You’ve tasted plenty of mint juleps, know that Thunder is the real can’t-miss event during Derby and have been to the newest restaurants in Louisville’s burgeoning dining scene…so, you’re basically a Louisville expert, right? Not so fast.
Take a seat and learn a thing or two about our beloved River City.
1) The ‘Ville has some serious disco fever! Louisville’s Omega National Products is the nation’s leading mirrored disco ball maker, and the company says they have the highest quality mirrored disco balls in the world! They’ve filled orders of glimmering globes for the likes of Madonna, Kid Rock and Pearl Jam. Remember the disco balls in the John Travolta hit movie Saturday Night Fever? Those are from the Louisville company, too.
2) Call us old fashioned. No, really. The sophisticated drink made with bourbon, Kentucky’s home spirit, was invented in Louisville’s private Pendennis Club. Apparently, a customer came into the club and wanted a cocktail but wasn’t a fan of bourbon. The bartender didn’t want to serve a non-bourbon drink in Bourbon Country and mixed the spirit with sweeteners and fruit, according to the Louisville Convention and Tourism Bureau. The Pendennis Club’s “Old Fashioned” is the first documented proof of the drink’s recipe. And in 2015, Louisville’s mayor named it the city’s official cocktail.
3) Louisville is full of beauty, and one gem is the Old Louisville neighborhood, which has the largest contiguous collection of Victorian mansions in the United States. Old Louisville was established in the 1870s as “the Southern Extension,” one of the city’s first suburbs, according to TV show “Great American Country.” Once a hub of activity, Old Louisville was the spot where wealthy families built homes of the Victorian style in the late 1800s. The neighborhood also boasts the highest concentration of residential homes with stained glass windows in the United States. Want to learn more about this area? The Historic Old Louisville Neighborhood Council offers walking tours to showcase the area’s architecture.
4) Back in the day, Louisville had quite the seedy underbelly. A risqué club was discovered underneath what’s now the revitalized Whiskey Row by construction workers who were doing excavations in 2012. Workers found S&M paraphernalia and strange devices, including a hand-cranked rack. On one wall, LATEX, the club’s name, was spelled out in black and white, according to the book “Secret Louisville: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure.”
5) Beauty pops up in unexpected places, and one of them is at Louisville Water Tower, the oldest water tower in the nation — and many say in the world. Back in 1857, the creators of the tall, white structure wanted to build a beautiful “park-like” landscape for the community. So, they built a tall tower with Corinthian columns, arched windows and a landing with statues representing Roman goddesses of the seasons Ceres, Diana, Flora and The Horae. Construction was completed in 1860, and in 1971, the water tower and original pumping station were designated as National Historic Landmarks. Currently, the buildings are home to the Louisville WaterWorks Museum and event space.
6) If you’ve sung “Happy Birthday to You” at some point in your life, you’ve paid tribute to two Louisville sisters: Patty and Mildred Hill. The two Louisville-born kindergarten teachers created the song, which was originally titled “Good Morning to All.” According to the Encyclopedia of Louisville, the lyrics to the “Good Morning” song were later changed by Patty Hill to “Happy Birthday to You” at a birthday party. The two sisters are buried in Cave Hill Cemetery, among the graves of Colonel Sanders and Muhammad Ali.
7) A mummy princess and several underground passageways exist below the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the Crescent Hill neighborhood. During the seminary’s construction, tunnels were built to help send steam, heat and supplies around campus, according to The Courier-Journal. Visitors can get up close to Sheryet-Mehyet, the priestess who lies in an Egyptian sarcophagus, in the school’s Callaway Archaeological Museum. But, the tunnels are off limits.
8) Put your pedal to the metal and race around the longest go-cart track in the world — just outside Louisville (it’s technically in Shepherdsville). At 1.5 miles long, Kart Kountry’s Thunder Road lays its claim to the longest go-cart track ever made. Take a spin around this corn maze of a track, where rides are just under $10 per person.
9) You’d be surprised at how many times Louisville has had its brush with fame. In fact, Tom Cruise, Ned Beatty and Jennifer Lawrence are just a few of the famous folks who grew up in the Derby City. Recently, though, more and more of Hollywood is found around town as movies are being made here thanks to the state’s aggressive tax incentives for film production. Last summer, Mom and Dad starring Nicholas Cage and Selma Blair was filmed at spots around the city. Last fall, actor Jesse Eisenberg, who played Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, filmed in Germantown and around the city for The Art of Self-Defense, also starring Imogen Poots and Alessandro Nivola.
10) In 1883, Edison light bulbs illuminated the first successful nighttime fair, which was held in Louisville. Called the Southern Exposition, the fair featured agricultural machinery and technical innovation, according to the Frazier History Museum. Thomas Edison himself managed the installation of his recently invented light bulbs, which totaled 4,600 bulbs. At the time, the amount of lights in the fair outnumbered the total number of bulbs in all of New York City, the museum’s website says.
Now, you’re armed with some fun facts to share at the water cooler!