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With a population of approximately 973,000 (1.29 million in the metropolitan area), Louisville is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the 29th most-populous city in the United States. Since 2003, it has been the nominal seat of Jefferson County. The city, pronounced “Looavul”, stands opposite the falls of the Ohio River. The metropolitan area centred on Louisville includes not only Jefferson County in Kentucky, but also Clark and Floyd counties in neighbouring Indiana. Bridges across the river link the city with New Albany and Jeffersonville, Indiana. Following a referendum in 2000, Louisville and Jefferson County (which it is the historical seat of) merged in 2003, effectively more than doubling the city’s population and increasing its area to more than six times what it had previously been. This webpage includes a brief history of the city and some information, accompanied by photos, of a few of the sights in, and around the city seen during a visit there in 2017. Of course, there are many other things to see and do in and around Louisville, and so this webpage is far from comprehensive.

Above: Louisville as seen from across the Ohio River in Clarksville, Indiana

The first recorded visit to the area by Europeans was in 1773, when Captain Thomas Bullitt arrived to survey the lands with a commission from the governor of Virginia. In the May of 1778, during the American Revolution, a group of settlers accompanying the American officer George Rogers Clark settled on the now submerged 7-acre Corn Island on the river, where Clark organized a base for the conquest of the British-held Old Northwest. Most of these settlers moved ashore the following winter and established Fort Nelson within the present city limits. Hence, Louisville was founded by George Rogers Clark in 1778. It was named after Louis XVI of France and incorporated as a town in 1779. The town subsequently grew and became an important frontier and river-flatboat trading place. In 1811 Captain Nicholas Roosevelt docked the steamboat New Orleans here. It was the first successful vessel to ply the waters of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. By 1820, Louisville had become a major river port. Construction of a canal around the falls of the Ohio River in 1825 to 1830, further stimulated Louisville’s commercial influence, which by now extended over a vast area of the South and the Midwest. The city served as a military headquarters and a major Union supply depot during the American Civil War. It escaped the destruction brought about by the war and became an important way station for slaves seeking freedom in Indiana, across the river. After the Civil War, trade with the South was reinvigorated, helped by an extension of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad down to Jacksonville in Florida in the 1880’s. During World War I, the local economy here was helped with the establishment of Camp Zachary Taylor and later, with the enlargement of nearby Fort Knox. A major flooding of the Ohio River in 1937 caused widespread damage to the city and as an ongoing issue, extensive flood protections were put in place along its banks. During World War II, new industries were established.

Louisville’s industries include bourbon whiskey and cigarettes, synthetic rubber, paint and varnish, aluminium items, appliances, automobiles, pottery, and printed matter (including books in braille). As with many other cities, the service sector is playing a more important role. The city’s Louisville International Airport is a national hub for air cargo. Louisville is one of two cities in Kentucky designated as first-class (the other being Lexington). Tourism also forms an important part of the local economy. Educational institutes here include The University of Louisville (founded 1798 as Jefferson Seminary), the Roman Catholic Spalding University (1814) and Bellarmine College (1950). Also here are two theological schools - Southern Baptist (1859) and Louisville Presbyterian (1853).

The Muhammad Ali Center (above) is by the river and one of the city’s main modern attractions. As well as documenting the local hero’s boxing career, it provides an insight into his political activism and Muslim faith. The city has many historic buildings, including the homes of George Rogers Clark and an early residence of inventor Thomas Edison, both of which are open to the public. In fact, the Historic District around Central Park contains the highest concentration of Victorian houses in the country. Notable institutions include the J.B. Speed Art Museum, which has a large collection of Renaissance paintings and sculpture, the Frazier History Museum, and the Louisville Science Center. At the Riverfront Plaza on the banks of the river at Main and Fourth Streets, several paddle-wheelers tour the area and a fountain periodically spouts water some 375 feet (114.3m) up into the air. The stern-wheeler Belle of Louisville holds its annual race with the Delta Queen during the Kentucky Derby Festival. Many of the historic district’s old warehouses have been renovated and converted into cafés, shops and galleries.

Churchill Downs

Louisville is home to one of the world’s most famous horse races, the Kentucky Derby. This is the event around which all local calendars revolve. The event first began in 1875. Since then, three-year-old horses have run the track at Churchill Downs in south Louisville on the first Saturday in May. The track, owned by the Churchill family, was named in the 1880’s. Twin spires, designed by J. Baldez were built at the site in 1895. Betting machines were introduced in 1908 whist other events held at the track were state fairs, band concerts, auto and airplane races, military horse and tank shows, and a train wreck. The first radio and television broadcasts from here were in 1925 and 1949 respectively.
The Kentucky Derby is a magnet for the state’s upper-classes, whom are attracted to Kentucky’s social event of the year, akin to Royal Ascot in the UK. Mint juleps, the Southern mixture of bourbon, ice, sugar and fresh mint is the unofficial drink of choice here. The anti-slavery ballad “My Old Kentucky Home” plays while the horses are led onto the track for the event that lasts for less than two minutes. The winner’s trophy is decorated with lucky silver horseshoes in a U-shape, “so that the luck doesn’t spill out”. Adjacent to the racetrack is the Kentucky Derby Museum, which gives some history and also offers “backside track” tours through the racecourse. A couple of photos of Churchill Downs are shown below:


The Kentucky State Fair is held at the Kentucky Expo Center, also in Louisville, and is one of the oldest agricultural fairs in the United States. It includes an annual horse show that closely rivals the Derby in interest.

The Louisville Slugger Museum

A few blocks down from the city’s historic district on the waterfront is the Louisville Slugger Museum. Here is the headquarters of the Hillerich & Bradsby Company, makers of the famed Louisville Slugger baseball bats, although most bats are now made in other places). The building is fairly conspicuous in that the museum and factory is marked by a landmark 120 foot (36m) high bat. Made of carbon steel, it is the world’s largest baseball bat and leans against and towers over the five-storey building on West Main Street. It is a replica of a bat used by Babe Ruth in the 1920’s; photos below:


Cave Hill Cemetery

Two miles (3.2km) northeast of the downtown area is the Cave Hill Cemetery. It is one of the largest in the country and a place where many locals bizarrely go to just to feed the ducks or take in the landscaped lawns. The reason for visiting here, from a tourist’s point-of-view was to visit graves of two famous people; Colonel Harland David Sanders (1890 - 1980), the businessman best known for founding fast food chicken restaurant chain Kentucky Fried Chicken (now known as KFC), and Muhammad Ali (born Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. 1942 - 2016), the professional boxer, activist, and philanthropist. Their graves are shown below:


Fort Knox

Fort Knox is located 30 miles (48.2km) southwest of Louisville, where it is possible to see the exterior. It is a US Army post and depository of most of the nation’s gold bullion. The fort was set up as a military establishment in 1917, and is vaults for the department of the treasury were built in 1937. Whilst there is a visitor’s centre, inside there is nothing to see regarding the history or information about the nation’s famous federal gold bullion repository, rather an area for people whom are here conducting business. Below are a couple of photos taken from outside Fort Knox – whilst this may seem not the best place to take photographs (for security reasons) a decision was made to capture a few photos for posterity based upon the fact that similar images can be viewed on Google Street View anyway:


Clarksville – Falls of the Ohio State Park

And finally, below are some photographs taken of a visit across the Ohio River to the Falls of the Ohio State Park in neighbouring Clarksville, Indiana, where there is a view across the river back towards Louisville. Photos include the Ohio River and the Colgate Clock, which is located at a former Colgate-Palmolive factory in the town of Clarksville itself. One of the largest clocks in the world, it has a diameter of 40 feet and was built to celebrate the company’s centennial in 1906.


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