The Hot Brown—named after Louisville’s treasured Brown Hotel, where it was created—was served as a late-night munchie for hotel patrons in the 1920s. Guests danced the night away, resulting in healthy appetites. When the hotel menu of ham and eggs was no longer appealing, Chef Fred Schmidt employed his culinary skills to create the now-legendary sandwich. Top Texas toast with turkey, tomato and a mornay sauce, and finish it with bacon, paprika and parsley. Hardly a dieter’s dream, the sandwich does offer a history as rich as its flavors. And when served with Southern hospitality, there’s always room for one more calorie.
Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby since 1875, was the prize-winning idea of 26-year-old Col. M. Lewis Clark, who raised a whopping $32,000 to have it built. The ticket to his fundraising success? Selling 320 track “subscriptions” for the bargain price of $100! The track opened on the 80 acres of land that was leased from Clark’s uncles, John and Henry Churchill, and the rest is Triple Crown history.
It may look wooden, but the 120-foot-tall Louisville Slugger that welcomes baseball fans from all over the world to the city is pure steel and boasts stats worthy of a World Series win. Weighing in at an impressive 68,000 pounds, it’s a far cry from the 30-ounce Louisville Slugger that Billy Goodman batted with when he played for the Red Sox. And it would require stacking approximately 52 of the shortest Sluggers ever made—a 30½-inch bat for Yankee Willie Keeler—to stand as tall.
Unsettling times called for creative measures during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s, and the Louisville Mega Cavern was the “natural” solution. During the mid-1900s, the 100-acre limestone cavern was being mined to prepare it for use as a bomb shelter for up to 50,000 people in case of nuclear attack. Construction continues on the four-million-square-foot cavern, which can withstand the strength of a 260-mph tornado or a jetliner crash.
Looking to scare up a good time? Head to the Brennan House, the last Victorian mansion on South Fifth in downtown Louisville, which was purchased by Thomas and Anne Brennan in 1884. While architecture buffs can delight in the three-story, red-brick townhouse with 16-foot ceilings and crystal chandeliers, thrill-seekers will relish the opportunity to mingle with the Brennans, who are reportedly there “in spirit.” The apparitions of Thomas, Anne and their eight children reportedly make appearances from time to time, indulging fright-fanciers by visiting with them in the parlor, hallway and children’s playroom. A frightful delight, no doubt!
Though she’s approaching 100 years old, the Belle of Louisville proves that beauty is ageless. She took her first float on Pittsburgh’s Allegheny River, but the Belle of Louisville has been a loyal Kentucky lady since 1963. She’s a fierce competitor, dusting off her paddle wheel to compete in the annual Steamboat Race, and she’s still transporting happy passengers on excursions nine months a year. Named a National Historic Landmark in 1989, the Belle continues to enjoy her title as the oldest Mississippi-style river steamboat still in existence.
The Bible's Matthew 18:20 says that where two or three gather, Jesus is among them. What about a place where more than 20,000 gather? It’s a question worth pondering at Southeast Christian Church, the fifth-largest church in the United States. The congregation started in 1962 with a modest membership of 50 gathering in a basement. By 1968, the congregation of 300 had moved into a 550-seat sanctuary. Easter services in 1976 brought an attendance of more than 1,000. Fourteen years later in 1990, Easter attendance numbers surpassed 10,000. Today, more than 20,000 attendees can choose from 11 services on three different campuses or catch up on the sermons online. That’s big-time!
Sure, Kentuckians get fired up each year for the annual Kentucky Derby. But perhaps nothing ignites their excitement more than Thunder Over Louisville, the nation’s largest annual fireworks display, which takes place during the Derby Festival. What begins as 60 tons of fireworks packed in eight tractor trailers evolves into a dynamic light display lasting nearly 28 minutes, lighting up the night sky and delighting the hearts of all who watch.
When Louisville native Mildred Hill and her sister Patty—both teachers—penned “Good Morning to All” back in 1893 to sing to their schoolchildren, they likely never thought it would be a revenue generator. Yet, their song, which evolved into “Happy Birthday,” has been a real gift. Each year, the foundation they established to collect royalties on the song still earns several million dollars from that elementary ditty that was written more than a century ago.
Spend a day on Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail, and you'll agree that it’s no surprise that 95% of the world’s bourbon production takes place in Kentucky. Kentuckians definitely know their bourbons. On the UBT, residents and visitors alike can get intimate with the liquor, sampling more than 50 varieties from seven brands. Anyone have a little Coke or branch water to add? Drink up (and drive responsibly)!
Already knew about the legendary Louisville sandwich? Check out these fun facts about St. Louis.