It’s always nice when a great building replaces a blank spot in the city where a once great building stood. That’s the case at 614 West Main Street where one of my favorite infill projects of the last decade, the Six Fourteen Building, complements the historic architecture of West Main Street.
The story goes back to the early 1830s when Louisville landed its first really elegant hotel, aptly named the Louisville Hotel. Completed in 1833, the structure “was a visible sign that Louisville had come of age as an urban center” (Encyclopedia of Louisville). The hotel represents a shift from “cozy inns” to modern convenience with a barber and tailor shop and a private dining room.
Designed by Louisville’s first professional architect, Hugh Roland, the four story building featured a commanding Ionic colonnade with ten columns elevated one story above Main Street (be sure to check the images after the click). Locals were proud to point out that the hotel was the most elegant in the western United States and was larger than Boston’s fashionable Tremont House.
A description of the area from a pamphlet in 1938 called “100 Years Of Public Service” reads:
Just above the newly gas-lighted waterfront was glamorous Main Street. Colorful and exciting, its hotels and amusement centers were the rendezvous for many famous characters who played leading roles in the exciting drama of city and nation-building. Here scores of gorgeously painted overland stage coaches met the fast, luxurious river boats for the South, West, East and North. Planters, astride magnificent thoroughbreds, vied with the caravans of covered wagon freighters to add exciting action. This was Louisville in 1838.
The Louisville Hotel was expanded in 1853 to Sixth Street (buildings still exist) and the colonnade was removed by architects Henry Whitestone and Isaiah Rogers. The Encyclopedia of Louisville points out that Rogers was the architect of the Tremont House. The subsequent facade resembled Boston’s hotel much more.
After losing its prominence at the turn of the century, the Louisville Hotel closed in 1938. The still existing annex had in turn served as the original Seelbach Hotel until 1905 when it moved to Fourth Street and the Old Inn. The building was razed in 1949 for a parking lot. (You may also remember another grand Louisville building was also destroyed in the 1940s.)
In the early 2000s, Fenley Real Estate built the six-story, 85,000 square foot Six Fourteen Building as office and retail space, filling a major gap in West Main Street. K. Norman Berry Associates designed the building to connect with the adjacent Doe-Anderson Building and reflect modern and historic influences in its grey brick and limestone facade.
In 2004, the Louisville Historical League designated the building as a “Future Landmark.” The vertical limestone pillars imposed on the curving glass facade could be seen as a reference to the original colonnade of the Louisville Hotel.
I included a photo of the Public Theater on Lafayette Street in Manhattan to demonstrate what the original Louisville Hotel might look like today if it were unaltered and still standing. The New York structure was built in 1832 and began as a series of townhomes called LaGrange Place and later named Colonnade Row. Today, the structure is a small theater owned by the Blue Man Group.