Camp Zachary Taylor’s 100th Anniversary Celebration and Tree Planting – November 3, 2017

Friday, November 3, 2017 will mark the Centennial of the official opening of Camp Zachary Taylor in Louisville Ky. The camp had been occupied since September 8th, 1917, and within a couple of months, they had men in uniform and trained in the Military discipline of marching formations.

Civilians along with the media were all invited to attend the dedication services along with the 40,000 men of the 84th Division, and other dignitaries. General Harry Hale gave the dedication speech, which in part read:

“We have been called today to dedicate the flag of our country in the service for which it was designed. Our work at Camp Zachary Taylor is divided into two periods. The ceremonies today mark the completion of the first period – the period of construction. We are now entering on our second and last period, that of instruction, which will terminate with our departure to France.

Kentucky’s Governor, A. O. Stanley spoke next and patriotic enthusiasm he said:

“Although we have raised this flag but a little more than 100 feet here, it is floating high enough to be seen around the world. I have fancied that its folds inspire not alone the gallant thousands who have salutes it, but that also, with tear-rimmed eyes and with maimed and broken bodies, dauntless heroes of France, shattered legions in the Alps, and all the world gazing upon the flag today with the hope that is this nations strength is destined to make the world safe for democracy.”

On Friday, November 3, 2017, we will honor these men who put their life on the line fighting for this country. The tree planting and Centennial Celebration will begin at 10:00 am. 100 years to the day and time of the first ceremony. Please join us at Camp Taylor Park on November 3rd, 2017.

The First Soldiers Arrive at Camp Zachary Taylor 100 years ago Today, September 8, 1917

Camp Zachary Taylor was nearing completion in early September 1917. The huge construction project had begun only 10 weeks earlier, and was nearly ready to start receiving men. On September 8, 1917, the first wave of enlisted men arrived to join the US Army.Lester Monk Picture

The first man to arrive at Camp Zachary Taylor, was Lester Monk from Illinois. Soon men from Kentucky and Indiana.

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Indiana Enlistments

Over the next several weeks, men from the region flooded into Camp Zachary Taylor to report for duty.

Select Men

The new recruits exchanged their civilian clothes for army uniforms, and training began almost immediately. By the end of the month, 40,000 men were stationed at Camp Taylor, which was the birthplace of the 84th Division. They would be known as the “Lincoln Division” or “Rail Splitters”, in honor of the area’s most notable son, Abraham Lincoln. The camp was not completely finished, but could be occupied.

The final finishing touches were completed on November 23, 1917, and officially turned over the US Army on December 1, 1917.

copyright 2017, Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society

Kentucky World War 1 Centennial Commission’s – Kentucky State Fair Exhibit 2017

On Thursday, August 17, 2017, The Kentucky World War 1 Centennial Commission, the Kentucky Department of Veteran Affairs, the Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society, along with many other groups and volunteers will be opening an Exhibit to Honor Kentucky Veterans. The Exhibit will be focusing on Kentucky’s participation in World War 1, and will have displays showing how the soldiers lived and participated in The Great War.


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Replica World War 1 Barracks

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World War 1 replica Trench

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View of sandbag side of WW1 Trench

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Replica WW1 Barracks in the KSF 2017 Exhibit

The exhibit will run for the entire fair, which ends on August 27, 2017, and is free with admission to the Fair. Our location is in Section B of the South Wing. Hope to see you there.




Camp Taylor’s Motor School Garage To Be Demolished by the City of Louisville

Motor School Fenced1

Camp Zachary Taylor’s “Motor School Garage” built November 1918.

It was announced today by the City of Louisville, that they have decided to demolish the last remaining large building that was part of Camp Zachary Taylor, the Motor School Garage. This large building that now stands in Joe Creason Park, was built in 1918 and has withstood nearly 100 years of use. But due to the city’s standard practice of neglect for structures under their control, this building has not been maintained, and now is in danger of collapse.

Over the last four to five years, several historians, including myself, have had conversations with those at Metro Parks, and were given assurances that this building would be preserved due to it’s Historical Significance. Those promises have been broken.

Mayor Fischer proclamation_300

Mayor Fischer;s Centennial Proclamation 4-6-2017

It was only three months ago that Mayor Fischer issued this Proclamation, “Our City did Its Part Through Camp Taylor, a Historic and Sacred Site Where 150,00 Americans were Trained. Our City Honors the Memories of all Americans Who Served and Sacrificed During World War 1”.

The City of Louisville is now Honoring those same individuals by demolishing the last remaining structure that has ties to that event. This “Historic and Sacred Site” has apparently lost the luster it had three months ago, and is now a liability to the city.

One Thousand Seven Hundred and Sixty Five (1765) Kentuckians died in the World War. Below is a picture of twenty of those brave Kentucky soldiers who fought and died during those two years. Please remember them, as well as the other 1745 that are not shown.

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Kentucky Casualties of the Great War.

It is also a disgrace that they should decide to demolish this Historic Structure, the Very Year of the Centennial that is commemorating this building’s existence. I urge everyone who wants to see this structure saved, to write to Metro Councilman Pat Mulvihill (  and Mayor Greg Fischer Contact Mayor Fischer

Please tell them, and any other member of the Metro Council what you think about this decision.

I will be updating this as more information becomes available..

100 Years Ago Today

On July 4th, 1917, Camp Zachary Taylor was being built in a rush. The work that had begun just two weeks earlier, had produced dozens of building by this time. The farms that were taken over to build the camp, were cultivated Camp Zachary Taylorwith crops were already in the ground. The eight building in the photo (right) were started on June 25th, 1917. They show the progression of construction, as some buildings are nearing completion, and some are being framed. This photo was taken July 3, 1917.

Camp Zachary Taylor

Some of the workers were put up in hotels in town, but a small tent camp was erected on site for those workers who elected to stay closer to the construction ( see picture left). Demand for workers was very high, and shortages were common across the US where many other camps were being built. Men were brought in from around Kentucky and other nearby states to fill the demand. By early August, as many as 10,000 men would be employed on this single construction project .

The enormous amount of material that was brought in to build this one camp alone was unprecedented. A short list of the material is:

  • 45 million board feet of lumber
  • 28 thousand square feet of roofing
  • 20 train car loads of nails and hardware
  • 20 train car loads of windows and doors
  • 20 train car loads of plumbing fixtures and pipe
  • 192 train car loads of boiler tanks, heaters and stoves
  • 114 train car loads of electrical equipment
  • 10 train car loads of light poles
  • 175 train car loads of sand
  • 7 miles of railroad track and ties

Once this material was delivered to the site by train car, it had to taken to all points of the camp, some as far as three miles away. This was mostly done by use of mule cart. (see photo above). At the peak of construction, 299 teams of mules were in use, but only 79 trucks, which most likely arrived on the site after construction was well underway.

copyright 2017, Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society

June 11, 1917, 100 Years Ago Today, Louisville Ky Was Selected as Location for Cantonment

On June 11, 1917, it was announced that Louisville KY was selected as one of the sixteen cities in America, where the US Army would build a new Army Training Cantonment. The City of Louisville had been competing with six other cities in the region for the Mid-West camp. It was the single largest construction project the City of Louisville had ever seen, and forever changed the city’s landscape and history.

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The project increased the population of Louisville by 25% in just three months, and poured millions of dollars into the local economy, which lasted for three years. The battle to win the project began a month and a half earlier when the bidding war began.

The other competing locations were: Evansville IN., Fort Wayne IN, Indianapolis IN., Jeffersonville IN., Bowling Green KY. and Lexington KY.

Louisville was selected over the other sites for several reasons.

1.) Nearly 4000 acres of undeveloped land was available within a six mile radius of the City.

2.) It was more centrally located (geographically).

3.) It had a better railway system with access to all north to south and east to west lines.

4.) It had a never diminishing water supply.

5.) It was the only City that offered a 5 cent street car line.

6.) It was only one of three cities that had a sanitary sewer system.

7.) It was only one of three cities that would have a rifle range available.

8.) It was the only city that could offer all of the prime requisites.

9.) No other city could provide an equal or better offer.

10.) The City of Louisville guaranteed to give the camp “an Atmosphere of Patriotism, Efficiency and Morality”.

In closing, the selection committee made this statement. ” It’s selection will be best the US Army. the Nation and Best For The Boys.”

This decision put into motion the largest construction project in Louisville’s history. The camp would house an entire Division of men numbering 47,000 men, with an initial cost of $7.2 million (approx 200 million in today’s currency) and continuing for the next three years, the Army would spend another $2 million on additional construction projects at the camp

Material was purchased and delivered to the site the following week by rail car and the first building was started on June 21st. 1917, exactly 10 days after the decision was made to build the camp in Louisville.

Construction continued at a blinding pace. 1787 buildings were built between June 21st and August 28th when the project was considered to be substantially complete (69 calendar days). This also includes 16.3 miles of new roads, 30.8 miles of new sewer lines, 38.7 miles of new water lines, all new electric and telegraph lines, extension of the street car line into the camp, and 6.75 miles of railroad track and spurs.

Work Begun 6-23-17

The construction crew numbered in the thousands, with the maximum employed on August 19th, 1917 at 10,000 workers. The largest trade employed were the carpenters at 4280 men. Next were the Laborers at 3490 employed then electricians and plumbers at 942. The balance were miscellaneous trades such as truck drivers and water boys. The highest paid was the Carpentry Foremen at 75 cents per hour, down to the lowest, which were Messenger’s and Water Boys, at 15 cents per hour.


pg 26The first troops arrived on September 8th, 1917, and occupied the buildings while the outbuildings were being completed. The construction of the camp was completed on November 23, 1917, and officially turned over to the US Army on December 1, 1917.

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The camp stayed open for three years until the US Army announced on July 20, 1920, that Camp Zachary Taylor would be closed, which was almost three years to the day when the first building was begun. The camp officially closed for good September 1, 1920. All of the land was sold off at auction the next year, along with a few of the buildings. Some of the original land owners bought back the land they sold to the army just three years earlier for a fraction of what they were paid for it. Of the 7 million dollars spent to build the camp. the army only recouped a little over 1 million at auction.


Copyright 2017, Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society, Louisville KY.


April 6, 1917 – The United States Declares War Against Imperial Germany

April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson address Congress and makes his case for a Declaration of War against the Imperial German Government.

“With a profound sense of solemn and even tragical character of the the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States”

President Woodrow Wilson, April 6, 1917

Pronouncing The Doom of the Kaiser

Pronouncing The Doom of the Kaiser

April 6, 2017 – World War 1 Centennial Day

Mayor Greg Fischer has issued a Proclamation for April 6. 2017 as World War 1 Centennial Day in Louisville, Ky.

Mayor Fischer proclamation_300April 6th, 2017, is being remembered in Kentucky as World War 1 Centennial Day, as noted by the the Proclamation signed by the Governor on February 22nd, 2017.

Please take time out of your day on April 6th, to remember our World War 1 Veterans.

Gov Bevin WWI Proclomation

Christmas 1917

Camp Zachary Taylor was open for only a few months before the winter of 1917. Thanksgiving had just past, but the coldest December on record was on it’s way. Christmas was a cold and snowy one. December of 1917 still holds the record for the snowiest and coldest in Louisville.


Christmas Tree in the YMCA Auditorium on Poplar Level Road, 1917.

Days leading up to Christmas in 1917 saw the coldest temperatures ever recorded in December. December 8th was neg. 1, December 9th was neg. 6, December 10th was neg. 4 and December 11th was neg.3 degrees. These four consecutive dates still hold the record for the coldest temps on those dates.


Barracks at Camp Zachary Taylor during the record cold and snowy winter of 1917-1918

The unusual cold weather continued through the month of December 1917 and into January 1918, with the record coldest date for January occurring on January 12, 1918, where it reached -15 below zero. The photo above was taken around that date, and mentions -18 degrees, which it might have been, away from the city.

1917 also hold the record for the most snow fall ever recorded in the month of December, which was 13.6″. The winter of 1917-1918 still hold the record of the most snow in one season, which is 50.2″. It crippled the camp, and the city. Not much moved unless it was mule drawn, as you can see in this photo of soldiers trying to get a team out to the main road, right after one of the snow storms.


Merry Christmas!

The History of Camp Zachary Taylor – Part 4 – “The Pride and Flower of the Young Manhood of the Nation”

Louisville Kentucky

1911 Map of The City of Louisville, Ky. population 230,000

1911 Map of The City of Louisville, Ky.                                                   copyright CZTHS 2016
population 230,000

In the spring of 1917, The City of Louisville was successful in winning the bid from the War Department, to build the Mid-West Cantonment in Louisville. But there were some conditions attached. Louisville, like many urban areas in the US, had it’s problems. The Temperance Leagues were waging a battle with alcohol sales, and brothels were commonplace in just about every city.

The members of the Board of Trade had some foresight into the problems that accompanied installations of this type. They were very enthusiastic about reporting on the City’s ability to manage any situation that may arise. georgefarmhandsThey were aware that the city had it’s issues, and that the new facility could attract even more undesirables, who would prey on the new recruits. Some of the young men, whom have not been more than five miles home until being drafted, had never been exposed to any of the these vices while living on the farm.

On May 7, 1917, The Board of Trade made assurances in their proposal to the War Department, that everything will be done to clean up the city in preparation of the arrival of these fine young men.

The Special Committee for the Board wrote the following:

Louisville has the most excellent City Government. The Mayor and officials are men of family and reputation who feel a deep sense of responsibility for the welfare of the population who largely own their own homes. These officials of the city do not hesitate to acknowledge the obligation that rests upon them, in joining in this request to the Federal Government to place in this neighborhood the pride and flower of the young manhood of the Nation, to protect their inexperience as far as possible from the temptations that must naturally pursue such camps. The Police Force of Louisville is well trained and officered and desirous of making a record before the country in this regard.


Louisville Mayor John H. Buschemeyer

Louisville Mayor John H. Buschemeyer

Two years earlier in 1915, the Mayor of Louisville, Hon. John H. Buschemeyer appointed a “Vice Commission” to look into, and make recommendations as to how to eliminate or control the prostitution and “Red Light” districts in the city.

Report of The Vice Commission Louisville, KY 1915

Report of The Vice Commission
Louisville, KY 1915

Almost every city had a Red Light district, and Louisville was no exception. Although the commission had published a report, and made its recommendations on how to eradicate the “problem”, none of the recommendations were implemented. The Mayor, who appointed the commission, was not in favor or shutting down the brothels. An ordinance passed by the General Council on March 1, 1915 was the vehicle that started the beginning of the end of the brothels. The Mayor was very much a supporter of the establishments, and felt that the city could regulate them and considered them A necessary evil. The commission had no powers to implement the plan or take any legal action to eliminate prostitution.


When the proposal to build Camp Zachary Taylor came to becoming a reality, so did the question of the prostitutes. In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson and Federal Government formed the “Commission on Training Camp Activities” (CTCA). The Commission’s first official act was the prevention of venereal disease among the American Troops. This started at home, in the new Training Camps. The CTCA also envisioned the broader possibility of more wide sweeping social change.

Newton D. Baker, US Secretary of War, 1916-1921

Newton D. Baker, US Secretary of War, 1916-1921

Mayor John H. Buschemeyer, an advocate of regulated prostitution, sent Secretary of War, Newton D. Baker, a statement of his opinion about the role of segregated vice in Louisville. He wrote:

“I do not deem it proper, practical nor advisable in my humble judgment, to close these houses and disseminate these women through the orderly self-respecting and decent people and neighborhoods of the community, but realize that with strict surveillance we can control them absolutely with our police power, believing that regulation is the best method of handling this vast and aged problem”.

The Commission on Training Camp Activities was responsible for the physical health of the men in uniform. They took this crusade that the President had assigned to them; “To mold a New American Fighting Man to the cities that would house them. The commission set out to reinforce the characteristics of the New American Army to be “fit and straight in everything and pure and clean through and through”. The Mental, Moral and Physical Manhood of the new American Soldier was going to be “Powerful yet pure, virile yet virginal”.

America, Here's My Boy,

America, Here’s My Boy
c 1918

The CTCA hired investigators to find the existence of vice areas, and along with their own agents, the Intelligence Department of the Army, and members of local organizations, the CTVA encouraged local communities to pass strict anti-vice legislation. The CTVA gathered detailed evidence of the vice in local areas, insisted that local law enforcement agencies enforce existing and new ordinances that were pushed through by the CTCA. The CTCA was very successful in eradicating the “Red Light” districts in Louisville and other major cities. By October of 1917, the CTCA had closed Red Light districts in nineteen cities.

This pressure by the CTCA was the final weight needed to force the closing of houses of prostitution. Louisville’s Mayor and many residents, supported the continuance of the district, but if it was allowed to remain, the building of the camp in Louisville would be put in question. The Mayor, citing the Louisville’s Vice Commission’s report of 1915, argued that the Brothels could be forced out of business by regulation of alcohol sales and entertainment. But the CTCA’s position was  “To phase out the Red Light district by prohibiting music and liquor in the houses” was not the solution that they had in mind.

Although Mayor Buschemeyer struggled with the idea of closing the houses, he knew that failure to do so could mean that the camp may not be built. Buschmeyer let the Federal government know that the city would cooperate, and in July of 1917, just weeks after the start of construction had begun, the city passed legislation closing the red light district, with very little or no opposition. The Courier-Journal, who just one month earlier called the CTCA’s attempts to close the houses, “an impractical reform” and “unobtainable”, reversed their position and supported the campaign.  On the first day of September, 1917, seven days before the arrival of troops, the Louisville Police Department enforced the deadline that was set forth on August 16, and the districts were forever closed.

"Green Street" Louisville's "Red Light District"

“Green Street” Louisville’s “Red Light District”

Louisville’s “Red Light” District was generally (and ironically) centered along “Green Street”, east of Downtown Louisville. When the Houses of Ill Repute were shut down, the street name was patriotically changed to “Liberty Street’, in respect of the war effort.

………………….End                     Copyright Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society 2016