The city of Louisville was chartered in 1780 and named after King Louis XVI of France. Now that 240+ years have passed, the city and its streets are chock-full of vibrant history.
It’s safe to say that over the years, the city has been touched by countless historical figures and happenings — many of which have shaped the names of Derby City’s buildings, parks, and streets. In this guide, we’re delving into the history of Louisville’s streets — specifically how they were named.
The names of downtown streets serve an obvious function —think numbered streets — but many others have a local history behind their monikers.
Muhammad Ali Boulevard — named after “The Greatest” in 1978, who was born in Louisville’s West End. It recently got an upgrade when it was lined with banners of Ali.
Liberty Street — formerly called Green Street when it was a grassy area for horses to graze. It was named “Liberty” after World War I as a sign of patriotism.
Floyd Street — named for John Floyd, an 18th-century surveyor and pioneer. There are counties in Kentucky and Indiana named for Floyd as well.
Base Ball Alley — it led baseball fans to Eclipse Park, where Louisville’s one-time Major League Baseball team played, at 7th and Kentucky Streets.
It’s now home to a modern soccer stadium, but for decades Butchertown was known for its slaughterhouses. Several of the neighborhood streets are named for people you probably learned about in elementary social studies.
Washington Street — named for George Washington. Parts of the street held other names through the years, including Maiden Lane and Nelson Street. Bonus: The Vernon Lanes bowling alley on Story Avenue was named after Mount Vernon, Washington’s home.
Adams Street — named for John Adams, the second President of the United States.
Quincy Street — named for John Quincy Adams, the sixth US president.
Franklin Street — named for Benjamin Franklin, who signed the Declaration of Independence.
Some of the neighborhood’s other streets, though, were named after locally prominent landowners, civic leaders, and politicians.
Cabel Street — named for William H. Cabell, a 19th-century Virginia politician who played a role in Kentucky’s history prior to its statehood.
Story Avenue — named for John W. Story, a carpenter and civic leader who owned land in the area in the 19th century.
Campbell Street — named for John Campbell, a land owner and proprietor in Louisville’s earliest beginnings.
Cowan Street — named for Andrew Cowan, one of the founders of Louisville’s park system. He’s credited with inviting Frederick Law Olmsted to the city, eventually leading to the design of the parks system.
Blue Horse Avenue — named for Blue Horse Motors, a historic motor vehicle business from the area.
Bonus: Want to hear more about the background of these Butchertown streets? Louisville historian Tom Owen led a walking tour of the area.
The Portland neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city, and it dates back to a time when it was a separate town completely. Louisville annexed Portland in 1837, so many streets in the neighborhood have since been renamed.
Portland Avenue — it was built in 1818 to connect Louisville and Portland. It was originally known as the Louisville & Portland Turnpike.
34th Street — it was originally known as Commercial Street, and was one of the busiest parts of Old Portland. The oldest known house in Louisville, the Squire Earick House, is located there.
Northwestern Parkway — part of the parkway was once called High Street, named because it was on the high bank of the Ohio River.