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Camp Zachary Taylor

President Zachary Taylor, courtesy of Zachary Taylor National Cemetery Camp Zachary Taylor was Louisville’s World War I military encampment. Opened in 1917 and built in less than 90 days, it was the largest of its kind in the U.S. The camp was named after President Zachary Taylor, who grew up in Jefferson County, Kentucky.

According to the Kentucky Historical Society, Camp Zachary Taylor sat on approximately 3,000 acres, contained roughly 17-hundred buildings and housed over 40,000 troops - a fifth of Louisville’s total population at the time. More than 125,000 soldiers were trained there – most from Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Acclaimed author F. Scott Fitzgerald was among them, who later mentioned the camp in his novel The Great Gatsby.

One distinctive feature of the base was the Field Artillery Central Officers Training School. It also included at 53-acre hospital.

In 1918 a flu epidemic devastated the camp, killing hundreds of soldiers. Camp Zachary Taylor was officially closed in 1920 and later dismantled. The artillery school and range moved to what is now Fort Knox.

Today remnants of the base can be found in homes built from the wood and concrete of its barracks and stables. These homes form the Camp Taylor neighborhood, which was annexed by the City of Louisville in 1950.

The Main Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library is holding a free commemorative exhibit, in conjunction with the Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society, from November 8th through December 7th, 2008 – Pearl Harbor Day.

More about Camp Zachary Taylor:

  • Camp Zachary Taylor was one of 16 national army camps in the U.S. It was built on farmland located south and southeast of Louisville.
  • The Encyclopedia of Louisville states the project employed 10,000 builders and carpenters, used 45.3 million feet of lumber and totaled $7.2 million.
  • The first inductees to Camp Zachary Taylor arrived Sept. 5, 1917. It was home to the Lincoln Division (so named because its recruits came from Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois), the 159th Depot Brigade, and the Field Artillery Central Officers Training School, among other units.
  • According to the New York Times, the official designation as “Camp Zachary Taylor” over “Camp Taylor” (which would have been the standardized name at the time) came through the efforts of Henry Watterson, former editor of Louisville’s Courier-Journal newspaper. Watterson later had a local expressway name after him. Fittingly, today the Watterson Expressway is a boundary of the Camp Taylor Neighborhood.
  • The Courier-Journal reports that, “Although parts of the barracks buildings that were converted into homes are difficult to recognizes now, many home with two chimneys, at opposite ends of a structure, are converted barracks latrines.” Kentucky’s first official state flag was made in early 1920 for a ceremony at Camp Zachary Taylor, prior to its closing.
  • When parcels of Camp Zachary Taylor were sold off in the 1920s, the government only received $1.1 million for its $7.2 million investment.
  • The former site of the camp’s headquarters is now Taylor Memorial Park.
  • As of November 2008, the Camp Zachary Taylor Historical Society is working on a film documentary about the cantonment.
Program 306
Louisville Life profiles filmmaker, entrepreneur and environmentalist Gill Holland; showcases the Zoom Group's talented artists; celebrates centennial of Louisville Free Public Library. (#306)