picnic areas.
Waverly Park is located along Waverly Park Road off of 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 Waverly, 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 that 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, that was 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.
Waverly Park is also home to Bobby Nichols Golf Course, a 9-hole course. Robert Herman Nichols is best known for winning the 1964 PGA Championship. Nichols was born in Louisville, Kentucky. He attended St. Xavier High School in Louisville and later played golf at Texas A&M University were his team won the Southwest Conference Championship. Nichols began playing on the PGA Tour in 1960 and has recorded 11 PGA Tour victories. He was a member of the 1967 Ryder Cup team. His best year on the Tour was 1974 when he won twice, earned $124,747 and finished 14th on the money list.
The 1964 PGA Championship was played at the Columbus Country Club in Columbus, Ohio. Nichols defeated Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus by 3 shots for a four-day total of 271. This was a record low score for the PGA Championship which stood for 30 years until it was broken by Nick Price in 1994.
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 and new sustainable bike trails. The Kentucky Mountain Bike Association (KyMBA) is one of our Adopt-A-Park Partners. They work closely with our Natural Areas’ Division to help maintain the park; specifically the bike trails.