All About Louisville, Kentucky Geographic Area
Louisville (i/ˈluːiːvɪl/, local i/ˈluːəvəl/ or i/ˈlʌvəl/) is a major city and the largest city in the U.S. state of Kentucky and the county seat of Jefferson County.
Since 2003, the city's borders have been coterminous with those of the county because of a city-county merger. The city's total consolidated population at the 2010 census was 741,096 (Louisville's balance total, 602,011, excludes semi-autonomous towns and is the population listed in most sources and national rankings). As of 2010, the Louisville metropolitan area (MSA) had a population of 1,307,647 ranking 42nd nationally. The metro area includes Louisville-Jefferson County and 12 surrounding counties, eight in Kentucky and four in Southern Indiana (see Geography below). The Louisville Combined Statistical Area, having a population of 1,451,564, includes the MSA, Hardin County and Larue County in Kentucky, and Scott County, Indiana.
An important internal shipping port in the 19th century, Louisville today is best known as the location of the Kentucky Derby, the first of three annual thoroughbred horse races making up the Triple Crown.
Louisville is southeasterly situated along the border between Kentucky and Indiana, the Ohio River, in north-central Kentucky at the Falls of the Ohio. The Louisville metropolitan area is often referred to as Kentuckiana because it includes counties in Southern Indiana. A resident of Louisville is referred to as a Louisvillian. 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.
The settlement that became the city of Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark and is named after King Louis XVI of France, making Louisville one of the oldest cities west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The Louisville – Southern Indiana metropolitan area is considered part of the Great Lakes Megalopolis.
On November 7, 2000, voters in Louisville and Jefferson County approved a referendum to merge into a consolidated city-county government named Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government (official long form) and Louisville Metro (official short form), which took effect January 6, 2003.
As of the 2010 Census, Louisville in its consolidated form had a population of 741,096; in 2007, it was the 17th-largest city in the nation, and the balance had a population of 557,224 in 2008.[dated info]
The "balance" is a designation created by the Census Bureau to describe the portion of Louisville-Jefferson County that does not include any of the semi-independent separately incorporated places located within Louisville Metro (such as Anchorage, Middletown or Jeffersontown). Census methodology uses balance values in comparing consolidated cities to other cities for ranking purposes.
Most natives of Louisville pronounce the city's name as i/ˈluːəvəl/, which is sometimes shortened to i/ˈlʌvəl/. The pronunciation i/ˈluːiːvɪl/, however, is often used by political leaders, the media and outsiders. In all but the most anglicized pronunciations, the "s" is silent due to the name's French origin.
The variability in local pronunciation of the city's name can perhaps be laid at the feet of the city's location on the border between the Northern and Southern regions of the United States. Louisville's diverse population has traditionally represented elements of both Northern and Southern culture.
The history of Louisville spans hundreds of years, and has been influenced by the area's geography and location. The rapids at the Falls of the Ohio created a barrier to river travel, and as a result, settlements grew up at this stopping point.
The first European settlement in the vicinity of modern-day Louisville was on Corn Island in 1778 by Col. George Rogers Clark, credited as the founder of Louisville. Several landmarks in the community are named after him.
Two years later, in 1780, the Virginia General Assembly approved the town charter of Louisville. The city was named in honor of King Louis XVI of France, whose soldiers were then aiding Americans in the Revolutionary War. Early residents lived in forts to protect themselves from Indian raids, but moved out by the late 1780s. In 1803, explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark organized their expedition across America in the original town of Clarksville, Indiana at the present-day Falls of the Ohio in Louisville.
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.
The first Kentucky Derby was held on May 17, 1875, at the Louisville Jockey Club track (later renamed Churchill Downs). The Derby was originally shepherded by Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr.. He was the grandson of William Clark of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and grandnephew of the city's founder George Rogers Clark. Horse racing had a strong tradition in Kentucky, whose Inner Bluegrass Region had been a center of breeding high quality livestock throughout the 19th century. Ten thousand spectators watched the first Derby, where Aristides won.
On March 27, 1890 the city was devastated and its downtown nearly destroyed when an F4 tornado tore through as part of the March 1890 Mid-Mississippi Valley tornado outbreak. An estimated 74 to 120 people were killed.
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 Corporation, 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 corridor, Frankfort Avenue, and the Old Louisville neighborhoods. Downtown has had significant residential and retail growth, including the conversion of waterfront industrial sites into Waterfront Park, and the refurbishing of the former Galleria into the bustling entertainment complex Fourth Street Live!.
Louisville is located at 38°15′N 85°46′W / 38.25°N 85.767°W / 38.25; -85.767 (38.2542, −85.7603). As of 2000[update], 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 located in the 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 42nd 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-Scottsburg, KY-IN Combined Statistical Area (CSA), which also includes the Elizabethtown, KY MSA as well as the Scottsburg, IN Micropolitan Statistical Area.
Louisville has a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) and experiences four seasons. 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 87 days with low temperatures below freezing. Summer is typically hazy, hot, and humid with long periods of 90–100 degree temperatures and drought conditions at times. Louisville averages 31 days a year with high temperatures above 90 degrees. The mean annual temperature is 56.9 °F (13.8 °C), with an average annual snowfall of 14.7 inches (37 cm) and an average annual rainfall of 44.5 inches (113 cm).
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 33.0 °F (0.6 °C). July is the average hottest month with a mean of 78.4 °F (25.8 °C). The highest recorded temperature was 107 °F (42 °C) 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 105 °F (41 °C). Temperatures in commercial areas and in the industrialized areas along interstates are often higher than in the suburbs, often as much as 5 °F (3 °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. Louisville also often exemplifies the heat island effect.
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. The Louisville skyline is slated to be changed with the proposed 62-story Museum Plaza as well as the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center. Twelve of the 15 buildings in Kentucky over 300 feet (91 m) are located in downtown Louisville.
Another primary business and industrial district is located in the suburban area east of the city on Hurstbourne Parkway.
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. 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 Metro is governed by an executive dubbed the Metro Mayor and a city legislature dubbed 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.
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 signifying the original colonies. 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.
Kentucky's 3rd congressional district is roughly coterminous with Louisville Metro, and is represented by Rep. John Yarmuth (D), though some of the southern and southwestern areas of the community are in the 2nd congressional district, which is represented by Brett Guthrie (R).
In a 2005 survey, Morgan Quitno ranked Louisville as the seventh safest large city in the United States. The 2006 edition of the survey ranked Louisville eighth.
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 a 1,000+ bed centralized "mega jail" as well as a few other smaller facilities.
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.
The 2005–2007 population estimate was 74.8% White (71.7% non-Hispanic White alone), 22.2% Black or African American, 0.6% American Indian and Alaska Native, 2.0% Asian, 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, 1.4% from some other race and 1.6% from two or more races. 2.9% of the total population were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).
As of the census of 2000, there were 693,604 people, 287,012 households, and 183,113 families residing in the city/county. The population density was 1,801 people per square mile (695/km2). There were 305,835 housing units at an average density of 794/sq mi (307/km2). The racial makeup of the city/county is 77.4% White, 18.9% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 1.4% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.7% from other races, and 1.4% from two or more races. 1.78% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.
As of 2007, the area lying within pre-merger Louisville (i.e., the area known as the city of Louisville before the 2003 consolidation) had 245,315 people and 3,995 people per square mile. The racial makeup of pre-merger Louisville is 60.1% white, 35.2% black, 1.9% Asian, 0.2% Native American, and 3.0% 'Other', 2.4% of the people in pre-merger Louisville claim Hispanic ethnicity (meaning 97.58% are non-Hispanic).
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.
Over one-third of the population growth in Kentucky is in Louisville's CSA counties.
Louisville hosts religious institutions of various diverse faiths; including Judaism, Christianity, Islam. And Pagan religions such as, Buddhism, Hinduism and Wicca.
There are 135,421 Roman Catholic Louisvillians who are part of the Archdiocese of Louisville, covering 24 counties in central Kentucky (consisting of 121 parishes and missions spread over 8,124 square miles). 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 largest of the Christian churches in the United States and St. Stephen Baptist Church has the largest African-American congregation[clarification needed] and is home to contemporary gospel recording artists Joe Leavell & the St. Stephen Temple Choir.
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.).
Louisville is home to the oldest African-American Seventh-day Adventist congregation, Magazine Street Church.
The historic Christ Church Cathedral is the seat of the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, which covers the western part of the state.
Louisville has two Eastern Orthodox parishes: Assumption Greek Orthodox Church, and the Antiochian parish, St. Michael the Archangel (with a Chapel, St. George).
The Louisville Kentucky Temple, the 76th temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), is located in nearby Crestwood.
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 turn of the 19th to 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.
The Hindu temple of Kentucky opened in suburban Louisville in 1999, and had about 125 members and two full-time priests in 2000. The temple was renovated and rededicated in the summer of 2011.
Various Buddhist sanghas and organizations exist in and around the Louisville area. These include: The Louisville Community of Mindful Living (formerly "The Sangha of Louisville"), the Drepung Gomang Institute, the Vietnamese Buddhist Association of Louisville, and Soka Gakkai / Nichiren Shoshu.
Taoist practices in Louisville are represented by a local branch of the International Taoist Tai Chi Society.
In 2001, there were an estimated 4,000 to 10,000 practicing Muslims in Louisville attending six local mosques. These mosques include the Westport Mosque, a part of the newly founded Muslim Community Center. The Muslim Community Center includes The Islamic School of Louisville (ISofL), an expanding school located on Old Westport Road. The ISofL is adjacent to the Westport Mosque.
The Baha'i faith has been present in Louisville from the 1920s, with the first Baha'i center opening in 1965. The current Baha'i center, dating to 1999, was designed to accommodate a larger active Baha'i community.
The city is also the home of three Unitarian Universalist churches: Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church, First Unitarian Church, and Clifton Unitarian Church.
Louisville is home to a strong and vibrant Pagan community, including Wicca and other neopagan religions. There are over 60 Kentucky pagan groups listed at Witchvox, including over a dozen in Louisville. (Witchvox listings are voluntary, and usually represent only a small portion of the local pagan groups. Many or most covens and other pagan groups still prefer to remain private, as a way to avoid religious persecution.) Local networking for Louisville pagans is organized in various ways, not only through local covens and groves, but also through Louisville Pagan Pride, local pagan meetups via meetup.com, local occult shops such as MoonStruck, and a CUUPS chapter at a local Unitarian church. There was a Pagan Student Union active for years at the University of Louisville, but the club is currently dormant.
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 several major corporations and organizations:
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, 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, and in neighboring cities in Kentucky.
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.
Several major motion pictures have also been filmed in or near Louisville, including The Insider, Goldfinger, Stripes, Lawn Dogs, Elizabethtown and Secretariat.
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 North America and second largest in the world. The Kentucky Derby Festival also features notable events such as the Pegasus Parade, The Great Steamboat Race, Great Balloon Race, a 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 the Park), held in July of every year and features free Shakespeare plays in Central Park in Old Louisville. June sees the relatively new addition of Louisville Pride festivities, including an annually growing and media-covered gay-pride parade through the streets of downtown Louisville and picnic at the Belvedere. Lebowski Fest was first held in Louisville in 2002 and continues every year in July, to commemorate the noir-esque film The Big Lebowski.
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 festival's 10th anniversary, held July 13–15, 2012, is set to feature Louisville natives My Morning Jacket, alongside Wilco, Bassnectar, Andrew Bird, Neko Case and 70+ acts in total.
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.
Since 2007, Louisville has been host to the annual Ironman Louisville triathlon in August, one of only eight Ironman events in North America. In 2009, 2352 participants finished the course.
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, or "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.
Also catering to the musical ear within the community is 91.9 WFPK Radio Louisville, a local public radio station funded, in part, from local listeners, featuring local, national, and international musicians. The station also hosts summer concerts on the waterfront from April until July. Up-and-coming alternative artists are brought to stage in order to enhance the community both culturally and musically.
The West Main District in downtown Louisville features what is locally known as "Museum Row". In this area, the Frazier International History Museum, which 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 reenactment arenas, a 120-seat auditorium, and a 48-seat movie theater. Also nearby 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 Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, opened in 1981 and located at 715 West Main Street, is a nonprofit organization with a mission to support and promote excellence in art, craft, applied arts and design. The 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 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 Belle of Louisville, the oldest Mississippi-style steamboat in operation in the United States. The United States Marine Hospital of Louisville is considered the best remaining antebellum hospital in the United States. It was designed by Robert Mills, who is best known as the designer of the Washington Monument. Fort Knox, spread out among Bullitt, Hardin and Meade Counties (two of which are in the Louisville metropolitan area), is home to the U.S. Bullion Depository and the General George Patton Museum. The previously mentioned Locust Grove, former home of Louisville Founder George Rogers Clark, portrays life in the early days of the city. Other notable properties include the Farmington Historic Plantation (home of the famous Speed family), Riverside, The Farnsley-Moremen Landing, and the restored Union Station, which was opened on September 7, 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.
Louisville's newspaper of record is The Courier-Journal, and 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). In 2010, Derby City News was founded as a conservative internet news outlet. 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-FOX41/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. In early 2012, GQ Magazine named Louisville the "Manliest City in the United States."
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 feature free concerts and other festivals. 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.
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, Music Theatre Louisville, 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. The Cardinals ranked 4th in actual attendance in 2007. 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 market has ranked first in ratings for the NCAA men's basketball tournament every year since 1999. The Kentucky Wildcats also play an annual game in Freedom Hall, although attendance has declined steadily in recent years, with only 10,163 fans attending the 2008 game, only 54% of Freedom Hall's capacity.
The Louisville Cardinals football team, which had produced talent like Johnny Unitas, Gene Sartini, 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. 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 six professional and semi-professional sports teams, but no major league teams. It is the second largest U.S. city without one with only Austin, 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.
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 Vancouver Grizzlies franchise was considering a move several years ago, as well as the Charlotte Hornets franchise, which ultimately ended up in New Orleans. 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.
In early 2012, Louisville will be the first American city to ever host the UCI Masters Cyclocross World Championships, and then in 2013, the city will host both the Masters, Juniors, U23, and Professionial Elite Women's and Men's UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships, the biggest race of the fastest growing form of bicycle racing. The event will be at the future permanent cyclocross course at Eva Bandman Park.
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 the largest attended high school sporting event in the country.[dubious – discuss] 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.
Louisville has the added distinction of being the only city in the world that is the birthplace of four heavyweight boxing champions: Marvin Hart, Muhammad Ali, Jimmy Ellis and Greg Page.
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; 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 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 3.5 million passengers and over 3 billion pounds (1,400,000 t) of cargo pass through the airport each year. Louisville International Airport is also the 4th busiest airport in the United States in terms of cargo passage, and it is the 11th busiest in cargo passage in the world.[dubious – discuss] 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. A new lock was constructed to replace two of the auxiliary locks, with a projected completion date of 2008, but was completed in early 2009.
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. A light rail system has been studied and proposed for the city, but no plan was in development as of 2007.
Louisville has inner and outer interstate beltways, I-264 and I-265 respectively. Interstates I-64, I-65 pass through Louisville, and I-71 has its southern terminus in Louisville. Since all three of these highways intersect at virtually the same location on the east side of downtown, this spot has become known as "Spaghetti Junction". Two bridges carry I-64 and I-65 over the Ohio River, and a third automobile bridge carries non-interstate traffic. Plans for two more bridges to connect Louisville to Indiana, along with a reconfiguration of Spaghetti Junction, have been under consideration for years and some exploratory construction began in 2007. One bridge would be located downtown for relief of I-65 traffic. The other would connect the Indiana and Kentucky I-265's (via KY-841). As with any major project, there are detractors and possible alternatives; one grassroots organization, 8664.org, has proposed options for downtown revitalization improvements, and a simpler and less expensive roadway design.
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 short-lived Kentucky Cardinal in 2003, Amtrak passenger trains no longer serve Louisville; it is thus the fifth largest city in the country with no passenger rail service.
A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked Louisville 41st most walkable of fifty largest U.S. cities.
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.
Louisville has eight sister cities:
In addition, Leeds is considered 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 International 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 brewing 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.
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.