Louisville, Kentucky

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Louisville, Kentucky
City flag City seal
City nickname: Derby City or Falls City

Location in the Commonwealth of Kentucky
County Jefferson County, Kentucky
 - Total
 - Water

172.6 km² (66.7 mi²)
11.7 km² (4.5 mi²) 6.80%
 - Total (2000)
 - Total (2004)

 - Metropolitan
 - Density

700,030 (post-merger)
1.3 million
Time zone Eastern: UTC–5
Location 38° 13′ 44″ N, 85° 44′ 58″ W
Mayor Jerry E. Abramson
City website

Louisville (usually pronounced ['luːǝvǝl]; see Pronunciation below) is Kentucky's largest city and the 16th largest city in the United States. The settlement that became the City of Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark and is named after King Louis XVI. Louisville is most famous as the home of the "Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports": the Kentucky Derby, the most widely-watched event in American horse racing.

Louisville is situated on the Kentucky-Indiana border at the only natural obstacle in the Ohio River, the Falls of the Ohio. Because of its proximity to Indiana, the metro area around Louisville is regularly referred to as Kentuckiana.

As of the 2000 census, Louisville had a total population of 256,231. However, in 2003, the city and Jefferson County merged into a single consolidated city-county government named Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government (official long form) and Louisville Metro (official short form), resulting in a city populated with 700,030 residents as of 2004 [1] (including other incorporated places in the county). This merger made Louisville the sixteenth most populous city in the U.S.

The Louisville metropolitan area (not to be confused with Louisville Metro), having a population of approximately 1.3 million, ranks 41st nationally and is the largest in Kentucky. The metro area also includes some southern Indiana counties (see Geography and climate below).

A resident of Louisville is referred to as a Louisvillian.



Main article: History of Louisville, Kentucky

The history of Louisville spans hundreds of years, and has been influenced by the area's unique geography and location. In 1769, explorer Daniel Boone created a trail from North Carolina to Tennessee, and then spent the next two years exploring Kentucky. The first settlement was made in the vicinity of modern-day Louisville in 1778 by Col. George Rogers Clark. Thirteen families were left behind and established Fort Nelson, the first permanent settlement at the site of Louisville. Today, Col. Clark is now recognized as the founder of Louisville, and several landmarks are named after him.

View of Main Street, Louisville, in 1846.
View of Main Street, Louisville, in 1846.

Two years later, in 1780, the Virginia General Assembly and then-Governor Thomas Jefferson approved the town charter of Louisville. The city was named in honor of King Louis XVI of France, whose soldiers at the time were aiding Americans in the Revolutionary War. In 1803, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark organized their expedition across America at the Falls of the Ohio in Louisville.

In 1828, the population swelled to 7,000; and Louisville became an incorporated city. The city grew rapidly in its formative years. In 1839, a precursor to the modern Kentucky Derby was held at Old Louisville's Oakland Race Course.

During the Civil War, Louisville was spared active fighting by the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky's bloodiest battle of the war. Years later, on 1891-09-07, train service arrived to the city with the completion of the Union station train hub.

In January 1937, a month of heavy rain throughout the Ohio River Valley prompted what became remembered as the "Great Flood of '37." The flood submerged about 70% of the city and forced the evacuation of 175,000 residents.

Throughout the 20th century, the arts flourished in Louisville. The Speed Art Museum was opened in 1927 and is now the oldest and largest museum of art in Kentucky. The Louisville Orchestra was founded in 1937. In 1949 the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival was begun, and today it is the oldest free and independently-operating Shakespeare festival in the United States.

View of 4th Street, Louisville.
View of 4th Street, Louisville.

For a variety of reasons, Louisville began to decline as an important city in the 1960s and 1970s. Highways that had been built in the 1950s facilitated a flight to the suburbs, and the downtown area began to die out. In 1974 a major (F4) tornado hit Louisville as part of the Super Outbreak of tornados that struck 13 states. It covered 21 miles (34 km) and destroyed several hundred homes in the Louisville area but was only responsible for two deaths.

From the 1980s onward, Louisville has experienced a regrowth in popularity and prosperity. This can be seen in the many changes in this period, including significant downtown infrastructure improvements.

Many cultural showcases were founded or expanded in this period. The Kentucky Center was officially dedicated in 1983. The Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO), a popular alternative newspaper, was founded in 1990, and the Snitch Newsweekly was established in the 1990s. Velocity was later released by the Courier-Journal as well in 2003. The city's growth continues to the present day.

Geography and climate


Louisville is located at 38° 13′ 44″ N, 85° 44′ 58″ W (38.228870, -85.749534)1.

(Note: The Census 2000 figures apply to the former City of Louisville as it existed prior to the creation of Louisville Metro on 2003-01-06.) According to the United States Census Bureau, the city had a total area of 172.6 km² (66.7 mi²). 160.9 km² (62.1 mi²) of it was land and 11.7 km² (4.5 mi²) of it was water. The total area was 6.80% water.

The city is located at the northwestern edge of the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, which also includes the cities of Lexington, Richmond, and the urban areas of Kentucky south of the Ohio River from Cincinnati, Ohio. The region is characterized by a rolling plateau that becomes more rugged near the edges. The underlying limestone is often visible at the surface in road cuts and where eroded by streams, most dramatically in the Kentucky River palisades. The region is named for Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), which has been extensively used in pastures here.

The Louisville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the 44th largest in the United States, includes the Kentucky counties of Jefferson (contiguous with Louisville Metro), Bullitt, Henry, Meade, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble. The southern Indiana counties Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Washington are also included in the Louisville MSA.


The Aegon Center is Louisville's tallest skyscraper at 167 m.
The Aegon Center is Louisville's tallest skyscraper at 167 m.

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 to all directions, like the spokes of a wheel. The airport is located approximately 6.5 miles (10 km) south of the downtown area, and easily connected to most parts of the city by two Interstate Highways, maximizing its accessibility. The industrial sections of town are located to the south and west of the airport, while most of the residential areas of the city are located to the southwest, south and east of downtown. The most affluent residential areas are to the east of downtown Louisville. The nine richest locations by per capita income in Kentucky, and 19 of the top 20 such locations, are found in this East End. The oldest and nearest to downtown, and still the richest, is Mockingbird Valley, which had a large influence in the chain of rich suburbs located to its east.

Another major business district is located in the more suburban area east of the city on Hurstbourne Parkway. Louisville also boasts a large number of parks, with 122 parks covering more than 14,000 acres (57 km²).

At present, there are only three road bridges across the Ohio River to Indiana (I-64, I-65 and the Second Street Bridge). Two more bridges are to be built by 2015. Roads in southern Indiana branch out from the city originating from these bridges.

The city's architecture contains a blend of old and new. The Old Louisville neighborhood is well known for its large collection of Victorian homes and buildings in the United States. The Louisville City Hall largely follows earlier architectural styles, mainly French Empire. The nearby Jefferson County Courthouse is an example of Greek Revival architecture. Likewise, many of the buildings downtown follow either the Greek Revival, Italian Renaissance or French Renaissance. These mix well with several of the city's post modern skyscrapers.


Louisville's weather is temperate and seasonal. Summers are hot and humid with cool evenings. The mean annual temperature is 56 °F (13 °C), with an average annual snowfall of 16.4 inches (41 cm) and an average annual rainfall of 44.53 inches (1131 mm). The wettest seasons are the spring and summer, although rainfall is fairly constant all year round. During the winter, particularly in January and February, several days of snow can be expected, allowing for winter sports. Winter temperatures range from 27 to 43 °F (−3 to 6 °C) and summer temperatures range from 66 and 86 °F (19 and 30 °C).[1] The highest recorded temperature was 105 °F (41 °C) on 1954-07-14, and the lowest recorded temperature was −22 °F (−30 °C) on 1994-01-19.[2]

Much like Los Angeles, Louisville's valley location traps air pollution. Because of this, the city is ranked as one of Environmental Defense's fifty worst cities for air.


The Louisville Convention & Visitors' Bureau proudly displays many of the common pronunciations of the city on their logo.
The Louisville Convention & Visitors' Bureau proudly displays many of the common pronunciations of the city on their logo.

Most long-time residents pronounce the city's name as ['luːǝvǝl] (IPA)—often this degrades further into ['lǝvǝl]. The name is often pronounced far back in the mouth, in the top of the throat. The standard English pronunciation, however, is ['luːivɪl] (referring to King Louis XVI), which is often utilized by political leaders and the media. No matter how Louisville is pronounced, the 's' is always silent. (This contrasts with name of the city Louisville, Colorado, which, although spelled the same, is pronounced ['luːisvɪl].)

The variability of the local pronunciation of Louisville's name can perhaps be laid at the feet of the city's location on the border between the North and South of the United States. Louisville's diverse population has traditionally represented elements of both Northern and Southern culture.

Regional migration patterns and the homogenization of dialect due to electronic media also may be responsible for the incidence of native-born Louisvillians adopting or affecting the standard English pronunciation. Nevertheless, the ['luːǝvǝl] pronunciation is most popular among residents and is, with little exception, used by news and sports reporters.

People and culture


Note: All demographics are the same as that of Jefferson County, Kentucky, which merged with the former City of Louisville on January 6, 2003—with the notable exception of several smaller cities within Jefferson County that maintained their independence from the newly monikered "Louisville Metro".

As of the census2 of 2000, there are 693,604 people, 287,012 households, and 183,113 families residing in the city/county. The population density is 695/km² (1,801/mi²). There are 305,835 housing units at an average density of 307/km² (794/mi²). The racial makeup of the city/county is 77.38% White, 18.88% Black or African American, 0.22% Native American, 1.39% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.68% from other races, and 1.42% from two or more races. 1.78% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 287,012 households out of which 29.60% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.20% are married couples living together, 14.70% have a female householder with no husband present, and 36.20% are non-families. 30.50% of all households are made up of individuals and 10.30% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.37 and the average family size is 2.97.

The age distribution is 24.30% under the age of 18, 8.90% from 18 to 24, 30.40% from 25 to 44, 22.80% from 45 to 64, and 13.50% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 37 years. For every 100 females there are 91.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 87.60 males.

The median income for a household is $39,457, and the median income for a family is $49,161. Males have a median income of $36,484 versus $26,255 for females. The per capita income for the county is $22,352. 12.40% of the population and 9.50% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 18.10% of those under the age of 18 and 8.80% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Louisville has more Roman Catholics than any nearby city. There are 135,421 Catholic Louisvillians who attend 163 Catholic churches in the city.[3] The Cathedral of the Assumption located 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 located in the archdiocese. There is also a noticeably large Jewish population in the city. Most Jewish families came from Germany in the 1830s and 1840s. But the majority of Louisvillians belong to a Protestant faith. Southeast Christian Church, one of the largest Christian churches in the United States, is located in Louisville.

The median income for a household in the city is $28,843, and the median income for a family is $36,696. Males have a median income of $30,608 versus $24,439 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,193. 21.6% of the population and 17.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 33.5% of those under the age of 18 and 13.2% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Annual cultural events and fairs

Hot air balloons launching during the balloon race at the Adam Matthews Balloon Festival.
Hot air balloons launching during the balloon race at the Adam Matthews Balloon Festival.

Louisville is home to a number of 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 the nation. The Kentucky Derby Festival also features notable events such as the Pegasus Parade, Great Balloon Race, a marathon, and about seventy events in total.

Usually beginning in late February is the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, an internationally acclaimed new-play festival that lasts approximately six weeks.

The summer season in Louisville also features a series of cultural events such as the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, held in July of every year and features free Shakespeare plays in Central Park in Old Louisville. Also taking place during the month of July is the Lebowski Fest, held at the city's Waterfront Park near downtown. The Lebowski Fest is a weekend festival for fans of the popular movie, The Big Lebowski.

The Kentucky State Fair is held every August at the Kentucky Fair & Exposition Center in Louisville as well, featuring an array of culture from all areas of Kentucky.

In September is the Adam Matthews 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. Also 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.

See also: List of attractions and events in Louisville

Museums and art collections

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 1,200 pieces of art in its permanent collection.

There are several museums located in the downtown hotel and shopping districts. The Frazier Historical Arms Museum, opened in 2004, features a collection of arms, armor, and related historical artifacts spanning 1,000 years, concentrating on U.S. and UK arms. The building features three stories of exhibits, two re-enactment arenas, a 120 seat auditorium, and a 48-seat movie theater. Also downtown is the Louisville Science Center, which is Kentucky's largest hands-on science center and features interactive exhibits, IMAX films, educational programs and technology networks.

The Muhammad Ali Center will be opening in the downtown area in the Fall of 2005 and will feature Muhammad Ali's boxing memorabilia, as well as information on the core themes that he has taken to heart: peace, social responsibility, respect and personal growth.

Louisville is also home to the Callahan Museum of the American Printing House for the Blind, which features exhibits on the history of the education of the blind, as well as information on the printing process.

There are also several historical properties and items of interest in the area, including the Belle of Louisville, the oldest Mississippi-style steamboat in operation in the United States. Fort Knox, in nearby Hardin County, is home to the Fort Knox Bullion Depository and the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor. The Historic Locust Grove farm, former home of Louisville Founder George Rogers Clark, portrays life in the early days of the city. 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 is now listed as one of the nation's most haunted houses.

See also: List of attractions and events in Louisville


The Courier-Journal and its sister publication Velocity are available throughout the city
The Courier-Journal and its sister publication Velocity are available throughout the city

The local daily newspaper in Louisville is The Courier-Journal. Local weekly newspapers include Snitch Newsweekly, Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) and Velocity (owned by The Courier-Journal).

Louisville is also well served by television and radio. Louisville's major network television affiliates include WAVE 3 (NBC), WHAS 11 (ABC), WKPC 15 (PBS), WLKY 32 (CBS), WBKI 34 (WB), WDRB 41 (FOX) and WFTE 58 (UPN).

The only cable service available in Louisville is from Insight. They provide standard and premium cable TV service, high-speed Internet access and digital telephone service.

Louisville's radio airwaves cater to a wide variety of musical and other interests. Some of the popular rock stations include WSFR (FM) 107.7, WQMF (FM) 95.7, WXNU (FM) 105.9, WTFX (FM) 93.1 (commonly called the FOX) and 101.3, WLRS (FM) 105.1 and WDJX (FM) 99.7. Urban contemporary stations include WGZB (FM) 96.5, WLSY (FM) 101.7 and WLOU (AM) 1350. WRKA (FM) 103.1 features the oldies, and WFPK (FM) 91.9 features jazz and adult alternative. Country music can be found on WQLL (FM) 103.9. For those with more classical tastes, WUOL (FM) 90.5 is a highly-acclaimed classical music station. Formerly owned and operated by the University of Louisville, it recently was spun off and is now run by the Public Radio Partnership.

NPR also has a major presence in the area, with a total of five radio stations. These include WFPL (FM) 89.3 (Louisville's NPR News Station), WKUE (FM) 90.9 (Western's Public Radio - musical programming), WUKY (FM) 91.3 (NPR @ 91.3 FM), WFPK (FM) 91.9 (WFPK Radio Louisville), and WILL (AM) 580.0. WUKY's signal can only be heard in the Eastern parts of the city, while WKUE can mostly be heard in the Southern and Western parts of town.

There are also two primarily talk radio stations, WHAS (AM) 840.0 and WGTK (AM) 970.0.

Parks and outdoor attractions

The Louisville Waterfront Park provides a nice place to relax and have fun amidst the hustle and bustle of the downtown area.
The Louisville Waterfront Park provides a nice place to relax and have fun amidst the hustle and bustle of the downtown area.

The Louisville area is home to 122 spacious city parks covering more than 14,000 acres (57 km²), located throughout the city. 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 feature free concerts and other festivals. Cherokee Park is also one of the larger parks in the city, covering 409 acres (1.7 km²), and features many bicycle and nature trails, basketball courts, baseball fields, and picnic pavilions.

Going a bit further out from the downtown area is the Jefferson Memorial Forest which, at 5,500 acres (22 km²), is the largest urban forest in the United States. The forest is designated as a National Audubon Society wildlife refuge, and offers over 30 miles (50 km) of various hiking trails. Camping and fishing are both permitted.

Otter Creek Park is another large park nearby. While actually located in Brandenburg, Kentucky, Otter Creek Park is technically owned and operated by Louisville Metro government. 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 and Arboretum (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 southern Indiana).

Performing arts

The statues "Faribolus and Perceval," by Jean Dubuffet, stand at the entrance to the Kentucky Center.
The statues "Faribolus and Perceval," by Jean Dubuffet, stand at the entrance to the Kentucky Center.

The performing arts community in Louisville is currently undergoing a bit of a renaissance. 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, and the Kentucky Opera, which is the twelfth oldest opera in the United States.

Actors Theatre of Louisville is another performing arts center that has become the cornerstone of the revitalization of Louisville's Main Street. As the centerpiece of the city's urban cultural district, Actors Theatre has significant economic impact on a vital downtown life. Highly acclaimed for its artistic programming and business acumen, Actors Theatre hosts the Humana Festival of New American Plays each Spring. It also presents approximately six hundred performances of about thirty productions during its year-round season, composed of a diverse array of contemporary and classical fare. It also boasts one of the largest per capita subscription audiences in the country and logs an annual attendance of over 200,000.

The Louisville Palace is a theatre in downtown Louisville's so-called theatre district along Fourth Street between Broadway and Chestnut Street. Beautifully decorated, the Spanish Baroque motif begins its development. Cobalt blue, bursts of red and gold indirectly light all of the niches, coves and entrances. Above the Spanish treasures there is a curved, vaulted ceiling with 139 sculptures of great personages. Today, the theatre features an array of popular movies, old and new, as well as popular artists ranging from Jewel to Queensrÿche to Lee Greenwood. Located nearby is the Kentucky Theater, which was built in 1921 and operated for 60 years as a movie house. The movie house closed in 1986, and was almost scheduled for demolition until a local entrepreneur bought it at auction to save it from the wrecking ball and then turned it over to two arts advocates who created a non-profit arts organization, called the Kentucky Theater Project, Inc. The newly renovated Kentucky Theater opened its doors in 2000 and is now a vibrant community arts center and art film house.

Also on Fourth Street is the brand new Fourth Street Live! outdoor entertainment complex, which features a wide variety of restaurants, stores and nightclubs. The complex sponsors many free concerts, as does the popular Waterfront Park.

See also: List of attractions and events in Louisville


Main article: Sports in Louisville

College basketball is very popular in greater Louisville. The city is home to the University of Louisville Cardinals. Their archrival, the University of Kentucky Wildcats, is in Lexington, but plays one home game per season in Louisville. Additionally, four of the twenty-five winningest NCAA Division I teams are located in or near the city.

Horse racing is also very popular. Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby, the largest sports 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 five occasions, and will host that event again in 2006.

While there are currently no major league professional sports in the city, Louisville is home to four minor-league professional and semi-professional sports teams. The Louisville Bats are a baseball team playing in the International League as the Class AAA affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds. The team plays at Louisville Slugger Field at the edge of the city's downtown. The Louisville Fire play in af2, the minor league of the Arena Football League. The Louisville Bulls are a semi-pro football team in the Mid Continental Football League. The Kentucky Colonels currently play in the present incarnation of the American Basketball Association.

The city was home to two professional hockey teams in the East Coast Hockey League, from 1990 to 1994 the Louisville Icehawks, followed by the Louisville Riverfrogs from 1995 to 1998. The city also had an American Hockey League team from 1999 to 2001, the Louisville Panthers.

The city of Louisville has made several unsuccessful bids in recent years to draw major league sports teams to the city, most notably when the Houston Rockets franchise was considering a move several years ago, as well as the Charlotte Hornets franchise, which ultimately ended up in New Orleans.

Louisville is also the home of Valhalla Golf Club which hosted the 1996 and 2000 PGA Championships, and will host the 2008 Ryder Cup. It is also home to one of the top skateparks in the U.S., Louisville Extreme Park.

High school sports are also very popular in the city. While basketball is popular, as it is in the rest of the state, Louisville area high schools have been dominant in football in recent years. Schools such as Trinity, St. Xavier and Male have won every 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 Trinity and St. Xavier draws over 35,000 fans. The annual game between Male and Manual high schools is also one of the oldest, dating back to the 1890s.


Bourbon bottle, 19th century. One-third of all bourbon whiskey comes from Louisville.
Bourbon bottle, 19th century. One-third of all bourbon whiskey comes from Louisville.

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 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. In the early days, the Louisville and Portland Canal (today, called the McAlpine Locks and Dam) was a crucial link in water traffic on its route from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (and other origins) to the mouth of the Mississippi River, the Gulf of Mexico, and beyond. The Louisville & Nashville Railroad was also an important link between the industrialized northern cities and the South. Louisville's importance to the shipping industry continues today with the presence of the world air hub for UPS. 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.

Additionally, Louisville is home to several major corporations and organizations:

Louisville for a long time was also home to Brown & Williamson, one of the subjects of the tobacco industry scandals of the 1990s. Also located in Louisville are two major Ford plants, and a major General Electric appliance factory.

Additionally, one third of all of the bourbon whiskey comes from Louisville. The Brown-Forman Corporation is one of the major makers of bourbon, which is headquartered in Louisville. Other major distilleries of bourbon can be found both in the city of Louisville, or in neighboring cities in Kentucky, such as Heaven Hill (Bardstown, Kentucky), Woodford Reserve (Woodford County), or Maker's Mark (Loretto, Kentucky, with a restaurant/lounge in Louisville).

90% of the United States' disco balls are made in Louisville.
90% of the United States' disco balls are made in Louisville.

Louisville also prides itself in its large assortment of small, independent businesses and restaurants. Some of these local businesses have become known for their ingenuity and creativity. For example, in 1934, Kaelin's Restaurant served the first hamburger with a slice of cheese on top, becoming known as the first cheeseburger. In 1926 the Brown Hotel became the home of the Louisville Hot brown "sandwich". In 1880, John Colgan also invented a way to make chewing gum taste better for a longer period of time.

The Highlands area of Louisville on Bardstown Road also contains many independent businesses, including but not limited to the popular Ear X-tacy music store, Baxter Avenue Theater, Carmichael's book store, the Wild and Woolly Video store, Heine Brothers' Coffee, Conti Coffee, Wick's Pizza, O'Shea's Irish Pub, among others. Several local brewpubs such as Rich O's Public House of New Albany Indiana, Browning's Restaurant and Brewery, Cumberland Brewing Company, and the Bluegrass Brewing Company offer an assortment of local brewing talent in the area.

Louisville also has connections to the entertainment industry. For example, 90% of the United States' disco balls are made in Louisville at National Products, Inc. Several major motion pictures have also been filmed in or near Louisville, including Goldfinger, Stripes, The Insider and Elizabethtown.



Louisville Metro is governed by an executive dubbed the Metro Mayor as well as a city legislature dubbed the Metro Council. The first and current Metro Mayor is Jerry E. Abramson, who also served three terms (13 years due to a state-mandated extension of the third term) as the Mayor of the old City of Louisville. Abramson is often referred to as "Mayor for life", since there is perceived to be little chance he will be unseated in the foreseeable future. The Metro Council consists of 26 seats corresponding to 26 districts apportioned by population throughout the city. Half (13) of the seats come up for re-election every two years.

The Official Seal of the City of Louisville, no longer used following the formation of a consolidated city-county government in 2003, reflected its history and heritage in the fleur-de-lis representing French aid given during the Revolutionary War, and the thirteen stars signify the original colonies. It was designed by legendary Austrian typographer Victor Hammer. The new seal of the consolidated government retains the fleur-de-lis, but has only two stars, one representing the city and the other the county.

The third U.S. Congressional district is roughly contiguous with Louisville Metro, and is currently represented by Rep. Anne Northup, though some of the southern areas of the city are in Kentucky's second U.S. Congressional district.


See also: List of schools in Louisville

According to the U.S. Census, of Louisville's population over twenty-five, 21.3% (vs. a national average of 24%) hold a bachelor's degree or higher, and 76.1% (vs. 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 Kindergarten through 12th Grade. The system consists of 87 elementary schools, 23 middle schools, 20 high schools and 23 other learning centers. Some of the more distinguished schools in the system include Ballard High School, duPont Manual Magnet High School, Eastern High School, and Louisville Male High School. There are also a variety of special schools in the system, including The Brown School (a small, centrally located, highly regarded K-12 school), as well as the Youth Performing Arts School (YPAS).

Louisville has a large number of private schools, particularly unusual for a city of this size. Due to its large Catholic population, there are 27 Catholic schools in the city, as well as several Protestant schools. Some of the notable private schools in Louisville include Mercy Academy (all girls), Presentation Academy (all girls), Assumption High School (all girls), Sacred Heart Academy (all girls), St. Xavier High School (all boys), and Trinity High School (all boys). Louisville is also home to Portland Christian School, Highlands Latin School, and Christian Academy of Louisville (CAL), the largest Protestant school system in the country in terms of student population.

Louisville is home to the University of Louisville, Spalding University, Sullivan University, Bellarmine University and Jefferson Community College (part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System), as well as the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Indiana University Southeast is also located across the Ohio River in nearby New Albany, Indiana.


The Toonerville II Trolleys provide transportation throughout Louisville's downtown and Bardstown Road districts.
The Toonerville II Trolleys provide transportation throughout Louisville's downtown and Bardstown Road districts.

Louisville's main airport is the centrally located Louisville International Airport, which is also home to the UPS Worldport. Well over 3.5 million passengers and over 3 billion pounds (1,400,000 t) of cargo pass through the airport each year. The airport, having recently completed major terminal renovations, has three operational runways. The two parallel main runways run north/south and allow for simultaneous takeoffs and landings. The east/west runway is shorter and generally only used in adverse weather conditions.

The much smaller Bowman Field is used mainly for general aviation. Some business aviation, as well as flight instruction and other private flying primarily operate out of this field.

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. A new lock is currently being constructed to replace two of the auxiliary locks, with a projected completion date of 2008.

Public transportation includes buses and chartered vans 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 as well as to the Bardstown Road entertainment and shopping district is served by a series of motorized trolleys (see right) known as the Toonerville II Trolley.

The city's road system is arranged in a fairly typical system common to many cities in the United States. Streets in the downtown business district are arranged as a grid, with several alternating one-way streets. Many major roads begin at or near the downtown area and travel outwards from the city like the spokes of a wheel. There are also several roads, such as Bardstown Road and Shelbyville Road, which lead outwards from Louisville to the outlying towns of Bardstown, Kentucky, and Shelbyville, Kentucky, respectively. Please see the External links section for links to several online maps.

Louisville is intersected by the Interstates I-64, I-65 and I-71. Since all three of these highways intersect at virtually the same location in the city, this spot has become known as Spaghetti Junction, as the large mass of highways and exits resembles a bowl of spaghetti when viewed from the air. I-264 (Watterson Expressway or Shawnee Expressway) and I-265 (Gene Snyder Freeway) form loops around the city on the Kentucky side. Plans for two more bridges to connect Louisville to Indiana are nearing completion. One bridge will be located downtown for relief of I-65 traffic. The other will connect the Indiana and Kentucky I-265's (via KY-841). Interestingly enough, Louisville is the only city in the nation to contain two consecutively-numbered, three-digit Interstate highways.

Louisville also has an extensive system of bicycle trails, which connect with many of the city's parks. Many of these bicycle trails lie parallel to major roads, further enhancing one's ability to get around the city by bicycle.

Louisville has historically been a major center for railway traffic. 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, [1] also serve the city. With the discontinuance of the short-lived Kentucky Cardinal in 2004, Amtrak passenger trains no longer serve Louisville.


Electricity is provided to the Louisville Metro area by LG&E Energy, which traces its roots back to 1838 as Louisville Gas. LG&E Energy was formed in 1913 by the merger of Louisville Gas, Louisville Lighting (founded in 1903) and Kentucky Heating. Today, LG&E Energy serves over 350,000 electric and over 300,000 natural gas customers, covers an area of 700 square miles (1800 km²), and has a total regulated electric generation capacity of 3,514 megawatts.[4]

The current electric generating stations serving the city include three coal-fired plants (Trimble County, Mill Creek, and Cane Run Stations), one natural gas/fuel oil combustion turbine, one hydroelectric plant (Ohio Falls Station), and two natural gas facilities (Muldraugh and Magnolia Compressor Stations).

Water is provided by the Louisville Water Company, which provides water to the more than 800,000 people in Greater Louisville as well as parts of Oldham and Bullitt counties. Additionally, they provide wholesale water to the outlying counties of Shelby, Spencer and Nelson.[5]

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 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.

Water is provided in the southern Indiana counties of Clark and Floyd by Aqua Source.

Sister cities

The distance to each of Louisville's sister cities are represented on this lightpost downtown.
The distance to each of Louisville's sister cities are represented on this lightpost downtown.

Louisville has seven sister cities[6]: Jiujiang (China), La Plata (Argentina), Mainz (Germany), Montpellier (France), Perm (Russia), Quito (Ecuador) and Tamale (Ghana).

See also



  • Domer, Dennis, Gregory A. Luhan, and David Mohney, The Louisville Guide, 2004. (ISBN 1568984510)
  • Kleber, John E., et al. (editor), The Encyclopedia of Louisville, University Press of Kentucky, 2000. (ISBN 0813121000)
  • Nold, Chip and Bob Bahr, Insiders' Guide to Louisville, Kentucky & Southern Indiana, Globe Pequot, 1997. (ISBN 1573800430)
  • Sanders, David and Glen Conner, Fact Sheet: Ohio River Floods, Kentucky Climate Center, 2000.

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