First some facts

Longitude: 85°15’ W
Latitude: 38°15’ N
Median Elevation (above sea level): 456 feet
Area: 66 square miles
Length of riverfront: 11 miles
Population (1998): 255,045
Louisville Metro Area population (includes Jefferson, Bullitt and Oldham counties in Kentucky; Clark, Floyd, Harrison and Scott counties in Southern Indiana): about 1 million

Origins

Louisville was founded in 1778, mainly because of its strategic location on the Ohio River, near an impassable series of falls. River boats were forced to stop there and unload so they could skim over the shallow rapids. The frontier settlement slowly grew into a thriving town.

Also critical to the growth of Louisville was its role in the Revolution. In the late 1770s, Virginia Governor Patrick Henry sent George Rogers Clark into the area that would later become Kentucky to stifle British activity in the region. In 1778, Clark set up the first of a series of forts on the site that eventually became downtown Louisville. After the war, the town began to bustle and grow beyond its fortifications. In 1780, Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson chartered the town and named it Louisville in honor of France's Louis XVI in gratitude for his support of the American Revolution.

From frontier post to city

By 1828 the population had grown to 10,000, and the town incorporated into a city. In 1830 the Portland canal opened, bypassing the falls, and as a result, river traffic increased. With the increased traffic came waves of new immigrants, mainly Germans and Irish. By 1850 the city's population ballooned to 43,000 making it one of America's largest cities. Commerce at this time primarily centered on tobacco, hemp, livestock, distilling, commercial sales, and warehousing.

Civil War

At the time the Civil War began, Louisville was a slave holding was a part of life even though just across the river, Indiana was a free state. But within Louisville, like in almost every other area bordering the northern free states and southern slave states, there were deep divisions over the issue. Nowhere was this division more obvious that in the two main newspapers, the pro-Union Journal and pro-Confederacy Courier. Until they merged in 1868, these diametrically opposed papers sat across the street from one another. While Kentucky was regarded as a critical strategic area, an expected Confederate invasion of Louisville never happened. In fact, infamous Union General William Tecumseh Sherman, camped for a time in downtown Louisville.

Post war prosperity

Louisville, while technically held by Union forces, maintained trading relations with both sides, and while other border towns suffered during the war, Louisville actually prospered. After the war, the population surged past 100,000.

In a generation, the population doubled, sparked in part by increasing industrialization. With with prosperity came trouble. In the first decade of the 20th century, Louisville was wracked by political corruption scandals so severe that in 1907 the mayor and city council were sacked for rigging the election.

The up-and-down 20th century

In the years that followed, Louisville had its share of ups and downs. During World War I, Camp Taylor, one of 15 major military training centers, opened and improved the economy significantly. But the camp was also responsible for bringing the influenza epidemic of 1918 to the city. The 1920s brought the same prosperity that the rest of the country enjoyed, but when Prohibition was passed, one of Kentucky's most vital industries — the distilling industry — was devastated. The Great Depression hit Louisville hard, but not as hard as in other places owing to the cigarette industry. In 1937, a terrible flood forced 200,000 people out of their homes and killed 200. But all these hard times were eased to some degree when World War II started, and rubber and ammunition plants were built.

The 1950s were good to Louisville. The post war economic boom brought a huge General Electric plant to the city, and suburbs blossomed, drawing people away from downtown. Racial segregation was a problem, as it was across the South, until the 1950s, but it wouldn't be until the 1960s that most of the legal restrictions African-Americans faced were erased. The Courier Journal, the morning newspaper, was a major supporter of the civil rights movement in the city. The 1970s saw the city lose more and more people to the suburbs and surrounding counties.

Nevertheless, the closing decades of the 20th century brought Louisville ever greater acclaim. In 1993, Places Rated Almanac rated Louisville tenth out of 300 American cities in quality of life. As a center for medical research, the city has pioneered surgical techniques such as the Jarvik 7 and AbioCor artificial hearts, hand transplantation, as well as advanced eye surgery.

Stuff to do

Louisville has just about anything anyone would want for a city of its size. In terms of fine arts, the Louisville Orchestra, Louisville Ballet, and Actor's Theater are nationally known. The Kentucky Center for the Arts hosts events as diverse as Broadway musicals, experimental theater, and jazz concerts. They Might Be Giants even played there a few years ago.

For the sports fan, the University of Louisville Cardinals call this city home. Their football program recently went to the Liberty Bowl, and the basketball program, currently coached by Rick Pitino, has won several national championships. The Cincinnati Reds AAA affiliate play baseball in the newly built Louisville Slugger Field. Hillerich and Bradsby, makers of the Louisville Slugger baseball bat, also have their factory and museum downtown. Of course Louisville is home to historic Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby. Since 1875, this event has drawn national attention from racing fans around the world. Golfing fans know that Louisville's Valhalla Golf Club has hosted several PGA tournaments.

There is much more to do in Louisville than just this short list I have offered. If you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact me by /msg or email.

Sources:
louisville.com
cathedral-heritage.org/concisehistory/concisehistory.html

Louisville is an up and coming tech-town, also known as the silicon holler. UPS, aka United Parcel Service, located a hub here, and since then, tech firms have flocked here. I work for one, Corvus Digital.

We have lots of cool stuff here, like Slugger Field, Churchill Downs, ear X-tacy, the worlds largest baseball bat (because of Hillerich and Bradsby's Louisville Slugger factory, where Elvis presses the bats.

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