R.C. Tway: Owner of Plainview Farms
Writer: Beth Wilder
Director Jeffersontown Historical Museum
In 1972, Plainview Farms, an historical 630-acre estate on Hurstbourne Lane, was selected as the site for a $100 million multi-purpose development. The area, to be known as Plainview, would provide residential and multi-family housing for 6,000 inhabitants, as well as office and retail centers, schools and a community club. The intent of the newly planned development was “to provide a community different in environment from any existing in Louisville or its surroundings.” It was designed to be “a pleasant, purposeful way of life for Louisvillians,” with a “village effect,” where trees, lakes and pastureland would blend with recreational areas and quiet living.
The former owner of Plainview Farms, Robert Chester Tway, Sr. (1882-1964), would no doubt have been quite happy with the result. Being both a businessman and a
successful horse breeder, Tway would have appreciated the peaceful, pastoral, yet business-like atmosphere that created a new living space for thousands of residents.
R.C. Tway was descended from pioneer settler Jacob Gaar, who came to Kentucky in 1832 in “a little two-horse wagon.” He purchased a 300-acre tract in eastern Jefferson County, brought his family out from Virginia, and began building a prosperous farm. By 1852, Gaar owned four tracts of land throughout the county, and according to contemporary tax records, he was by far the wealthiest man in his vicinity.
Another noted ancestor of R.C. Tway was Benjamin Head, who built the old stone house (now known as Head House Antiques & Uniques) on Main Street in Middletown. Head’s daughter, Amelia, married into the
Gaar family (which by then had changed the spelling of their name to “Garr”) and was the maternal grandmother of R.C. Tway.
Robert C. Tway married Estelle S. Bennett, and they were the parents of William T., Robert Chester, Jr and Helen Harriet. In 1923, R.C. Tway, Sr had a gorgeous two-and-a-half story brick Georgian Revival-style home built for his family by the outstanding local architectural firm, Nevin, Morgan, and Wischmeyer. The countryside surrounding the house would become known as Plainview Farms Dairy, founded by Tway in 1929. It was there that he earned the reputation for being an amazingly successful livestock and show horse breeder.
In addition to the Dairy, Tway operated three other businesses — the R.C. Tway Coal Company and the Tway Building Materials Company, both established in 1912, and the Kentucky Manufacturing Company, a trailer firm founded in 1939.
Plainview Farms Dairy was advertised as the “Home of Jersey Creamline Milk,” and Tway won numerous accolades for the breed, including awards for the best Jersey cows bred and owned by an exhibitor at the Kentucky State Fair. Products sold by the dairy were of high quality and included milk, cream, buttermilk, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese, and ice cream. Tway’s barns and plants were the most up-to-date around, and Plainview Farms was considered a “modern country estate” and a “model establishment.” Tway allowed school children, clubs and organizations from all over Jefferson County to come to Plainview Farms for tours to see how an actual dairy farm worked.
Horses were another passion of R.C. Tway, and during the 1950s and 1960s, Plainview Farms was known for breeding award-winning horses and mares. Plainview’s Julia was a 2-time world champion five-gaited horse, but Tway had plenty of other award-winning horses as well, earning him the reputation as one of the state’s finest horse-breeders.
In December 1971, just a few years after R.C. Tway’s death, his heirs sold the property to Plainview Ventures, a partnership comprised of J.D. Nichols, Dick Thurman, Dave Carney, George Bush and Sam Miller. These men had a vision to create a nature-oriented community, complete with homes, businesses, retail centers and recreational areas all contained within a lovely and peaceful country setting. In November 1972, the City of Jeffersontown took action to annex the new development, swelling the city’s size by about 33 percent, and its population by about 50 percent at the time. The area was designed to be a self-contained city, although it would, of course, receive the same amenities as other Jeffersontown neighborhoods.
In 1973, plans were underway to create a new Plainview Swim and Tennis Club, centering on the old Tway home, which was then Plainview’s corporate headquarters. Plainview’s general manager, Tom Sturgeon, intended to renovate the old mansion into a clubhouse, construct four swimming pools (for adult use, wading, diving and an Olympic-sized competition pool), a bath house, a teen club structure, nine tennis courts, a basketball court and a landscaped parking lot.
By 1974, 110 homes in Plainview were occupied, and 344 apartments were under construction, with another 344 to be built in the future. Plans were also underway for 720 condominium units and a retail shopping center. Of course, with growth comes traffic headaches, and residents were already showing concern over the need for traffic lights on Hurstbourne Lane and Shelbyville Road that required action from the State Highway Department.
Plainview’s Racquet and Swim Club opened on May 24, 1974, with a Grand Master’s tournament. Brad Lovell was hired as the tennis professional at the new club, which offered memberships only to Plainview residents for an annual fee of $120, plus $10 monthly. Outsiders could not join, simply because the club would not be able to accommodate them once the rest of Plainview was developed.
Plainview was a huge success, although by the 1990s, the Racquet and Swim Club was in some financial trouble. In 1996, then-Mayor Daniel Ruckriegel announced that the City of Jeffersontown intended to purchase the Plainview Racquet and Swim Club. The deal included the Tway house and nine acres of ground comprising the swimming pools and tennis courts. The city wanted to have a second community center in Jeffersontown, as well as a municipal swimming pool for its residents.
Today, Plainview’s Swim & Tennis Center is still going strong, with its six clay and two hard tennis courts, plus its four pools. The beautiful Tway house itself is available for rentals, and more information on the site can be found at jeffersontownky.gov.
In the few generations between Jacob Gaar and the heirs of his grandson, R.C. Tway, Plainview grew from a pioneer farm into an entire city in its own right — albeit one that proudly has its roots in Jeffersontown. Just as Plainview Farms prospered so well under the ownership of R.C. Tway, the community of Plainview continues to flourish and remains a shining jewel amongst the neighborhoods of Jefferson County.