Happy Birthday To You
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A small parking lot on Main Street tucked under the 9th Street Interchange with Interstate 64 in downtown Louisville is the only memorial for two Louisvillians whose impact on American culture is felt around the globe. Sisters Mildred Jane Hill and Patty Smith Hill are credited with writing “Happy Birthday To You” yet are largely forgotten in their home city.

Happy Birthday To You
Happy Birthday To You. (DeLeon & Primmer Architecture Workshop)

Their song has been named the most recognizable song in the English language by the Guinness Book, just ahead of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” A small plaque at the entrance to their namesake parking lot explains their historic impact:

In 1893, Clayton F. Summy Company published a song book by Mildred Jane Hill, an authority on negro spirituals, and Patty Smith Hill, Professor Emeritus of Education, Columbia University, titled, “Song Stories For The Kindergarten.”

Local history recounts that during a birthday party for Lisette Hast, in the Little Loom House on Kenwood Hill, Patty suggested that the words of the first song in “Song Stories”, “Good Morning To All” be changed to “Happy Birthday To You.” The song has since become one of the three most popular songs in the English language.

Among other achievements, Patty Hill is remembered as a pioneer in early-childhood education, launching one of America’s first kindergartens in Louisville.

Happy Birthday To You
Happy Birthday To You. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

The Hill sisters are headed from an interstate underpass to a grand pavillion under the Big Four Bridge. The pavillion is expected to cost around $500,000 and is situated in the center of a spiraling ramp leading to the Big Four Pedestrian Bridge. The pavillion is being designed by DeLeon & Primmer Architecture Workshop of Shelby Street in the East Village. The architects have also designed the bathrooms at Waterfront Park known for their dramatic rooflines.

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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

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