The Smiths: Visionaries for Blackacre’s Future

As the land became more beautiful, we felt ourselves stewards, not owners of this property.

– Emilie Strong Smith

The Smiths at Blackacre

A photograph of the Smiths on their homestead, featured Louisville Magazine‘s 1981 piece about the Smith’s donation of Blackacre fo KSNPC. Click to enlarge.

Judge Macauley and Emilie Strong Smith lived on the property they called Blackacre starting in 1950. Judge Smith, who delighted in words, named the farm Blackacre, a legal term distinguishing one piece of property from another (called a Whiteacre).  In 1975, after Judge Smith left his third term on the Jefferson Circuit Court bench, he and his wife turned their attention to their homestead’s preservation. In the face of increasing, encroaching suburban development, they wished to preserve their land in its idyllic state so that future generations might see and learn about farm life.

Emilie Smith in her kitchen

Emilie Smith in her kitchen– she was, by all accounts, and wonderful cook.

After nearly thirty years of devoted stewardship, the Smiths donated their 170- acre parcel to the commonwealth on 19 March 1979, dedicating it to the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission for the express purpose of preserving the land for passive recreation and interpretive nature education. Their gift created Kentucky’s first state nature preserve.The Articles of Dedication contained within the deed of conveyance recognized and met the needs of an urban population (such as Louisville) for a convenient, natural place for education and recreation. The principal visitor activities permitted by the Articles of Dedication are observation, walking and study.  As a State Nature Preserve (SNP), Blackacre is a legally dedicated area that has been recognized for its natural significance and protected by law for scientific and educational purposes.

Judge Macauley Smith

Judge Macauley Smith

After it became clear that the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission would not be able to accept responsibility for the ongoing maintenance of the grounds and structures, the Smiths created the Blackacre Conservancy and established an endowment for the organization.   The formation of the Blackacre Foundation in 1983, later renamed the Blackacre Conservancy, was designed to provide an on-going source of financial means to maintain the preserve and the historic homestead.The Smith family’s relationship to Blackacre continues to this day. In the last ten years, the Smiths have helped protect additional property surrounding Blackacre’s original 170 acres.  Emilie Strong Smith, with support from her family, purchased 101 additional acres immediately south of the preserve in 1997 to provide a buffer against planned development. This acreage remains in the custody of the Blackacre Conservancy.  In addition, the Smiths enabled the Conservancy to purchase a 17-acre easement to the north of the preserve in 2000 to secure the northern boundary from railroad and industrial park incursion.After over 100 years of life and over sixty on Blackacre’s land, Emilie Strong Smith passed away in April of 2011. Although her presence can still be felt by all who visit her beloved Blackacre, she is and always will be sorely missed by her friends.

Nobody has loved the house more than we do. We have been powerful happy here.

– Emilie Strong Smith