Councilwoman moves to overturn Anshei Sfard landmarking

A resolution has been introduced in Louisville Metro Council to overturn Anshei Sfard’s historic landmark designation.

A Louisville Metro councilwoman said she would vote to overturn the city’s historic landmark designation for the Anshei Sfard synagogue.
Barbara Sexton Smith made her position known Tuesday during a meeting of council’s planning, zoning & annexation committee to review the designation – a review she requested.
Smith said she arrived at her decision after reviewing the report by the Historic Landmarks Commission, watching video of the property and consulting the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office on the criteria used to designate the property as historic.
“This particular property, under my review, does not possess any of character, interest or value as part of the heritage of Louisville Metro or that of the United States of America.” Smith said.
Further, “There was nothing in the record that indicated that this property or the structures therein played any particular role in the history of our community,” she said.
While the contractors may have used quality materials and craftsmanship to build the synagogue and other structures, she added “The architecture did not display any distinguishing elements, and that was part of the criteria.”
The committee did not vote since there was no resolution before it. Smith introduced a resolution on Monday.
Council has until September 18 to take action on the landmarking.
Responding to a petition signed by neighbors and other residents to designate Anshei Sfard as historic, the Landmarks Commissions compiled a report on the property and held a public hearing on March 22.
Cynthia Elmore, historic preservation officer for Develop Louisville, gave the committee a brief overview of the report. She said four residents at the March 22 hearing spoke in favor of the designation, while five were against.
In the end, the commission voted 5-4 to landmark the synagogue, saying it met four of its nine criteria for the designation. Four commissioners were absent and did not vote.
The congregation opposes the landmarking, saying it will hamper its efforts to sell the property. The Jewish Community of Louisville has made a conditional offer to buy it, the condition being that the landmark decision be overturned.
Steve Porter, the attorney representing the petitioners, maintains that the building is historic, noting it is the last Orthodox synagogue in Kentucky and represents the movement of the community from downtown to the East End. He called the synagogue’s windows “an outstanding example of the use of glass architecture.”
Councilwoman Madonna Flood, chair of the planning, zoning & annexation committee, lamented that the issue was before her panel saying the criteria the Landmark Commission must follow in deciding which buildings to protect constitutes “a horrible balancing act.”

Leave a Reply