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Bluegrass State Tours: Downtown Louisville


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http://urbanup.net/2012/09/06/bluegrass-state-tours-downtown-louisville/]Bluegrass State Tours: Downtown Louisville

This is a multi-part post.

Louisville, Kentucky‘s downtown is the largest central business district in Kentucky, bounded by the Ohio River to the north, Hancock Street to the east, York and Jacob streets to the south, and 9th Street to the west. Below is a tour of the highlights of downtown, from its tallest to its endangered.


Downtown is the oldest part of the Louisville. The largest early fort, Fort Nelson, was constructed in 1781 near what is today 7th and Main streets. Development around the fort began concentrating in the mid-1780s in simple wooden structures. The earliest development plan for Louisville came from William Pope in 1783, which depicted a grid on an east-to-west axis along the Ohio River. The earliest streets were marked as Main, Market and Jefferson, with Main being the main commercial hub for the city. Green was also marked, although this was later renamed to Liberty.

By 1830, Louisville surpassed Lexington for population, becoming the largest city with a population over 10,000. That year also saw the completion of the Louisville and Portland Canal west of downtown, which led to the large-scale development of manufacturing operations in the city. Downtown’s presence had expanded further south towards Prather Street, now Broadway, and upwards with the construction of numerous banks. With the introduction of the railroad and trolleys, more remote areas of the city developed, such as Phoenix Hill, Russell and what is now called Old Louisville. The city annexed those suburban areas in 1868.

The first skyscraper, the Kenyon Building, was completed in 1886 along Fifth Street, followed by the ten-story Columbia Building four years later. The first move for suburbanization came in the early 1900s when the streetcar lines were extended into newly developed residential neighborhoods further from downtown. The commercial center was, by the 1920s, at 4th and Broadway in what was dubbed the “magic corner” by the local Herald-Leader, strengthened when the was completed across the Ohio River at 2nd Street in 1929.

But after World War II, suburbanization increased at a frantic pace as modern highways and later interstates were finished out of downtown to the rural areas of the county. Much of downtown since then has been the subject of hit-and-miss urban renewal developments and historic preservation efforts that have both claimed and saved dozens of buildings. Today, downtown is seeing a residential resurgence spurred by the completion of the Louisville Slugger Field and the construction of Waterfront Park. The resurgence of 4th Street with 4th Street Live! and the new KFC Yum! Center has only strengthened the core of Louisville.

The State's Tallest: Aegon Tower

The Aegon Tower is located at 400 West Market Street and is the state’s tallest building at 35 stories and 549-feet. The Aegon Tower marked one of the final developments of the 25-year partnership of Philip Johnson and John Burgee of New York, and was designed with classic proportions, with a classical base, shaft and cap that honored earlier American skyscrapers. The skyscraper was developed by Houston-based Hines Interests LP.

The construction of the tower, which began in July 1991, eschewed from the traditional use of steel and the tower was built with reinforced concrete. The exterior was given a granite facade, and the top was fitted with an 80-foot high Romanesque dome which reflected upon its original tenant, Capital Holding, that was illuminated from the interior at night. Other exterior lights on the upper floors were installed, illuminated in white light that changes to red and green from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. The interior was fitted with 633,650 square-foot of leasable space and 18,787 square-feet of retail. In addition, a five-level, 789-space parking garage was built.

The Aegon Tower was completed in 1993 at a cost of $110 million, and was initially named the Capital Holding Center, then the Providian Center. Aegon acquired Providian Corporation in 1997, and the firm located its financial services division in Louisville. Aegon opted to substantially downsize their Louisville offices in 2011, leaving behind only 125 employees scattered at other facilities in the metro.


A Former First: First National Tower

Designed by Harrison and Abramowitz of New York, the forty-story office tower was constructed for First National Bank, which was absorbed by National City Bank and then PNC Bank. It was the tallest structure in the city until the completion of the Aegon Tower.

Below: The First National Tower is the black-colored skyscraper.




Citizens Fidelity Building

The Citizens Fidelity Building is located at 500 West Jefferson Street and was completed for Citizens Fidelity Bank. The post-modern structure was designed by Welton Becket and Associates of Los Angeles and was completed in 1971. The 29-story, 420-foot high tower was designed by architect Welton Becket, and featured an exterior of precast concrete panels. The skyscraper, with 556,000 square-feet of interior space, was Kentucky’s tallest in 1971, but that distinction was short lived as the National City Tower was completed a year later.

Upon opening, the building was referred to as Citizens Fidelity Plaza after the bank. In 1986, PNC Bank purchased Citizens Fidelity Bank Corporation and the building was renamed PNC Plaza. The tower was also home to the Jefferson Club, a private city club that was located on the top floor until its closing in February 2010.


A Postmodern First: Humana Building

The Humana Building is located at 500 West Main Street in and was one of the first postmodern skyscrapers in the United States.

The Humana Corporation had formed an organized competition for a new corporate headquarters in the early 1980s, and designs were submitted by Helmut Jahn, Cesar Pelli, Michael Graves and many others. Ultimately, Grave’s design, which took on a form that merged traditional, classical elements with a modern facade, was selected as it reflected the historical context of downtown.

Construction began in October 1983 and the 27-story, 417-foot tower was completed in June 1985. The $60,084,501 million tower featured a large open-air terrace on the 25th floor that cantilevered from the tower and over Main Street to provide panoramic views of the Ohio River. A curving waterfall was constructed on both sides of the primary entrance to Humana.

The Humana Building’s architects, John Carl Warnecke & Associates, was recognized with an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1987. In January 1990, the skyscraper was named on the “Best of the Decade” list of the 1980s in Time magazine.



Along the Belvedere

The Belvedere, located between 3rd and 6th streets in downtown Louisville, was completed on April 27, 1973 after being under construction for four years. The earliest proposal for a waterfront plaza came as early as 1930. The plaza incorporates a parking garage and Interstate 64, and an elevated park atop.

As plans for the new Riverfront Plaza and Belvedere were taking shape in the late 1960s, one of the first developers to take advantage of the prospects of a revamped riverfront was Al J. Schneider. Once construction had begun on the Belvedere, Schneider hired Louisville architect Thomas Nolan to design a hotel on the eastern edge of the plaza, using the name of two historic hotels that were located nearby.

The first hotel, the Galt House, was completed in 1972 – one year before the Belvedere was completed. The second, the Galt House East, was finished in 1985. A pedestrian walkway was erected between the two hotels.



The Louisville Trust Bank Building is located at 400 West Main Street and was completed prior to the Belvedere’s completion along the waterfront. Also developed by Al J. Schneider, it was designed by Nolan & Nolan and completed in 1972. The 24-story postmodern tower housed the Louisville Trust Bank Building, now a part of BB&T.




The squatty American Life Building is located at 3 Riverfront Plaza. In the late 1960s, the American Life and Accident Insurance Company hired Mies van der Rohe to design a new headquarters for the growing company on the soon to be completed Belvedere Plaza. Mies, a German architect known for modern steel and glass skyscrapers, was only to complete a preliminary design before he unexpectedly died in 1969. His firm completed the remainder of the plans.

Construction began soon after. During the building process, Dinwiddle Lampton, a contractor who had specified the exterior Corten steel’s thickness and fabrication, discovered that the panels were too thin and were warping. American Life countered that the dispute be resolved with the flip of a coin, of which Lampton lost out and had to have new panels fabricated.

The four-story building with a penthouse was completed in 1973 and featured a raised lobby and podium, with large expanses of glass on the first level to afford views from Main Street through to the Belvedere.


Waterfront Plaza I and II are located at 321-329 West Main Street. The twin towers, each capped with an ornamental lighthouse, stretch for 25 stories and were completed in 1991 and 1993, respectfully.



The First: Waterfront Park Place

Waterfront Park Place is located at 222 Witherspoon Street and was the first residential high-rise to be completed directly along the Ohio River. The tower was designed by Potter and Associates Architects. Construction on the 23-story 89-unit condominium and apartment tower in 2000 and was topped off on August 19, 2003. The 263.75-foot high structure was completed in 2004 at a cost of $42 million.

A second phase, which would have added an additional twelve condominiums and 12,000 square-feet of retail, was scheduled to begin construction in summer 2007. The five-story addition was completed in August 2008. A third phase, which would have included studio apartments for rent and additional retail space, was scrapped due to the lagging economy.

Fifteen parking spots for the residents, along with an unfinished retail level, was on February 6, 2009 that drew in television news cameras, champagne, beer, cake, and balloons. A plaque marked the grand occasion, which had only been proceeded with luxury automobiles “claiming their spot” directed by people dressed as air-traffic controllers as confetti streamed through the enclosed skies. A 35-car surface lot was also opened on the site of the never-built third phase.

On November 17, a sealed-bid auction was held to sell the remaining fifteen unsold units, three of which were designed to go to the highest bidder with no reserve. The units ranged from 1,250 square-feet to over 4,300 square-feet.





Movie Row

The Ohio Theatre operated at 655-657 4th Street and was part of Movie Row. The movie house district was once comprised of at least eleven theaters. Originally opened in 1914 as the Alamo Theater at 444 South 4th Street, it was designed by Joseph D. Baldez who had earlier designed the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs in 1895. The theater was renamed the Ohio in 1933.

An Art Deco-style replacement structure opened in 1941 and could host 900, but closed as a motion picture venue in 1965 due to suburban competition. At some point between 1983 and 1986, the theater was demolished sans the lobby, which operated as an ice cream parlor and a host of other businesses.

4th Street was once a major theater destination for Louisville, but nearly every theater was demolished. The Ohio was neutered.




The Kentucky Theater is located at 649 South Fourth Street. Designed by Joseph and Joseph, the same architects of the Kentucky Theater in Lexington, Louisville’s version was opened in 1921 and was operated by the Modern Amusement Company. The theater featured an exterior of orange glazed brick with a diamond pattern, and the facade on the first floor was clad in Cararra marble, with glazed terra-cotta decorations. The interior lobby featured marble imported from Italy and Greece, inlaid with Italian rosata and Caen stone. A stained glass skylight was lit from above in the main auditorium.

A renovation in 1940 overseen by Michael Switow, president of the Modern Amusement Company, increased the seating capacity from 780 to 1,100 with the addition of a balcony. Unfortunately, many of the ornate interior details were removed. Another renovation in 1951 saw the removal of even more interior features, and the Kentucky Theater was rebranded as a first-run movie house. In 1982, the theater’s front facade and lobby was preserved while the structure was remodeled by Ward & Taylor into an auditorium a year later. In 1984, the theater was home to essentially a slideshow promoting Kentucky tourism, but two years later, the Kentucky Theater had closed. In 1996, the abandoned building was targeted for demolition.

Local businessman George Stinson purchased the theater in 1998, and gave a no-cost lease to volunteers who created a not-for-profit organization called the Kentucky Theater Project, Inc. Using more than 200 volunteers, the theater was remodeled into a community arts center. By 2008, the theater was renovated into an upscale food market, Theater Square Marketplace, that sold groceries, wine and spirits, bagels and florals. An upscale restaurant was later added.


The Palace Theater is located at 625 South Fourth Street and was added to the National Historic Register in 1978.

John Eberson, a nationally-known theater architect, was hired by the Loew’s theater chain to design an atmospheric theater in Louisville. Eberson early atmospheric work began during his tenure at the Johnston Realty and Construction Company between 1901 and 1903. By the mid 1910s, he had made a name for himself with a self-styled implementation of an atmospheric theater. His first atmospheric theater opened in 1923 in Houston, which exhibited pervasive landscape and garden influences in the detailed reliefs and motifs.

The Palace Theater in Louisville was similarly designed. Opened on September 1, 1928, the exterior featured a Spanish Baroque motif referred to as churrigueresque. It was opulent, and the interior featured an elaborate vaulted lobby with busts of Beethoven and Eberson, along with 137 other sculptures of other historical figures, and an auditorium that emulated a night sky with light fixtures that “twinkled.” Other features included arcades, balconies and turrets, with a color scheme of cobalt blue with hints of red and gold. A Wurlitzer Theater pipe organ was located inside, along with seats for 3,273. As a result of the rich attention paid to the details, the Palace was referred to as the finest theater of the south.

In 1953, a wide screen was installed, and a year later, the theater was purchased and renamed the United Artists Theatre. In 1963, the balcony was blocked off and a second floor screen was installed, referred to as the Penthouse. The pipe organ was renovated in 1964 and sold in the 1980s to a restaurant in Atlanta. In 1994, the theater was rebranded and refurbished as the Palace Theater, with seating for 2,800. Today, the Palace is a popular entertainment venue that hosts live bands and performances. Both floors contain bars that run the width of the building behind the theater.


The New

The KFC Yum! Center is a multipurpose arena and is bounded by Second, Third and Main streets and River Road. The 22,000-seat arena is home to University of Louisville basketball. The new center replaced Freedom Hall for the University of Louisville, where they played from 1956 to 2010. The interior features two bars – Burnett’s V Lounge and Evan Williams Bourbon Bar, and two clubs – the Woodford Reserve Club overlooking the Ohio River and the Kentucky Ale Taproom overlooking the arena.(12) The Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame, a wall exhibit, showcasing the state’s sports legends.

The discussion for a new arena to replace Freedom Hall at the fairgrounds began as early as the late-1990s when Metro Council member Dan Johnson led an effort to build a new arena. In addition, the city and a member of the old Board of Aldermen tried to convince the NBA to bring a franchise and arena to the city, but those efforts failed. Former Governor Ernie Fletcher commissioned a task force to discuss a new arena for the University of Louisville after the Final Four run in 2005. After debate on the location, the task force voted 16-1 that September to locate the arena at Second and Main streets. Fletcher and then-Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson named members to the Arena Authority, who would be in charge of the development.

Originally, the Kentucky Finance Cabinet projected $211 million in new tax revenues in 2005. A more recent survey that was “more complete” was finished in mid-2007 and the projected revenue jumped to $265 million. The arena was projected to originally lose $123,000 a year originally, but revised with a small profit of $196,000 with the jump in revenue. The arena was projected to bring in $9.2 million a year in rent, merchandise, concessions and other sources, including a $2 ticket tax on the University of Louisville men’s basketball games during the first 30 years, with expenditures of $9 million. The driving change behind the arena operating expenses is the reimbursement fee that the Arena Authority must pay to the Kentucky State Fair Board for the arena’s impact on Freedom Hall. The decrease in revenues, from $1.3 million to $738,000 during the first 10 years of the new arena, is a result of revision taking into account lesser number of events for Freedom Hall.

On July 25, 2006, Louisville lawmakers approved a downtown arena financing plan. In addition, the University of Louisville and Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) announced that they were finalizing agreements with the Louisville Arena Authority to relocate their substation. The two components were required for the Authority to receive $75 million in state-issued bonds approved for the project by the General Assembly. The Authority also signed agreements with the Kentucky State Fair Board to manage the arena and Humana, which owned an office building on the proposed site.

The Arena Authority selected architect HOK Sport, the predecessor of Populous, and construction manager M.A. Mortenson Co.

An interior rendering was released on April 23, 2007, showing an arena with improved seating and better sight distances than Freedom Hall. Other tidbits were released as well, such as the increase in seating from 19,000 at Freedom Hall to 22,000 at the new arena. Of those seats, 11,348 would be in the lower ball, an increase from 7,124 at Freedom Hall. A sports bar would be included on the main concourse, with views of the Ohio River. It would be open year-round. The 72 suites would be located on two levels between the main and upper concourses, and be twice as big as those in Freedom Hall. It would also include 60 smaller boxes, and combined with the suites, adds up to a combined 2,440 seats. The arena would aso include a 975-car parking garage, 475-room hotel and floodwall. The projected cost was estimated at $450 million.

The design was borrowed from other arenas – the cavernous lobby is similar to Indianapolis’ Conseco Fieldhouse, while the Main Street plaza is similar to the Memphis FedEx Forum. In addition, the glass exterior facing the Ohio River is similar to the Sprint Center in Kansas City.

By May, however, the hotel was dropped from the project. It was originally envisioned as one method to pay for the arena, but it was discovered that other revenues could cover the $252 million construction cost. The hotel would have contributed $1.3 millon in lease payments, but that the other revenue sources could handle the $573 million in total debt over 30 years. Those sources included $265 million from a tax-increment financing district, $179 million from interior advertising, $84 million facility fee, $63 million in luxury suite revenues and $37 million in building naming rights. The hotel would have also taken land away from the public plaza on Main Street. Hotel operators also supported the measure, undertaken at a May 21 meeting for the Authority, stating that downtown had enough rooms.

The tax-increment financing district would allow part of the anticipated growth in state taxes to help pay for the arena. The arena’s share of that revenue was capped at $265 million, although the project would be able to use the excess revenues to pay down the debt. It was expected to generate $574 million over 20 years.

The Louisville Metro Council, after months of negotiations, announced an arena financing deal in early June that would save taxpayers $3.4 million per year. It would require arena officials to exhaust other revenue sources, such as naming rights and luxury suite sales, before asking the metro government to pay more than its minimum pledge. The minimum pledge of $206 million was set towards the construction of the arena, and would be paid annually between 2010 and 2039. Under the proposed deal, the Louisville Arena Authority can ask the local government for up to $3.5 million more a year to cover the debt only if at least five other sources are drained. Such agreements for arenas were commonplace. If the Louisville Arena Authority was forced to use additional city funds for two straight years, the Louisville Metro Council would reserve the right to audit the arena’s revenues. If approved, the new agreement would allow $339 million in bonds through the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority to be issued in November or December.

The arena was constructed with proceeds from a $238 million bond issue. Additional funding was sourced for a separate $32 million, 760-space underground parking garage for the Parking Authority of River City. An additional $3 million in a Transportation Enhancement Grant from the state was secured in August 2009 for enhanced architectural features, streetscape and lighting along the streets surrounding the arena. The grant was added onto $2.4 million from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and $600,000 in matching funds from Louisville Metro. Improvements include wider sidewalks, trees, lighting under the , and accent lighting along Second Street.

On April 19, 2010, the Authority announced that Yum! Brands, which owned Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, won out naming rights to the new arena. The 10-year, $13.5 million deal also gave Yum! as many as eight concession outlets inside the arena for its food.

Approximately 28% of the goods and services procured for the development, or $48.5 million of the project cost, went to minority- or women-owned businesses. The goal for the arena was 27.5%. Of that, 99% of the firms were located in Kentucky, the majority within Louisville. Total minority- and women-owned business participation was 19%, with a goal of 20%. Local participation was 63% with total goal of 60%. 84% of the total workers were from Kentucky and Indiana. The construction process involved 46 contractors, 14 of those having either headquarters or offices in the Louisville area and 22 located in Kentucky or Indiana.

Patriot Engineering and Environmental Inc. was selected as the arena project’s special inspections provider. The company, based out of Indianapolis, received a $650,000 contract after beating out two other firms. Patriot performed a variety of inspections and testing of materials. Demolition on the arena site was completed in late October 2008, and construction on the foundation and footers for the underground parking garage began in mid-November. At the height of construction, 750 workers were involved in the construction of the arena, with an average of 250 on site every workday.

The Yum! Center was scheduled to completed in time for the college basketball season in November 2010, but opened on October 10. The first event was the following Saturday, when the Eagles performed in concert. The arena impressed the NCAA enough that they selected the new center as the site of post-season basketball games, the first time Louisville had been selected in more than 20 years.

The move from Freedom Hall was deemed a good move for the University of Louisville’s athletic department, as they were projected to bring in an additional $2 million in profit due to luxury box sales and more ticket sales. The profit, totaling $9.8 million, were estimates based on a bast-case scenario. The 24 suites at Freedom Hall generated only $1.6 million for 2009, but the new arena was projected to bring in $5.1 million. Under an agreement, the university would capture 88% of the revenue, with the remainder going to the Authority to help pay for financing costs on the bonds. If the arena turned a profit, then the surplus would go to the city.

The new arena’s financial viability and its ability to make debt payments hinged on tax-increment financing, a state program designed to allow for gradual increases in certain tax revenues to pay for major developments. Those tax revenues, however, fell short in 2009, with only $678,000 collected of the $5.2 million anticipated as sales taxes declined in the six-square mile arena district. A 2010 Kentucky state estimate indicated that those revenues were rising – 3.8% from August 2009 to August 2010, but that they had fallen 2.8% from August 2008 to August 2009. As a result, Standard & Poor considered downgrading the arena’s bonds to junk status, raising concerns about the tax-increment financing model. In January 2012, Standard & Poor upgraded its outlook for debt, but on on May 29, Moody’s lowered their status two steps, from Baaa3 to Ba2 – junk, highlighting the risk of tax-increment financing. Moody’s also lowered the outlook to negative for the following year.






The Kentucky Center for the Arts is located at 501 West Main Street and was vital to the revitalization of the West Main Street historic district. Louisville is one of the few cities with an orchestra, ballet, opera and a nationally known theater company, and a partnership between all of the organizations led to the development of the Center. The site was developed by the Humana Corporation.

Houston, Texas firm Caudill Rowlett Scott prepared initial designs for the Center, which were modified by Humana Corporation’s in-house architects, headed by Wendell Cherry, Humana’s chief operating officer at that time. The design was geometric with glass curtain walls and brick and reflected the one of the United State’s first postmodern skyscrapers, the Humana Building, which was built across the street. Inside were two theaters: Whitney Hall, which seated 2,400 and the Bomhard Theater, which seated 626. The Belvedere was extended west to the Center, and sculptures outside and inside, designed by Alexander Calder, Jean Dubuffet, Louise Nevelson and John Chamberlain, grace the property.



The Muhammad Ali Center is located at 1 Muhammad Ali Plaza. It is dedicated to the life of Muhammad Ali and his values, and is a museum and cultural center.

The six-story high museum was designed to honor the values and life of Muhammad Ali, and to serve as a base to continue the promotion of respect, hope and understanding throughout the world. The architectural design of the sweeping building, overlooking the Ohio River, was a collaboration between Beyer Blinder Belle, Lee H. Skolnick Architecture & Design Partnership of New York and the Bravura Corporation of Louisville. The exterior featured a base, an “opaque” wrapper comprised of 1-foot by 2-foot ceramic tilesdesigned by 2×4 of New York, and a “floating butterfly roof” that was based on Ali’s famous dictum, “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.”

Formations Inc. of Portland, Oregon was responsible for the visitor experience, including the design of the exhibits. Exhibitions revolved around Ali’s core values of respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, charity and spirituality. An orientation theater, pavilion that featured Ali’s boxing memorabilia and history and a full-sized boxing ring were also installed, along with video-on-demand terminals. The final exhibits, “Hope and Dream” and “Global Voices” round out the tour. “Hope and Dream” was constructed as a 5,000 tile mosaic comprised of drawings and painting from children in 141 countries, who were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. “Global Voices” was similar, in which the Ali Center asked questions to children and adults around the world. The answers were submitted via poems, drawings and other mediums.

The 96,750 square foot museum opened on November 19, 2005 at a cost of $80 million. It included a 40,000 square-foot, two-level amphitheater and plaza. The plaza was designed to connect to the now-defunct Museum Plaza project.

Below: The interior photographs were completed several years ago on commission. The exhibits have slightly changed since then.




















Preston Pointe is located at 333 East Main Street and was designed by Potter and Associates. The eight-story, 172-foot high structure, clad in stainless steel, was erected from 2002 to 2004 and was completed at a cost of $11.3 million. It is divided into five levels of offices and four residential condominiums on the upper two floors.


The Restored

The Almstedt Brothers Building is located at 425 West Market Street and was constructed in 1931 on the site of a former cafe. Designed by prominent Louisville architects Joseph and Joseph in the Beaux Arts architectural style, their other notable works include the Republic Building on Muhammad Ali Boulevard. Since the building’s completion, the building has housed investment-brokerage firms.


Next door is the former Lincoln Bank and Trust Company Building at 421 West Market Street. It was constructed in 1928-29 for the Louisville Trust Company. The four-story limestone-facade structure was constructed on the site of the former Morris Plan Bank, and was designed by the architects of the Pendennis Club (1922-28) with French motifs and art moderne detailing. The center of the front facade contained a three-story limestone archway and entrance, while the right bay contained a bas relief seal of the United States and Louisville. The left bay featured a bas relief seal of the United States and Kentucky.

The original vestibule contained decorated walls of St. Genevieve marble, bordered in black and gold marble from Egypt, black Belgian marble strips and travertine flooring. Sliding bronze gates separated the lobby from the main room, the latter being outfitted with colored ceilings, oversized square columns and beams, with Italian Renaissance detailing.

In 1931, the Lincoln Bank and Trust Company took over, which lasted until a 1960 merger with First National Bank. It was later part of National City Bank until 2005. The Gillespie, as the building is now referred to, is today an event center that hosts weddings, social events, galas and corporate events.




The Louisville Recreation Building is located at 543 South Third Street at Guthrie Street. Designed by E. T. Hutchings, the three story building was completed in 1929 and was considered “the place to dance” from its inception to the 1940s when it contained the Madrid Ballroom. The large dance hall contained golden walls and rich tapestries. In 1952, years after the ballroom closed, the building was renovated and was later purchased by the Hilliard Lyons Company for their offices.


The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft was another entity that I was commissioned to photograph years ago. It is located at 715 West Main Street and well worth the visit.










The Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing Company Building at 101-123 East Main Street was constructed on the site of the second Galt House. Designed by the Chicago firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, the Belknap Hardware Building was completed in 1923 and was the largest single-unit hardware facility in the world. Now referred to as the Waterside Building, it is owned by the Humana Corporation.

Below: The Belknap Hardware and Manufacturing Building is the eleven-story red brick structure.


The Levy Brothers Building is located at 235 West Market Street and Third Street and is home today to the Old Spaghetti Factory. The five story Richardsonian Romanesque commercial structure was designed by Charles Julian Clarke and his main draftsman, Arghur Loomis. Loomis, a Massachusetts native, had joined Clarke’s firm in the 1880s and the two became partners in 1891. The firm had become one of the city’s leading architectural companies and was a member of the Western Association of Architects.

The structure, faced with red and yellow brick, and terra-cotta that articulated the arches, windows, cornice and tower, was completed in 1893 and was promptly purchased by the Levy Brothers, a men’s clothing store. The store was one of the first electrified buildings in the city. In 1979, the Levy Brothers store closed and it remained vacant until its renovation in 1984 for the Old Spaghetti Factory. The upper floors were transformed into offices on the second, third and fifth floor, and five apartments on the fourth level. Today, the Levy Building contains Old Spaghetti Factory on a long term lease and 23 condominiums on the upper floors.





The Speed Building is loocated at 311-333 Guthrie Green at 4th Street . The complex, comprising of four individual structures of varying heights, was designed by Hartman and Loomis and completed from 1913 to 1917. The classically-designed building was clad in white terra-cotta and glazed brick. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.



The Starks Building is located at 455 South Fourth Street. It was constructed on the site of the former First Christian Church. The 15-story commercial office structure is a designated Louisville landmark and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

Local businessman John P. Starks purchased First Christian Church in 1909 for $350,000, and four years later commissioned Chicago architectural firm D. H. Burnham & Company to design a building in association with the Louisville architectural firm McDonald and Dodd. The 202-foot building, completed in 1913, reflected the size and mass of the Chicago School tradition, and exhibited Beaux Arts detailing, cream colored brick and terra-cotta trim. One of the first tenants was Rodes Clothing, founded by the building’s financier, John Starks Rodes, which was located on the ground floor from 1914 to 2004.

The U-shaped building was expanded in 1926 when the Chicago-based firm Graham, Anderson, Probst & White expanded the north and south wings eastward along Muhammad Ali Boulevard. This required the demolition of the Macauley Theater, which was built in 1873. Colonnade Cafeteria moved into the basement, remaining there until 2006.

In 1953, a 700-plus space parking garage was added to the structure, constructed on an adjoining lot along Third Street. Another modification project in 1982 saw the enclosure of the interior courtyard with a Plexiglas-covered aluminum space frame, designed by Louisville firm Bickel Gibson. A ten-story velvet chandelier was suspended from the frame. The covered space, noted as a marble promenade, served as a dining area during the day and banquet hall at night.

The Starks Building was owned by the Starks family until the mid-1980s when it was sold to an investment group, who then resold it in 1997 to Empire State Capital. Empire defaulted on the mortgage and ownership was taken over by Allstate in 2004. It was sold again in 2006 to the Hertz Investment Group. During the 1990s and 2000s, the Starks Building was largely vacant, and as of 2006, was 50% empty.

The Starks Building was connected by a skyway to Fourth Street Live! along Fourth Street. On July 2, 2007, the Cordish Company, the developer of Fourth Street Live!, announced plans that it would extend the entertainment development southward by leasing the first floor of the Starks Building. While the development never materialized, new tenants were added to the Starks Building, including an upscale steakhouse chain.

Today, the Starks Building is the 11th largest office complex in Louisville.


The Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments is located at 709 South Third Street and Broadway. The last remaining building in what was referred to as “the most elegant apartment complex of the early 20th century,” it was added to the National Historic Register in 1977.

The Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments was part of a trio of upscale apartments that included the Main Building, the Broadway Annex and the Third Street Annex. The Main Building was designed by McDonald and Dodd of Louisville, along with Chicago native J. F. Sheblessy who studied with William Le Baron Jenny, chief architect. It was built at the southwest corner of Broadway and Third Street in 1903 and was demolished in 1963. The Broadway Annex, designed by the McDonald Brothers, was erected in 1907 just west of the Main Building and was demolished in 1955.

The Third Street Annex – today’s Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments, was designed in 1910 by McDonald and Dodd and built on the site of John M. Atherton’s residence. The nine-story Beaux Arts structure featured Chicago School influences, and was built with a symmetrical W-shaped plan. Today, the Weissinger-Gaulbert Apartments is home to 85 units and first-level retail.


Below: A terra-cotta faced building in the 600 block of South 4th Street.




The Endangered

Bosler’s Fireproof Garage is located at 423 South Third Street and was designed by J. J. Gaffney. The Romanesque revival garage was completed in 1919 and was one of the first parking structures in the city. The building was divided into three bays, with the central bay providing a one-lane entry into the garage. Two storefronts flanked the ramp, which at one point hosted Goodrich Tires, Garage Equipment and Supply, some bookstores, a market and a surgical supply store. The building featured three levels of parking and a basement, along with a spiral ramp in the rear.


Below: And next door.


The Meh

Below: The failed Theatre Square development in the 600 block of South 4th Street, which is being redeveloped. The building in the background housed a modern movie theater.


The Cool

Below: Most artistic bike racks are functionally useless and costly, which leaves less money for other bike-related projects. Most only hold one or two bikes (if a rack), or one bike in an awkward position (if a single mount). The one below, like many others in Louisville, are cute, cost effective and functionally useful.


Below: A pilot bike share program, operated by Humana for Humana employees, requires electronic identification cards. The program could be expanded for visitors with the use of a credit card.


West Main District

The West Main District extends from west of 2nd Street, north of Market Street, east of 9th Street and south of the Ohio River. It includes the West Main Commercial Historic District.

Below: A view of the junction of South 5th Street and West Market Street.


Below: A view of the West Main Historic Commercial District.








Below: The Fort Nelson Building is located at 801 West Main Street and is typical of an 1880s-era commercial structure. The building is four-stories high and has only 25 feet of presence along Main Street, but the lot runs more than 100 feet towards the river, making for quite the sizable structure. The Romanesque revival facade, with a face of limestone, features a conical roof. It is a designated Louisville landmark and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.







Below: A view of the streetscape along South 5th Street.


East Main District

The East Main District is east of 2nd Street, north of Market Street, west of Hancock Street and south of the Ohio River. This contains the Whiskey Row Historic District.

Below: A view of the East Main District, specifically the Whiskey Row Historic District.




Below: The Ice House development along East Main Street is to the right.



Below: The Carlysle Building at East Main Street and Brook Street.


Below: A view of the East Main District.





Other Scenes

Below: A scene along the 600 block of South 3rd Street.


Below: The Crescent Centre development along the 600 block of South 3rd Street.


Below: A five story commercial structure at Wset Muhammad Ali Boulevard and South Third Street.


Below: The Parking Authority of River City Building on West Mumammad Ali Boulevard.


Below: A view of the 400 block of South Third Street.


I hope you enjoyed this tour of downtown Louisville. While every notable structure was not included in this update, subsequent updates will cover many more buildings and neighborhoods.

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