From top: Louisville downtown skyline at night, Cathedral of the Assumption, Thunder Over Louisville fireworks during the Kentucky Derby Festival, Kentucky Derby, Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory, Fourth Street Live!, The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts
|Nickname(s): Derby City, River City, Gateway to the South, Falls City, The 'Ville|
Location in the Commonwealth of Kentucky
|Founded by||George Rogers Clark|
|Named for||King Louis XVI of France|
|• Mayor||Greg Fischer (D)|
|• Metro Council||26 council members|
|• Consolidated city-county||1,032 km2 (399 sq mi)|
|• Land||997.38 km2 (385.09 sq mi)|
|• Water||35 km2 (13 sq mi)|
|Elevation||142 m (466 ft)|
|• Consolidated city-county||
|• Rank||US: 28th|
|• Density||743.0/km2 (1,924/sq mi)|
|• Metro||1,262,261 (US: 43rd)|
|• CSA||1,490,724 (US: 35th)|
|• GMP||$62.8 billion (US: 47th)|
|Time zone||EST (UTC-5)|
|• Summer (DST)||EDT (UTC-4)|
|ZIP code prefixes||
minor: 400xx, 401xx
|GNIS feature ID||0509453|
|USDA hardiness zones||6b, 7a|
|Airports||Louisville International Airport, Bowman Field|
|Waterways||Ohio River, Beargrass Creek, Floyds Fork, Harrods Creek|
Louisville (generally pronounced or by natives, and by others) is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky and the 28th most populous city in the United States. It is the state's only designated first-class city. Louisville is the historical seat and, since 2003, the nominal seat of Jefferson County.
Lousville was founded in 1778 by King Louis XVI of France, making Louisville one of the oldest cities west of the Appalachian Mountains. Sited beside the Falls of the Ohio, the only major obstruction to river traffic between the upper Ohio River and the Gulf of Mexico, the settlement first grew as a portage site. It was the founding city of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, which grew into a 6,000-mile (9,700 km) system across 13 states. Today the city is known as the home of the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Fried Chicken, the University of Louisville and its Louisville Cardinals athletic teams, Louisville Slugger baseball bats, and three of Kentucky's six Fortune 500 companies. Its main airport is also the site of UPS's worldwide air hub.
Since 2003, Louisville's borders have been coterminous with those of Jefferson County because of a city-county merger. The official name of this consolidated city-county government is the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, with Louisville Metro used for short. Despite the merger and renaming, the term "Jefferson County" continues to be used in some contexts in reference to Louisville Metro, particularly including the incorporated cities outside the "balance" which make up Louisville proper. The city's total consolidated population as of the 2013 census estimate was 756,832. However, the balance total of 609,893 excludes other incorporated places and semi-autonomous towns within the county and is the population listed in most sources and national rankings.
The Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), sometimes also referred to as Kentuckiana, includes Louisville-Jefferson County and twelve surrounding counties, eight in Kentucky and four in Southern Indiana. As of 2013, the MSA had a population of 1,262,261, ranking 43rd nationally.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Economy
- 5 Culture
- 6 Parks and outdoor attractions
- 7 Government and politics
- 8 Education
- 9 Media
- 10 Infrastructure
- 11 Notable people
- 12 Events
- 13 Sister cities
- 14 See also
- 15 Notes
- 16 References
- 17 Further reading
- 18 External links
The history of Louisville spans hundreds of years, and has been influenced by the area's geography and location.
Early history and founding
The rapids at the 
The city's early growth was influenced by the fact that river boats had to be unloaded and moved downriver before reaching the falls. By 1828, the population had swelled to 7,000 and Louisville became an incorporated city. The city grew rapidly in its formative years.
Louisville was a major shipping port and slaves worked in a variety of associated trades. The city was often a point of escape for slaves to the north, as Indiana was a free state.
During the Civil War, Louisville was a major stronghold of Union forces, which kept Kentucky firmly in the Union. It was the center of planning, supplies, recruiting and transportation for numerous campaigns, especially in the Western Theater. By the end of the war, Louisville had not been attacked, although skirmishes and battles, including the battles of Perryville and Corydon, took place nearby. After Reconstruction, returning Confederate veterans largely took political control of the city, leading to the jibe that Louisville joined the Confederacy after the war was over.
On March 27, 1890 the city was devastated and its downtown nearly destroyed when an F4 tornado tore through as part of the middle Mississippi Valley tornado outbreak. An estimated 74 to 120 people were killed.
20th and 21st centuries
In late January and February 1937, 19 inches (48 cm) of rain fell during a month of heavy rain. It caused the "Great Flood of '37". The flood submerged about 70% of the city, caused the loss of power and forced the evacuation of 175,000 residents. It led to dramatic changes in where residents lived. Today, the city is protected by numerous flood walls. After the flood, the areas of high elevation in the eastern part of the city saw decades of residential growth.
Louisville was a center for factory war production during World War II. In May 1942, the U.S. government assigned the Curtiss-Wright Aircraft Company, a war plant located at Louisville's air field, for wartime aircraft production. The factory produced the C-46 Commando cargo plane, among other aircraft. In 1946 the factory was sold to International Harvester, which began large-scale production of tractors and agricultural equipment. In 1950, the Census Bureau reported Louisville's population as 84.3% white and 15.6% black.
Similar to many other older American cities, Louisville began to experience a movement of people and businesses to the suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s. Middle class residents used newly built freeways and interstate highways to commute to work, moving into more distant but newer housing. Because of tax laws, businesses found it cheaper to build new rather than renovate older buildings. Economic changes included a decline in local manufacturing. The West End and older areas of the South End, in particular, began to decline economically as many local factories closed.
In 1974, a major (F4) tornado hit Louisville as part of the Super Outbreak of tornadoes that struck 13 states. It covered 21 miles (34 km) and destroyed several hundred homes in the Louisville area. Only two people died.
Since the 1980s, many of the city's urban neighborhoods have been revitalized into areas popular with young professionals and college students. The greatest change has occurred along the Bardstown Road/Baxter Avenue and Frankfort Avenue corridors as well as the Old Louisville neighborhood. In recent years, such change has also occurred in the East Market District (NuLu).
Since the late 1990s, Downtown has experienced significant residential, tourist and retail growth, including the addition of major sports complexes KFC Yum! Center and Louisville Slugger Field, conversion of waterfront industrial sites into Waterfront Park, openings of varied museums (see Museums, galleries and interpretive centers below), and the refurbishing of the former Galleria into the bustling entertainment complex Fourth Street Live!, which opened in 2004.
As of 2000, Louisville and Jefferson County have a combined area of 399 square miles (1,030 km2), of which, 385 square miles (1,000 km2) of it is land and 13 square miles (34 km2) of it (3.38%) is water.
Louisville is southeasterly situated along the border between Kentucky and Indiana, the Ohio River, in north-central Kentucky at the Falls of the Ohio. Although situated in a Southern state, Louisville is influenced by both Southern and Midwestern culture. It is sometimes referred to as either one of the northernmost Southern cities or as one of the southernmost Northern cities in the United States.
Louisville is located in Kentucky's Bluegrass region. Its development has been influenced by its location on the Ohio River, which spurred Louisville's growth from an isolated camp site into a major shipping port. Much of the city is located on a very wide and flat flood plain surrounded by hill country on all sides. Much of the area was swampland that had to be drained as the city grew. In the 1840s, most creeks were rerouted or placed in canals to prevent flooding and disease outbreaks.
Areas generally east of I-65 are above the flood plain, and are composed of gently rolling hills. The southernmost parts of Jefferson County are in the scenic and largely undeveloped Knobs region, which is home to Jefferson Memorial Forest.
The Louisville-Jefferson County, KY-IN Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the 43rd largest in the United States, includes the Kentucky county of Jefferson (coterminous with Louisville Metro), plus twelve outlying counties—eight in Kentucky and four in Southern Indiana. Louisville's MSA is included in the Louisville–Elizabethtown–Madison, KY–IN Combined Statistical Area (CSA), which also includes the Elizabethtown, KY MSA as well as the Madison, IN Micropolitan Statistical Area.
The downtown business district of Louisville is located immediately south of the Ohio River and southeast of the Falls of the Ohio. Major roads extend outwards from the downtown area in all directions, like the spokes of a wheel. The airport is approximately 6.75 miles (10.86 km) south of the downtown area. The industrial sections of town are to the south and west of the airport, while most of the residential areas of the city are to the southwest, south and east of downtown. In 2011, the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center was completed. Twelve of the 15 buildings in Kentucky over 300 feet (91 m) are located in downtown Louisville.
Louisville's late 19th and early 20th century development was spurred by three large suburban parks built at the edges of the city in 1890.
The city's architecture contains a blend of old and new. The Old Louisville neighborhood is the largest historic preservation district solely featuring Victorian homes and buildings in the United States; it is also the third largest such district overall. There are many modern skyscrapers downtown, as well as older preserved structures, such as the Southern National Bank building. The buildings of West Main Street in downtown Louisville have the largest collection of cast iron facades of anywhere outside of New York's SoHo district.
Since the mid-20th century, Louisville has in some ways been divided up into three sides of town: the West End, the South End and the East End. In 2003, Bill Dakan, a University of Louisville geography professor, said that the West End, west of 7th Street and north of Algonquin Parkway, is "a euphemism for the African-American part of town" although he points out that this belief is not entirely true, and most African Americans no longer live in areas where more than 80% of residents are black. Nevertheless, he says the perception is still strong. The South End has long had a reputation as a white, working-class part of town, while the East End has been seen as middle and upper class.
According to the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors, the area with the lowest median home sales price is west of Interstate 65, in the West and South Ends, the middle range of home sales prices are between Interstates 64 and 65 in the South and East Ends, and the highest median home sales price are north of Interstate 64 in the East End. Immigrants from Southeast Asia tend to settle in the South End, while immigrants from Eastern Europe settle in the East End.
Louisville has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) with four distinct seasons and is located in USDA hardiness zones 6b and 7a. Spring-like conditions typically begin in mid-to-late March, summer from mid-to-late-May to late September, with fall in the October–November period. Seasonal extremes in both temperature and precipitation are not uncommon during early spring and late fall; severe weather is not uncommon, with occasional tornado outbreaks in the region. Winter typically brings a mix of rain, sleet and snow, with occasional heavy snowfall and icing. Louisville averages 4.5 days with low temperatures dipping to 10 °F (−12 °C); the first and last freezes of the season on average fall on November 2 and April 5, respectively. Summer is typically hazy, hot and humid with long periods of 90–100 °F (32–38 °C) degree temperatures and drought conditions at times. Louisville averages 38 days a year with high temperatures at or above 90 °F (32 °C). The mean annual temperature is 58.2 °F (14.6 °C), with an average annual snowfall of 12.7 inches (32 cm) and an average annual rainfall of 44.9 inches (1,140 mm).
The wettest seasons are spring and summer, although rainfall is fairly constant year round. During the winter, particularly in January and February, several days of snow can be expected. January is the coldest month, with a mean temperature of 34.9 °F (1.6 °C). July is the average hottest month with a mean of 79.3 °F (26.3 °C). The highest recorded temperature was 107 °F (42 °C), which last occurred on July 14, 1936, and the lowest recorded temperature was −22 °F (−30 °C) on January 19, 1994. In 2012, Louisville had the fourth hottest summer on record, with the temperature rising up to 106 °F (41 °C) in July and the June all-time monthly record high temperature being broken on two consecutive days. As the city exemplifies the urban heat island effect, temperatures in commercial areas and in the industrialized areas along interstates are often higher than in the suburbs, often as much as 5 °F (2.8 °C).Air pollution is trapped in Louisville's Ohio River Valley location. The city is ranked by Environmental Defense as America's 38th worst city for air quality.
|Climate data for Louisville, Kentucky (Louisville Int'l), 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1872–present|
|Record high °F (°C)||
|Average high °F (°C)||
|Average low °F (°C)||
|Record low °F (°C)||
|Precipitation inches (mm)||
|Snowfall inches (cm)||
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)||10.4||10.1||11.9||11.7||12.6||10.3||10.0||8.0||8.0||7.7||10.1||12.0||122.8|
|Avg. snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)||3.6||3.6||1.2||0.1||0||0||0||0||0||0.1||0.3||2.9||11.8|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||140.5||148.9||188.6||221.1||263.4||288.9||293.6||272.6||234.3||208.5||135.7||118.3||2,514.4|
|Percent possible sunshine||46||49||51||56||60||65||65||65||63||60||45||40||56|
|Source: NOAA (sun 1961–1990)|
As of the 2010 census, Louisville Metro held a population of 741,096, while the "balance" area of Louisville proper included 597,337. Due to the city-county merger in 2003, the city's population had greatly expanded from the pre-merger area of Louisville, which held only 245,315 people in 2007.
Louisville is the largest city in Kentucky, with 17.1% of the state's total population as of 2010; the balance's percentage was 13.8%. In 2010, over one-third of the population growth in Kentucky was in Louisville's CSA counties.
The 2007 demographic breakdown for the entire Louisville Metro area was 74.8% White (71.7% non-Hispanic); 22.2% Black; 0.6% American Indian; 2.0% Asian; 0.1% Hawaiian or Pacific islander; 1.4% other; and 1.6% multiracial. 2.9% of the total population were identified as Hispanic of any race. During the same year, the area of pre-merger Louisville consisted 60.1% White; 35.2% Black; 1.9% Asian; 0.2% American Indian; and 3.0% other, with 2.4% identified as Hispanic of any race.
There were 287,012 households, out of which 29.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.2% were married couples living together, 14.7% had a female householder with no husband present and 36.2% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.97.
The age distribution is 24.3% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 22.8% from 45 to 64 and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 91.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.60 males.
The median income for a household is $39,457 and the median income for a family was $49,161. Males had a median income of $36,484 versus $26,255 for females. The per capita income for the county was $22,352. About 9.5% of families and 12.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.1% of those under age 18 and 8.8% of those ages 65 or over.
There are 135,421 Roman Catholic Louisvillians who are part of the Archdiocese of Louisville, covering 24 counties in central Kentucky, and consisting of 121 parishes and missions spread over 8,124 square miles (21,040 km2). The Cathedral of the Assumption in downtown Louisville is the seat of the Archdiocese of Louisville. Our Lady of Gethsemani Abbey, the monastic home of Catholic writer Thomas Merton, is in nearby Bardstown, Kentucky and also in the archdiocese. Most of Louisville's Roman Catholic population is of German descent, the result of large-scale 19th-century immigration.
One in three Louisvillians is Southern Baptist, belonging to one of 147 local congregations. This denomination increased in number when large numbers of people moved into Louisville in the early 20th century from rural Kentucky and Tennessee to work in the city's factories; some of these migrants also formed Holiness and Pentecostal churches and Churches of Christ.
German immigrants in the 19th century brought not only a large Catholic population, but also the Lutheran and Evangelical faiths, which are represented today in Louisville by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and the United Church of Christ, respectively.
The city is home to several megachurches. Southeast Christian Church is the 5th largest of the Christian churches in the United States and St. Stephen Baptist Church has the largest African-American congregation.
The city is home to several religious institutions: the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville Bible College, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the denominational headquarters of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
There is a Jewish population of around 8,500 in the city served by five synagogues. Most Jewish families emigrated from Eastern Europe at the start of the 20th century; around 800 Soviet Jews have moved to Louisville since 1991. Jewish immigrants founded Jewish Hospital, which was once the center of the city's Jewish district. In 2005, Jewish Hospital merged with the Catholic healthcare system CARITAS to form the Jewish Hospital and St. Mary's Healthcare network. On one corner near Bowman field are located the one orthodox synagogue, Shalom Towers, the Jewish Community Center and Jewish Family and Career Services.
Louisville's early economy first developed through the shipping and cargo industries. Its strategic location at the Falls of the Ohio, as well as its unique position in the central United States (within one day's road travel to 60% of the cities in the continental U.S.) make it an ideal location for the transfer of cargo along its route to other destinations. The Louisville and Portland Canal and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad were important links in water and rail transportation. Louisville's importance to the shipping industry continues today with the presence of the Worldport global air-freight hub for UPS at Louisville International Airport. Louisville's location at the crossroads of three major Interstate highways (I-64, I-65 and I-71) also contributes to its modern-day strategic importance to the shipping and cargo industry. As of 2003, Louisville ranks as the 7th largest inland port in the United States.
Recently, Louisville has emerged as a major center for the health care and medical sciences industries. Louisville has been central to advancements in heart and hand surgery as well as cancer treatment. Some of the earliest artificial heart transplants were conducted in Louisville. Louisville's thriving downtown medical research campus includes a new $88 million rehabilitation center and a health sciences research and commercialization park, that in partnership with the University of Louisville, has lured nearly 70 top scientists and researchers. Louisville is also home to Humana, one of the nation's largest health insurance companies.
Louisville is home to nearly two dozen major corporations and organizations:
- Atria Senior Living
- Brown-Forman (Fortune 1000)
- Hillerich & Bradsby (manufacturer of Louisville Slugger baseball bats)
- Hilliard Lyons (investment firm)
- Humana (Fortune 500)
- Kindred Healthcare (Fortune 500)
- Long John Silver's
- Norton Healthcare
- Papa John's Pizza
- PharMerica (Fortune 1000)
- Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
- Republic Bank & Trust Company
- SHPS (healthcare and human resources services company)
- Signature HealthCARE
- S.Y. Bancorp (holding company for Stock Yards Bank & Trust)
- Texas Roadhouse
- Tumbleweed Tex Mex Grill & Margarita Bar
- UPS Airlines
- Yum! Brands (owners of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell) (Fortune 500)
- ZirMed (health care technology company)
Louisville for a long time was also home to Brown & Williamson, the third largest company in the tobacco industry before merging with R. J. Reynolds in 2004 to form the Reynolds American Company. Brown & Williamson, one of the subjects of the tobacco industry scandals of the 1990s, was the focus of The Insider, a 1999 film shot around the Louisville area. Also located in Louisville are two major Ford plants, the headquarters of GE Consumer & Industrial (a subsidiary of General Electric) and a major General Electric appliance factory.
Additionally, Louisville is a major center of the American whiskey industry—approximately one-third of all bourbon comes from Louisville. Brown-Forman, one of the major makers of American whiskey, is headquartered in Louisville and operates a distillery in the Louisville suburb of Shively. The current primary distillery site operated by Heaven Hill, called the Bernheim distillery, is also located in Louisville near Brown-Forman's distillery. Other distilleries and related businesses can also be found in neighboring cities in Kentucky, such as Bardstown, Clermont, Lawrenceburg and Loretto.
Louisville also prides itself in its large assortment of small, independent businesses and restaurants, some of which have become known for their ingenuity and creativity. In 1926 the Brown Hotel became the home of the Hot Brown "sandwich". A few blocks away, the Seelbach Hotel, which F. Scott Fitzgerald references in The Great Gatsby, is also famous for a secret back room where Al Capone would regularly meet with associates during the Prohibition era. The drink the Old Fashioned was invented in Louisville's Pendennis Club.
Annual festivals and other events
Louisville is home to many annual cultural events. Perhaps most well-known is the Kentucky Derby, held annually during the first Saturday of May. The Derby is preceded by a two-week long Kentucky Derby Festival, which starts with the annual Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display in North America. The Kentucky Derby Festival also features notable events such as the Pegasus Parade, The Great Steamboat Race, Great Balloon Race, a combined marathon/mini marathon and about seventy events in total. Esquire magazine has called the Kentucky Derby "the biggest party in the south."
Usually beginning in late February or early March is the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, an internationally acclaimed new-play festival that lasts approximately six weeks.
On Memorial Day weekend, Louisville hosts the largest annual Beatles Festival in the world, Abbey Road on the River. The festival lasts five days and is located on the Belvedere in downtown Louisville.
The summer season in Louisville also features a series of cultural events such as the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival (commonly called "Shakespeare in Central Park"), held in July of every year and features free Shakespeare plays in Central Park in Old Louisville.
Also in July, the Forecastle Festival draws 35,000 visitors annually to Louisville Waterfront Park in celebration of the best in music, art and environmental activism. Past performers include The Black Keys, The Flaming Lips, Widespread Panic, The Smashing Pumpkins, The Avett Brothers, The Black Crowes and hundreds more.
The Kentucky State Fair is held every August at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville as well, featuring an array of culture from all areas of Kentucky. In places, the African American community celebrates Juneteenth commemorating June 19, 1865, when slaves in the western territories learned of their freedom.
In September is the Bluegrass Balloon Festival, the fifth largest hot air balloon festival in the nation. The festival features early morning balloon races, as well as balloon glows in the evening. In September, in nearby Bardstown, is the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, which features some of the finest bourbon in the world. The suburb of Jeffersontown is also the home of the annual Gaslight Festival, a series of events spread over a week. Attendance is approximately 200,000 for the week.
The month of October features the St. James Court Art Show in Old Louisville. Thousands of artists gather on the streets and in the courtyard to exhibit and sell their wares, and the event is attended by many art collectors and enthusiasts. The show is the second most-attended event next to the Derby.
Another art-related event that occurs every month is the First Friday Trolley Hop. A TARC trolley takes art lovers to many downtown area (especially East Market District/NuLu) independent art galleries on the first Friday of every month.
Louisville has blossomed as a booming center for independent art, music and business.
A Louisville locale that highlights this scene is Bardstown Road, an area located in the heart of the Highlands. Bardstown Road is known for its cultural diversity and local trade. The majority of the businesses along Bardstown Road, such as coffee shops, clothing stores and art galleries, are locally owned and operated businesses. Though it is only about one mile (1.6 km) long, this strip of Bardstown Road constitutes much of the city's culture and diverse lifestyle. Just a few blocks down the road was ear X-tacy, a local record store that was a fixture in the Louisville music scene for many years until late 2011.
In downtown Louisville, 21c Museum Hotel, a hotel that showcases contemporary art installations and exhibitions throughout its public spaces, and features a red penguin on its roof, is, according to The New York Times, "an innovative concept with strong execution and prompt and enthusiastic service."
Louisville is home to a thriving indie music scene with bands such as the widely known, Love Jones, The Deloreans, Flaw, CABIN, Slint, My Morning Jacket, The Glasspack, VHS or Beta and The Villebillies. Acclaimed singer/songwriter Will Oldham is a resident. The town is also home to the post-grunge bands Days of the New and Tantric. This scene reaches a crescendo every July during the Forecastle Festival, a three-day music, art and environmental activism festival taking place at Louisville Waterfront Park.
Especially catering to Louisville's music scene is 91.9 WFPK Radio Louisville, a local public radio station funded, in part, from local listeners. The station features not only national and international musicians common to public radio, but also local and regional talent. The station also hosts summer concerts on the waterfront from April until July, where up-and-coming alternative artists are brought to stage.
Museums, galleries and interpretive centersWest Main District in downtown Louisville features what is locally known as "Museum Row". In this area is the Frazier History Museum, which opened its doors in 2004 as an armaments museum, featuring the only collection of Royal Armouries artifacts outside of the United Kingdom. Since then the Frazier has expanded its focus to broader history. The Frazier Museum has three floors of exhibits, an education center and a tournament ring, which presents daily performances, as well as event spaces available for rent, including our rooftop garden featuring native plants and 4th floor loft-style space that accommodates up to 360 people seated. Muhammad Ali Center opened November 2005 in "Museum Row" and features Louisville native Muhammad Ali's boxing memorabilia.
The Speed Art Museum opened in 1927 and is the oldest and largest art museum in the state of Kentucky. Located adjacent to the University of Louisville, the museum features over 12,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection and hosts regular temporary exhibitions. Multiple art galleries are located in the city, but they are especially concentrated in the East Market District (NuLu), immediately to the east of downtown. This row of galleries, plus others in the West Main District, are prominently featured in the monthly First Friday Trolley Hop.
Several local history museums can be found in the Louisville area. The most prominent among them is The Filson Historical Society, founded in 1884, which has holdings exceeding 1.5 million manuscript items and over 50,000 volumes in the library. The Filson's extensive collections focus on Kentucky, the Upper South and the Ohio River Valley, and contain a large collection of portraiture and over 10,000 museum artifacts. Other local history museums include the Portland Museum, Historic Locust Grove, Conrad-Caldwell House Museum, the Falls of the Ohio State Park interpretive center (Clarksville, Indiana), Howard Steamboat Museum (Jeffersonville, Indiana) and the Carnegie Center for Art and History (New Albany, Indiana). The Falls interpretive center, part of the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area, also functions as a natural history museum, covering findings in the nearby exposed Devonian fossil bed.
There are also several historical properties and items of interest in the area, including the Farmington Historic Plantation (home of the famous Speed family), Riverside, The Farnsley-Moremen Landing and the restored Union Station, which opened in 1891. The Louisville area is also home to the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, a turn-of-the-century (20th) hospital that was originally built to accommodate tuberculosis patients, and subsequently has been reported and sensationalized to be haunted. The Little Loomhouse maintains historical records of local spinning and weaving patterns and techniques, and also offers tours, hands-on activities, and professional-level classes and materials.
The Kentucky Center, dedicated in 1983, located in the downtown hotel and entertainment district, features a variety of plays and concerts. This is also the home of the Louisville Ballet, Louisville Orchestra, Bourbon Baroque, Stage One and the Kentucky Opera, which is the twelfth oldest opera in the United States.
The Louisville Orchestra was founded in 1937 by conductor Robert Whitney and Charles Farnsley, then Mayor of Louisville, and was a world leader in commissioning and recording contemporary works for orchestra from the 1950s to 1980s. The Louisville Orchestra today performs more than 125 concerts per year with a core of salaried musicians and is recognized as a cornerstone of the Louisville arts community.
Actors Theatre of Louisville, is in the city's urban cultural district and hosts the Humana Festival of New American Plays each spring. It presents approximately six hundred performances of about thirty productions during its year-round season, composed of a diverse array of contemporary and classical fare.
The Louisville Palace, the official venue for the Louisville Orchestra, is an ornate theatre in downtown Louisville's so-called theatre district. In addition to orchestra performances, the theatre shows films and hosts concerts.
Iroquois Park is the home of the renovated Iroquois Amphitheater, which hosts a variety of musical concerts in a partially covered outdoor setting.
College sports are very popular in the Louisville area, especially college basketball. The Louisville Cardinals rank first nationally in percent to capacity attendance annually, with Freedom Hall averaging better than 100% for 10 straight years and the downtown KFC Yum! Center following suit with regular sellouts. The Cardinals ranked 3rd nationally in actual attendance in 2012-13. The Cardinals also hold the Big East conference women's basketball paid attendance record with nearly 17,000 attending the game against the Kentucky Wildcats in 2008.
The Louisville Cardinals football team, which had produced talent like Johnny Unitas, Deion Branch, Sam Madison, David Akers, Ray Buchanan, Michael Bush, Harry Douglas and Brian Brohm, achieved national respect in the 1990s under coach Howard Schnellenberger when the team defeated Alabama in the 1991 Fiesta Bowl. The program's stock continued to rise as it joined the Big East Conference and won the FedEx Orange Bowl in 2007 under Bobby Petrino and the 2013 All State Sugar Bowl under Charlie Strong. The University of Louisville baseball team advanced to the College World Series in Omaha in 2007, as one of the final eight teams to compete for the national championship.
Horse racing is also a major attraction. Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby, the largest sporting event in the state, as well as the Kentucky Oaks which together cap the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. Churchill Downs has also hosted the renowned Breeders' Cup on six occasions, most recently in 2006.
Louisville is also the home of Valhalla Golf Club which hosted the 1996 and 2000 PGA Championships, the 2004 Senior PGA Championship and the 2008 Ryder Cup. It is also home to Louisville Extreme Park, open since 2002, and which skateboarder Tony Hawk has called one of his top five skate parks.
Louisville has seven professional and semi-professional sports teams, but no major league teams. It is the fourth largest U.S. city without one, with only Austin, Texas, Fort Worth, Texas and El Paso, Texas larger. The Louisville Bats are a baseball team playing in the International League as the Class AAA affiliate of the nearby Cincinnati Reds. The team plays at Louisville Slugger Field at the edge of the city's downtown. In 2014 Louisville City FC, a professional soccer team in the USL Pro league, was announced. Their first game is scheduled for 2015 at Louisville Slugger Field.
Between 1967 and 1976, Louisville was home to the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association. The Colonels was one of the ABA's most successful teams during its existence, winning four division titles and the 1975 ABA Championship, but was not invited to join the NBA when the two leagues merged in 1976, and subsequently folded.
High school sports are also popular. Louisville-area high schools have been dominant in football for decades. Schools such as Butler, St. Xavier, Trinity and Male have won every state 4A football title except one since 1992 and have been 13 of the 15 finalists since 1997. Some fierce rivalries have developed over the years. The annual game between St. Xavier and Trinity draws over 35,000 fans and is promoted by the schools as the largest attended regular-season high school football game in the country. The 2002 Kentucky state 4A Football Championship between Male and Trinity, a showdown between future UofL teammates Brian Brohm (Trinity) and Michael Bush (Male) that ended with a 59–56 Trinity win, is listed as one of the top 50 sporting events of all time by many critics. The "Old Rivalry" between Male and Manual high schools is one of the nation's oldest, dating back to 1893, and was played on Thanksgiving Day through 1980, with Manual winning the final T-Day game by a score of 6–0 in overtime.
Current professional teams
Parks and outdoor attractions
Louisville Metro has 122 city parks covering more than 13,000 acres (53 km2). Several of these parks were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York City's Central Park as well as parks, parkways, college campuses and public facilities in many U.S. locations. The Louisville Waterfront Park is prominently located on the banks of the Ohio River near downtown and features large open areas, which often hold free concerts and other festivals. The Big Four Bridge, a former railroad bridge spanning 547 feet (167 m) but is now a pedestrian bridge connecting Waterfront Park with Jeffersonville, Indiana's waterfront park, fully opened in May 2014 with the completion of Jeffersonville's ramp. Cherokee Park, one of the most visited parks in the nation, features a 2.6-mile (4.2 km) mixed-use loop and many well-known landscaping and architectural features including the Hogan Fountain Pavilion. Other notable parks in the system include Iroquois Park, Shawnee Park, Seneca Park and Central Park.
Further from the downtown area is the Jefferson Memorial Forest, which at 6,218 acres (25.16 km2) is the largest municipal urban forest in the United States., The forest is designated as a National Audubon Society wildlife refuge and offers over 30 miles (48 km) of various hiking trails.
Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area, owned and operated by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, is another large park in nearby Brandenburg, Kentucky. The park's namesake, Otter Creek, winds along the eastern side of the park. A scenic bend in the Ohio River, which divides Kentucky from Indiana, can be seen from northern overlooks within the park. The park is a popular mountain biking destination, with trails maintained by a local mountain bike organization.
Other outdoor points of interest in the Louisville area include Cave Hill Cemetery (the burial location of Col. Harland Sanders), Zachary Taylor National Cemetery (the burial location of President Zachary Taylor), the Louisville Zoo and the Falls of the Ohio National Wildlife Conservation Area.
In development is the City of Parks, a project to create a continuous paved pedestrian and biking trail around Louisville Metro while also adding a large amount of park land. Current plans call for making approximately 4,000 acres (16 km2) of the Floyds Fork flood plain in eastern Jefferson County into a new park system called The Parklands of Floyds Fork, expanding area in the Jefferson Memorial Forest, and adding riverfront land and wharfs along the Riverwalk Trail and Levee Trail.
Government and politics
On January 6, 2003, Louisville merged its government with that of Jefferson County, forming coterminous borders. Louisville was the second and only other city in the state to merge with its county since Lexington merged with Fayette County in 1974.
Louisville Metro is governed by an executive called the Metro Mayor and a city legislature called the Metro Council. The second and current Metro Mayor is Greg Fischer (D), who entered office on January 3, 2011.
The Metro Council consists of 26 seats representing districts apportioned by population throughout the city and county. The residents of the semi-independent municipalities within Louisville Metro are apportioned to districts along with all other county residents. Half (13) of the seats come up for reelection every two years. The council is chaired by a Council President, currently Jim King (D), who is elected by the council members annually. Democrats currently have a 17 to 9 seat majority on the council.
Before merger, under the Kentucky Constitution and statutory law Louisville was designated as a first-class city in regard to local laws affecting public safety, alcohol beverage control, revenue options, and various other matters; as of 2014, it is the only such designated city in the state.
The Official Seal of the City of Louisville, no longer used following the merger, reflected its history and heritage in the fleur-de-lis representing French aid given during the Revolutionary War and the thirteen stars signifying the original colonies. The new Seal of Louisville Metro retains the fleur-de-lis, but has only two stars, one representing the city and the other the county.
Kentucky's 3rd congressional district encompasses most of Louisville Metro, and is represented by Rep. John Yarmuth (D), though the far southeast reaches of the community are in the 4th congressional district, which is represented by Thomas Massie (R).
Public safety and crime
In 2004, Louisville recorded 70 murders. The numbers for 2005 ranged from 55 to 59 (FBI says 55, LMPD says 59), which was down 16 percent from 2004. In 2006, Louisville-Jefferson County recorded 50 murders, which was significantly lower than previous years. In 2008, Louisville recorded 79 murders.
The Louisville Metro Area's overall violent crime rate was 412.6 per 100,000 residents in 2005. The Elizabethtown, Kentucky Metro Area, which is part of Louisville's Combined Statistical Area, was the 17th safest Metro in the U.S. Kentucky has the 5th lowest violent crime rate out of the 50 states.
Violent crime is most concentrated west of downtown, especially in the Russell neighborhood. The West End, located north of Algonquin Parkway and West of 9th Street, had 32 of the city's 79 murders in 2007.
The primary law enforcement agencies are the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO). 911 emergency medical services are provided by the government as Louisville Metro EMS (LMEMS) which responds to about 100,000 calls for service annually. Louisville Metro Department of Corrections operates two facilities housing approximately 2,000 inmates.
Louisville has recently been featured on the television show First 48. The show follows LMPD's homicide unit while they try to solve murders.
Fire protection, which is not solely a Metro government function, is provided by 20 independent fire departments (most of which are autonomous taxing districts) working in concert through mutual aid agreements. The only fire department operated by metro government is Louisville Fire & Rescue (formerly Louisville Division of Fire before city-county merger in 2003). The independent city of Shively in western Jefferson County possesses a city-run department. The other 18 fire departments in Louisville-Jefferson County are taxing districts known collectively as the Jefferson County Fire Service.
Louisville is home to several institutions of higher learning. There are five four-year universities, the University of Louisville, Bellarmine University, Spalding University, Sullivan University and Simmons College of Kentucky; Louisville Bible College; a two-year community college, Jefferson Community and Technical College; and several other business or technical schools such as Spencerian College, ITT Technical Institute, Strayer University and Louisville Technical Institute. Indiana University Southeast is located across the Ohio River in New Albany, Indiana.
The University of Louisville has notable achievements including several hand transplants and the world's first wireless artificial heart transplant. The school's Health Sciences Center in Downtown Louisville is currently adding an expansive medical research market on the city's old Haymarket site, which is projected to add 10,000 high paying jobs within 10 years.
Two major graduate-professional schools of religion are also located in Louisville. The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with more than 2,000 students, is the flagship institution of the Southern Baptist Convention. It was founded in Greenville, South Carolina, in 1859 and moved to Louisville in 1877, occupying its present campus on Lexington Road in 1926. Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, product of a 1901 merger of two predecessor schools founded at Danville, Kentucky in 1853 and in Louisville in 1893, occupied its present campus on Alta Vista Road in 1963.
According to the U.S. Census, of Louisville's population over 25, 21.3% (the national average is 24%) hold a bachelor's degree or higher and 76.1% (80% nationally) have a high school diploma or equivalent.
The public school system, Jefferson County Public Schools, consists of more than 98,000 students in 89 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, 22 high schools and 22 other learning centers. Due to Louisville's large Catholic population, there are 27 Catholic schools in the city. The Kentucky School for the Blind for all of Kentucky's blind and visually impaired students is located on Frankfort Avenue in the Clifton neighborhood.
Louisville's newspaper of record is The Courier-Journal. The alternative paper is the progressive alt-weekly Louisville Eccentric Observer (commonly called 'LEO'), which was founded by 3rd district U.S. Representative John Yarmuth (D).
WAVE 3, an NBC affiliate, was Kentucky's first TV station. Another prominent TV station is ABC affiliate WHAS 11, formerly owned by the famous Bingham family (who also owned The Courier-Journal), which hosts the regionally notable annual fundraiser, the WHAS Crusade for Children. WDRB/WMYO and CBS affiliate WLKY 32 round out the major television stations in the city.
The most popular radio station is 84 WHAS 840 AM, designated by the FCC as a clear-channel station. This station was also formerly owned by the Binghams (now Clear Channel Communications), and is a talk radio station which also broadcasts regional sports.
As with most American cities, transportation in Louisville is based primarily on automobiles. However, the city traces its foundation to the era where the river was the primary means of transportation, and railroads have been an important part of local industry for over a century. In more recent times, Louisville has become a national hub for air cargo.
Louisville has inner and outer third automobile bridge carries non-interstate traffic, including bicyclists and pedestrians.
The 8664.org, has proposed options for downtown revitalization improvements, and a simpler and less expensive roadway design.
Louisville's main airport is the centrally located Louisville International Airport, whose IATA Airport Code (SDF) reflects its former name of Standiford Field. The airport is also home to UPS's Worldport global air hub. UPS operates its largest package-handling hub at Louisville International Airport and bases its UPS Airlines division there. Over 3.2 million passengers and over 4.7 billion pounds (2,350,000 t) of cargo pass through the airport each year. It is also the third busiest airport in the United States in terms of cargo traffic, and seventh busiest for such in the world. Furthermore, since Louisville is located only around 35 minutes from Fort Knox, the airport is a major hub for armed services personnel traveling to and from the military installation. The historic but smaller Bowman Field is used mainly for general aviation while nearby Clark Regional Airport is used mostly by private jets.
The McAlpine Locks and Dam is located on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, near the downtown area. The locks were constructed to allow shipping past the Falls of the Ohio. In 2001 over 55 million tons of commodities passed through the locks.
Public transportation consists mainly of buses run by the Transit Authority of River City (TARC). The city buses serve all parts of downtown Louisville and Jefferson County, as well as Kentucky suburbs in Oldham County, Bullitt County, and the Indiana suburbs of Jeffersonville, Clarksville and New Albany. In addition to regular city buses, transit throughout the downtown hotel and shopping districts is served by a series of motorized trolleys known as the Toonerville II Trolley. A light rail system has been studied and proposed for the city, but no plan was in development as of 2007.
Louisville has historically been a major center for railway traffic. The Louisville and Nashville Railroad was once headquartered here, before it was purchased by CSX Transportation. Today the city is served by two major freight railroads, CSX (with a major classification yard in the southern part of the metro area) and Norfolk Southern. Five major main lines connect Louisville to the rest of the region. Two regional railroads, the Paducah and Louisville Railway and the Louisville and Indiana Railroad, also serve the city. With the discontinuance of the stop in Louisville in 2003 for a more northerly route between New York and Chicago, the Kentucky Cardinal no longer serves the city; it is thus the fifth largest city in the country with no passenger rail service.
Electricity is provided to the Louisville Metro area by Louisville Gas & Electric. Water is provided by the Louisville Water Company, which provides water to more than 800,000 residents in Louisville as well as parts of Oldham and Bullitt counties. Additionally, they provide wholesale water to the outlying counties of Shelby, Spencer and Nelson.
The Ohio River provides for most of the city's source of drinking water. Water is drawn from the river at two points: the raw water pump station at Zorn Avenue and River Road, and the B.E. Payne Pump Station northeast of Harrods Creek. Water is also obtained from a riverbank infiltration well at the Payne Plant. There are also two water treatment plants serving the Louisville Metro area: The Crescent Hill Treatment Plant and the B.E. Payne Treatment Plant. In June 2008, the Louisville Water Company received the "Best of the Best" award from the American Water Works Association, citing it as the best-tasting drinking water in the country.
Important events occurring in the city have included the first large space lighted by Edison's light bulb which occurred during the Southern Exposition. (At the time, in 1883, the largest such installation to date.) Also, Louisville had the first library open to African Americans in the South, and medical advances including the first human hand transplant and the first self-contained artificial heart transplant.
In addition, Leeds has been recognized as a "friendship city". The two cities have engaged in many cultural exchange programs, particularly in the fields of nursing and law, and cooperated in several private business developments, including the Frazier History Museum.
On April 15, 2008, it was announced that Louisville would be twinned with the town of Bushmills in Northern Ireland. The two places share a tradition for the distilling of whiskey. The choice of Louisville came after a search of U.S. cities, followed by an online poll conducted for the public to decide between three finalists, which also included Boston and Portland, Maine.
- The term "The 'Ville" has been used in print in the Courier-Journal 60+ times since 1999 and appears to have been popularized by a 2003 billboard campaign promoting Louisville as "The best college sports town in America". See Forde, Pat (September 10, 2003). "UofL's bogus billboards don't impress experts".
- Official records for Louisville were kept at the Weather Bureau Office from August 1872 to June 1945, Bowman Field from July 1945 to November 1947, Louisville Int'l from December 1947 to October 1995, the Weather Forecast Office () from November 1995 to December 2005, and again at Louisville Int'l since January 2006. For more information, see Threadex
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