I found myself in Louisville for the weekend in the middle of June, and yes I suffered immensely from the heat and humidity, but I didn’t get to choose the date.
We stayed at the Brown Hotel, check out my post about hotel service. We had only a few hours to spend, as we were scheduled with family things for a part of the weekend, but here are the highlights and how I would recommend you spend your few hours in Louisville.
Wooden bats for the Louisville Slugger are still manufactured in the companies original building here at 800 West Main Street. They have a museum and a factory tour available, but if you don’t have time for that, make sure you get your picture taken in front of the largest bat in the world and visit the gift store. You can even have your own bat personalized right here.
Bourbon is another thing one thinks of in Kentucky.
A lot of Bourbon tasting can be done along Main Street, also called Whiskey Row. Bourbon makers are slowly moving into this area and doing what they can to revitalize the area. Louisville has one of the largest collections of cast-iron facades outside SoHo New York, along Main Street. Sadly, some of the area is in very bad shape, and historic restoration apparently hasn’t really caught on in Louisville. It is nice to see that at least Bourbon may help in this revitalization.
In case you are wondering we chose to do our Bourbon tasting at the bar in the Brown Hotel, aided by a great staff, and within easy walking distance to our room, but some highly recommended spots are Doc Crows for food at 127 West Main Street, Doc Crows occupies the former Bonnie Brothers distillery, at the healthy end of Whiskey Row (West Main Street). Evan Williams at 528 West Main Street has a tour and artisanal Bourbon tasting. Walk around see what you can see, and of course, drink responsibly.
West Main Street is also an interesting area to spot some art.
These little guys are atop the 21C Hotel at 700 West Main Street.
Owners Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson partnered with architect Deborah Berke to rehabilitate a series of 19th century tobacco and Bourbon warehouses into a boutique hotel and a contemporary art museum. The outcome is really rather fabulous.
The day that we visited we started with Sunday Brunch in the Proof Lounge. The meal was excellent, the ingredients fresh and innovative and the room, well, filled with art. The exhibit going on at the time was a photography exhibit by Chito Yoshida.
We then headed to the gallery. The gallery space is considerably larger than one original thinks. The exhibits rotate and while we were there I was so thoroughly glad that we had the chance to spend time. The first, in the lobby, was See You At The Finish Line by Duke Riley. The exhibit is thought provoking, progressive and at the same time fun. The second show that should not be missed is Trumpf, Transporting, Transformation: Cuba, In and Out, a great collection of many artists from Cuba, not an easy feat to gather together. The other collection that made an impression was Seeing Now, the exhibit challenges you to truly, truly look.
After seeing these spectacularly curated exhibits, it was hard to understand how the hotel could place such an abhorrent copy of David in the front of their hotel, but at least you can find the hotel easily this way.
We also spent a few hours at the Cave Hill Cemetery. The cemetery is somewhat out of downtown at 701 Baxter Avenue, but it is the final resting spot of most important Kentuckians. The cemetery is a Victorian Era cemetery and I had hoped to wander the grounds and explore, but the beating sun of 92 degrees kept us in our air-conditioned car and driving to the highlights.
There was Colonel Sanders, and two others that I sought out.
This is Harry Leon Collins. originally a Frito-Lay salesman he was Louisville’s most popular magician, “Mr. Magic”, at night. He used the words Frito-Lay as his “magic” word. He became Frito-Lay’s official corporate magician in 1970, and traveled the world performing magic and selling corn chips all at the same time.
This is the Wilder Monument. Its importance to me in that it was designed by Robert E. Launitz, considered the father of monumental art in America. In this case monumental refers to size. Monumental sculptures of humans are at least life size and often larger. Prior to Launitz emigrating from Russia, marble work in the US was confined almost entirely to small grave stones, plain memorial tablets, mantel pieces and the occasional small carving. This piece was done for Minnie Wilder, the Wilder’s only child, who died at age seven.
We had the opportunity to catch a small amount of shopping, and would highly recommend Why Louisville. We visited the Bardstown Road store in the Highlands, but they also have a location at 806 E. Market Street. You will find lots and lots of fun items with and without the Louisville theme.
And to finish with our last bat of the trip, this hangs on the outside of Caufields.
Keran S Caufield, Sr. was an Irish immigrant who opened a photography studio in Louisville, KY in 1920. He used $15. he had received in an accident settlement, and bought some magic tricks. Soon the novelty business outpaced his photography business so he closed the camera shop and opened Caufield’s Novelties. Today, Caufields is one of the largest theatrical distributors in the country.