History of Louisville
Louisville is much more than a horse-racing town, however: It also is a cultural and industrial center. The city is located on a plain adjacent to the falls of the Ohio River. Named in honor of Louis XVI of France, the first permanent settlement on the site was established in 1778 by Col. George Rogers Clark, accompanied by 120 soldiers and 20 families. Fort Nelson, named after Gov. Thomas Nelson of Virginia, was completed in 1782. A plaque at the corner of 7th and Main streets commemorates the establishment of the city and the fort.
Louisville's growth was directly related to westward expansion. The Ohio River was a conveyor of both people and commerce. The portaging of goods around the falls contributed heavily to the settlement's early economy. In 1830, when the Portland Canal opened the way for river traffic from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, Louisville was catapulted from a frontier outpost into an important station of the New Orleans commercial empire.
The town attracted diverse ethnic groups, with the majority of the immigrants coming from Ireland, Germany and Scotland. Together they made Louisville an industrial center and inspired its cultural and architectural growth. Well-preserved neighborhoods reflect the impact of their heritage. Victorian houses, complete with stained-glass windows and iron fences, are found in Old Louisville. Butchertown, the German settlement and meatpacking area, exemplifies the simple lifestyles of its founders.
The city is known for producing one-third of the world's supply of bourbon. From a business standpoint Louisville's location has attracted many corporate offices, including Brown-Forman Corp., Humana Inc., Papa John's International and YUM Brands, Inc. The city's facilities draw trade shows, conferences and conventions.
Places to Go in Louisville
Louisville's downtown has undergone extensive redevelopment and represents diverse architectural styles. The Riverfront Plaza and Belvedere is an urban plaza and park; on one plaza wall is a one-story stained-glass window depicting 200 years of the city's history. Kentucky Center's glass walls reflect facades of buildings which have been renovated and converted into museums, theaters, shops and restaurants. East of downtown at River Road and Zorn Avenue, The Water Tower is an example of classic industrial architecture, with a Grecian temple front and a great standpipe tower modeled after the Roman triumphal column. Also by River Road is the Patriots Peace Memorial, which commemorates fallen military personnel of the United States. And on Bradley Avenue near Eastern Parkway is The Grotto and Garden of Our Lady of Lourdes , a contemplative spot designed to resemble its namesake shrine in France.
As it plies the waters of the Ohio, The Belle of Louisville is a constant reminder of the city's river history even as it offers views of the ever-evolving metropolis. Both are definitive of the Louisville that, like the bourbon it produces, is a smooth blend—a tasteful mix of new with old, big city with small town and high-tech industry with gracious living.
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