-Captain Aaron Fontaine, a Virgina militiaman who settled in Louisville, spent most of the Civil War housing runaway slaves. In 1905 the city built an amusement park on the site of his old estate and named it "Fontaine Ferry" in his honor. Ironically, the park was "Whites Only" until 1967.
-Opening scenes of the 1981 Bill Murray comedy Stripes
were filmed on location in downtown Louisville. The city is never mentioned by name, because it's supposed to be New York. Oh, the magic of film.
-Louisville-based National Products, Inc. produces an odd combination of kitchen cabinets and disco balls. Although most disco balls are mass produced overseas, National Products makes them by hand, the old fashioned way. I refuse to boogie down at a disco that uses a cheap foreign disco ball.
-On Friday, February 13, 1981, the Ralston-Purina soybean processing plant released hexane vapors into the Louisville sewer system, causing an explosion that damaged more than two miles of city streets. Remarkably, there were no fatalities, but manhole covers were hurled over thirty feet into the air. I didn't have to go to school that day.
-In 1999, doctors at Louisville Jewish Hospital performed the nation's first hand transplant, giving a New Jersey man the hand of an unknown donor. In April of the same year, the man came back to Louisville to use his new hand to flip a switch and start the world's largest fireworks display. The man needed the operation in the first place because...wait for it, wait for it...his hand was blown off by fireworks.
-Louisville's Kaelin's Restaurant claims to have invented the cheeseburger, but a lot of restaurants across the country claim the same thing, and Kaelin's cheeseburgers aren't even that good, so who gives a flying fuck?
-Okay, this is more "rant" than "fact", but here it goes... Several local downtown businesses closed in the past few months, including the city's only jazz club, a great brewpub that was attached to our baseball stadium, and a couple of well-reviewed restaurants. Instead of trying to help local businesses stay afloat in hard financial times, our mayor and his cronies have decided to use city funds to purchase prime downtown real estate and GIVE the property to an out of town company, so said company can build a row of chain restaurants and chain nightclubs. This is fine if the goal is to make Louisville's downtown look exactly like the downtown of every other medium-sized city in America. In my opinion, "lowest common denominator" should never be a goal.
I think the closed-minded opinion of our city leaders is that tourists and business travelers are only happy when they see something familiar and, if at all possible, shiny. I'll agree that these out of town developments are better than NOTHING, which is what Louisville's downtown had offered for years, but this new project won't be anything that will make people come back to town, or even remember our city's name when the business trip is over and they're back home.
The developer in question, Baltimore's Cordish Co., built the 4th Street Live! entertainment center in 2004. And yes, I'm legally obligated as a resident of Louisville to use the exclamation mark at the end of the name. I have nothing against them or their property. 4th Street Live! is a decent place for downtown workers to unwind at the end of the day, and on weekends it entertains a lot of douchebags and keeps them out of the bars I frequent. However, I don't think they should be given free property and outlandish tax breaks when local businesses are suffering. Silly me, I'd rather have a nice craft beer from the late, lamented Browning's Brewery than swill down a bottle of Bud Light straight from a beer tub, even if the beer tub girl is insanely hot.
The recent actions and inactions of our mayor may force me to do something I rarely do: vote Republican. Ok, I've never voted Republican, so this would be big. Unfortunately, the local Republican party has never fielded a viable candidate for mayor. Our Democratic mayor received over sixty percent of the Republican vote last election, mostly because no one had ever heard of the guy he was running against. Maybe someone, maybe even a different Democrat, can get elected and help spur downtown development without destroying the city's soul. I'm not counting on it, though.
In the meantime, if business happens to bring you to Louisville, do yourself a favor and either rent a car or take a cab to the Highlands neighborhood. I'll meet you at Cumberland
and buy you a beer or two.