Did you know Louisville is the hometown of Muhammad Ali?
Nah, just kidding. If you know us, you know we’re here for the deep cuts — and there’s plenty of interesting factoids to go around. As connoisseurs of the quirky and unconventional, we put together a list of Derby City’s history, oddest characteristics, and more. Maybe you’ve lived here your whole life and know some of this, or maybe you’ll learn something new.
Either way, test your local knowledge with these 15 interesting facts.
1. Nelson-ville? It just doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. One of the earliest settlements that pre-dates what became Louisville, Fort Nelson stood near present-day locations of 7th and Main Streets. Today, Fort Nelson Park marks the location.
3. Louisville has the largest collection of shotgun homes in the US. The architectural style is found in many neighborhoods throughout Derby City, like Germantown, Schnitzelburg, Russell, and Portland.
4. West Main Street is home to one of the largest collections of cast-iron facades in the US, rivaling only the SoHo neighborhood in New York and Portland, OR. The West Main Street Preservation District was created in 1974 to preserve them.
5. You’ve got two Louisville sisters to thank for the song you hear on your birthday each year. The “Happy Birthday” song was created by Louisville sisters Patty and Mildred Hill in the 1890s. While legalities surrounding the tune may be confusing, at the very least, an early version of the song was written, published, and copyrighted by the sisters.
6. Thomas Edison once lived in LOU. He called the Butchertown neighborhood home in the late 1860s. He returned to Derby City in the 1880s, to light up the Southern Exposition. Really adds another layer to Light Up Louisville, don’t you think?
7. We all know LOU knows how to get down, but did you know Louisville is the Disco Ball Capital of the World? During the height of the disco era in the 1970s, Louisville produced about 90% of all disco balls in the world.
8. Elvis Presley’s grandfather lived and is buried in Louisville. “The King” played three concerts in Louisville, and reportedly visited his grandpa twice while in town — including when he gifted him a new TV + car.
9. Jefferson Memorial Forest is the largest municipal urban forest in the US. Located just 20 minutes from downtown, the 6,600+ acres offer a retreat for a hike or a place to pitch your tent and go camping.
11. Frederick Law Olmsted’s firm is credited with designing 350+ parks across the US, and Louisville has 17 of them. Olmsted most famously designed New York’s Central Park, but does it have a witches’ tree? We didn’t think so.
12. Louisville has the largest number of pedestrian-only walking courts — think: St. James Court + Belgravia Court in Old Louisville — in the US.
13. In the 1880s Louisville was the first city in the US to adopt the secret ballot, combating voter fraud. So you’ll have Derby City to think next time you head to the polls.
14. Some sources (and anyone you ask around town) say that the old fashioned actually originated right here in Louisville. It’s said that Col. James E. Pepper of the Pendennis Club — which is still open today — invented the drink here before taking it to the Waldorf Astoria in the 1880s.
15. The Belle of Louisville is the oldest active Mississippi-style steamboat in the world. She started as the “Idlewild” in Pittsburgh in 1914, but became Louisville’s Belle in 1962.
Your turn. Think you can get one over on us? Let us know your favorite local trivia tidbit and you just might make it into the newsletter.