Louisville, Kentucky


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The official logo of Louisville Metro

Louisville (usually pronounced ; see Pronunciation below) is Kentucky's largest city and the 16th largest city of the United States. The settlement that became the City of Louisville was founded in 1778 by George Rogers Clark and is named after King Louis XVI of France. Louisville is most famous as the home of the Kentucky Derby, the most widely watched event in American horse racing.

Louisville is situated on the Kentucky-Indiana border at the only natural obstacle in the Ohio River, the Falls of the Ohio. Because of its proximity to Indiana, the metro area around Louisville is regularly referred to as Kentuckiana.

As of the 2000 census, Louisville had a total population of 256,231. However, in 2003, the city and Jefferson County merged into a single government named Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government (official long form) and Louisville Metro (official short form), resulting in a city populated with approximately 700,000 residents. The Louisville metropolitan area (not to be confused with Louisville Metro), with a population of approximately 1.2 million, is the largest in Kentucky and also includes some southern Indiana counties (see Metropolitan area below).

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Louisville downtown skyline, June 2002

Metropolitan area

The Louisville Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), the 44th largest in the United States, includes the Kentucky counties of:

and the southern Indiana counties of:


Most long-time residents pronounce the city's name as (IPA)—often this degrades further into . The name is often pronounced far back in the mouth, in the top of the throat. The standard English pronunciation, however, is (referring to King Louis XVI), which is often utilized by political leaders and the media. No matter how Louisville is pronounced, the 's' is always silent.

The variability of the local pronunciation of Louisville's name can perhaps be laid at the feet of the city's location on the border between the North and South of the United States. Louisville's diverse population has traditionally represented elements of both Northern and Southern culture.

Regional migration patterns and the homogenization of dialect due to electronic media also may be responsible for the incidence of native-born Louisvillians adopting or affecting the standard English pronunciation. Nevertheless, the pronunciation is most popular among residents and is, with little exception, used by news and sports reporters.


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View of Main Street, Louisville, in 1846.

The first settlement was made in the vicinity of modern-day Louisville in 1778 by 13 families under Col. George Rogers Clark. Two years later the locale was incorporated by an act of the Virginia Legislature, and called Louisville in honor of Louis XVI of France, whose soldiers were then aiding Americans in the Revolutionary War. During its early history Louisville suffered greatly from Indian attacks. Louisville was chartered as a city on February 13, 1828.

In 1890 the city was visited by a tornado which destroyed $3 million worth of property and killed 100 persons. Another major (F4) tornado hit on April 3, 1974 as part of the Super Outbreak of tornados that struck 13 states. It covered 21 miles and destroyed several hundred homes in the Louisville area but was only responsible for 2 deaths. It also caused extensive damage in Cherokee Park.

In January 1937, a month of heavy rain throughout the Ohio River Valley prompted what became remembered as the "Great Flood of '37." The flood submerged about 70 percent of the city and forced the evacuation of 175,000 residents. In Louisville, 90 people died. Downstream, Paducah, Kentucky was also hit hard. At the crest on January 27, 1937, the waters reached 30 feet above flood level in Louisville. Photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White documented the flood and its aftermath in a series of famous photos. Later, levees were installed to prevent another such disaster.


Louisville Metro is governed by an executive dubbed the Metro Mayor as well as a city legislature dubbed the Metro Council. The first and current Metro Mayor is Jerry E. Abramson, who also served three terms (13 years) as the Mayor of the old City of Louisville. The Metro Council consists of 26 seats corresponding to 26 districts apportioned by population throughout the city. Half (13) of the seats come up for re-election every two years.

The Official Seal of the City of Louisville, no longer used following the formation of a consolidated city-county government in 2003, reflected its history and heritage in the fleur-de-lis representing French aid given during the Revolutionary War, and the thirteen stars signify the original colonies. It was designed by legendary Austrian typographer Victor Hammer. The new seal of the consolidated government retains the fleur-de-lis, but has only two stars, one representing the city and the other the county.

The third U.S. Congressional district is roughly contiguous with Louisville Metro, and is currently represented by Rep. Anne Northup, though small parts are in Kentucky's 2nd and 4th districts.


Louisville is home to several major corporations and organizations:

Louisville for a long time was also home to Brown & Williamson, one of the subjects of the tobacco industry scandals of the 1990s.

Also located in Louisville are two major Ford plants, a major General Electric appliance factory and the world air hub for UPS.


Louisville's main airport is the centrally located Louisville International Airport. Well over 3.5 million passengers and over 3 billion pounds of cargo pass through the airport each year. The airport, currently in the midst of major terminal renovations, has three operational runways. The two parallel main runways run north/south and allow for simultaneous takeoffs and landings. The east/west runway is shorter and generally only used in adverse weather conditions.

The much smaller Bowman Field is used mainly for light planes. Louisville flight instruction and flying clubs primarily operate from this field.

Public transportation includes buses and chartered vans run by the Transit Authority of River City (TARC).

Louisville is intersected by the Interstates I-64, I-65, I-71 and I-265, and wholly includes I-264, otherwise known as the Watterson Expressway or Shawnee Expressway. Plans for two more bridges to connect Louisville to Indiana are nearing completion. One bridge will be located downtown for relief of I-65 traffic. The other will connect the Indiana and Kentucky I-265's (via KY-841).

The McAlpine Locks and Dam is located on the Kentucky side of the Ohio River, near the downtown area. The locks were constructed to allow shipping past the Falls of the Ohio. In 2001 over 55 million tons of commodities passed through the locks. A new lock is currently being constructed to replace two of the auxiliary locks, with a projected completion date of 2008.


The local daily newspaper is The Courier-Journal. Local weekly newspapers include Snitch Newsweekly, Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO), and Velocity (run by The Courier-Journal).

Louisville is served by the following local broadcast television stations:

Some of the major radio stations are:

The only cable service available in Louisville is from Insight. They provide standard and premium cable TV service, high-speed Internet access and digital telephone service.


Louisville is home to the University of Louisville, Spalding University, Sullivan University, Bellarmine University and Jefferson Community College (part of the Kentucky Community and Technical College System).

The public school system, Jefferson County Public Schools, includes the distinctive Ballard High School, duPont Manual Magnet High School and Louisville Male High School. There are also a variety of special schools in the system, including:

Louisville has 27 Catholic schools and two Catholic universities (the aforementioned Bellarmine and Spalding). Some of the high schools include:

Also located in Louisville is the Christian Academy of Louisville (CAL), the largest Protestant school system in the country in terms of student population.


College basketball is very popular in greater Louisville; Louisville and the nearby University of Kentucky in Lexington have won a combined nine national titles (two at U of L and seven at UK), and four of the 25 winningest NCAA Division I teams are located in or near the city. Loyalties in the immediate Louisville area are fairly evenly divided between U of L and UK, with substantial numbers of Indiana and Purdue fans on the Indiana side of the river.

High school sports are also very popular in the city. While basketball is not as popular as in the rest of the state (a distinction it shares with Northern Kentucky and a handful of smaller towns, notably Paducah), Louisville area high schools have been dominant in football in recent years. Trinity (1994, 2001, 2002, 2003), Male (1993, 1998, 2000) and St. Xavier (1992, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2004) High Schools have won every 4A football title except one (Nelson County 1996) since 1992 and have been 13 of the 15 finalists since 1997. Also, Trinity and St. Xavier have one of the fiercest rivalries in high school football. Every year, the St. X-Trinity game draws thousands of fans to Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. Currently, St. Xavier leads this storied rivalry with 31 wins, 26 losses and 2 ties.

Horse racing is also very popular. Churchill Downs is home to the Kentucky Derby, the largest sports event in the state, as well as the Kentucky Oaks which together cap the two-week-long Kentucky Derby Festival. Churchill Downs has also hosted the renowned Breeders' Cup on five occasions, and will host that event again in 2006.

Louisville is home of Valhalla Golf Club which will host the 2008 Ryder Cup. It is also home to one of the top skateparks in the U.S., Louisville Extreme Park.

Louisville is currently home to three minor-league professional sports teams:

Attractions and events

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Statues of fancifully painted horses can currently be seen around Louisville. A part of the Gallopalooza art exhibition, these horses honor past winners of the Kentucky Derby.

Beyond the signature events of the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Derby Festival (see Sports above), attractions in Louisville Metro include:

Louisville also has several important genealogical collections at The Filson Historical Society, the Sons of the American Revolution national library and the Louisville Free Public Library.

Nearby, in Southern Indiana, attractions include:

Other attractions in the Louisville metropolitan area include:

Famous Louisvillians

Famous Louisvillians include:

Geography and maps

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Location of Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville is located at 38°13'44" North, 85°44'58" West (38.228870, -85.749534)Template:GR.

Note: All geographic data applies to the former City of Louisville as it existed prior to the creation of Louisville Metro on January 6, 2003.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 172.6 km² (66.7 mi²). 160.9 km² (62.1 mi²) of it is land and 11.7 km² (4.5 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 6.80% water.



Note: All demographics apply to the former City of Louisville as it existed prior to the creation of Louisville Metro on January 6, 2003. For demographics of Louisville Metro, see Jefferson County, Kentucky.

As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 256,231 people, 111,414 households, and 61,389 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,592.6/km² (4,124.9/mi²). There are 121,275 housing units at an average density of 753.8/km² (1,952.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 62.94% White, 33.01% African American, 0.23% Native American, 1.45% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.67% from other races, and 1.67% from two or more races. 1.86% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 111,414 households out of which 25.7% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 31.6% are married couples living together, 19.2% have a female householder with no husband present, and 44.9% are non-families. 37.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.4% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.22 and the average family size is 2.97.

The age distribution is: 23.7% under the age of 18, 10.4% from 18 to 24, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 85.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $28,843, and the median income for a family is $36,696. Males have a median income of $30,608 versus $24,439 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,193. 21.6% of the population and 17.9% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 33.5% of those under the age of 18 and 13.2% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Sister Cities

Louisville is twinned with the following cities:



  • Domer, Dennis, Gregory A. Luhan, and David Mohney, The Louisville Guide, 2004. (ISBN 1568984510)
  • Kleber, John E., et al. (editor), The Encyclopedia of Louisville, University Press of Kentucky, 2000. (ISBN 0813121000)
  • Nold, Chip and Bob Bahr, Insiders' Guide to Louisville, Kentucky & Southern Indiana, Globe Pequot, 1997. (ISBN 1573800430)
  • Sanders, David and Glen Conner, Fact Sheet: Ohio River Floods (http://kyclim.wku.edu/factsheets/ohio_river_floods/), Kentucky Climate Center, 2000.

External links

The links in this section either extend content about Louisville, Kentucky or go to entities that don't currently have articles.

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