Scott Robarge: Louisville, Kentucky – A Hip City with a Rich History

May 31, 2012 Louisville, Kentucky is a city over 200 years old on the banks of the Falls of Ohio, highlighting touches of France, manufacturing, and government reform. Louisville (never pronounce the “s”!), named after King Louis XVI of France as a thank you for his support during the Revolutionary War, was incorporated in 1778. In the first couple decades of its incorporation, Louisville was characterized as a slow-growing, sleepy town.

After the introduction of the steamboat to the Falls of the Ohio in the early 1800s, Louisville quickly became the largest city in Kentucky, propelled forward by an intense growth thanks to industrial development. A part of the Union during the Civil War, Louisville was home to a base of operations and military supply center. After the Civil War, Louisville became a manufacturing and commercial headquarters, thanks to its strategic river-front location. In the 1850s, construction of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad continued to allow the economy of Louisville to boom, thanks to the over 1,800 miles of railroad laid through the state and straight through the city itself. Following prohibition, Louisville became home to the world’s largest distillery, and during World War II, Louisville became the world’s largest producer of synthetic rubber, due to the Dupont plant’s opening in the city.

Louisville is credited with a few government-focused ideas, impacting our national and local governments to this day. Officials in Louisville reformed voting by introducing the secret ballot in the 1880s, thus significantly reducing vote fraud. Louisville government was the first in the state of Kentucky to submit measures to control zoning and urban growth, aimed at assisting in city planning.

A great number of famous and influential Americans have called Louisville home. President Zachary Taylor, two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, boxer Muhammad Ali were all born in or around Louisville. Noted ornithologist, naturalist, and painter John James Audubon lived in Louisville for a time; and noted author F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented the bar at the Seelbach Hotel, which he made famous in his novel The Great Gatsby.

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