Last Fall, I was asked by real estate publication Curbed which street in Louisville was the most culturally significant. I wondered about Bardstown Road and Fourth Street, but in the end West Main Street captured my imagination more than any other.
West Main has been with Louisville since the very beginning, helping to organize the city’s early east–west growth along the upper bank of the Ohio River. Narrowly avoiding complete destruction, it’s also seen more change—and continuity—over the past two centuries than just about any other part of town. The West Main we love has kept its cast-iron clothing while serving a variety of purposes for an evolving Louisville.
Walk down West Main Street in Louisville and you’ll notice a strange vibrancy along the uniform five-story height of the corridor’s 19th-century industrial buildings. Suited-up workers dash to a quick lunch at a local cafe, and three generations of men walk together carrying miniature baseball bats, souvenirs from the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.
A group of women take selfies in front of a double-size replica of Michelangelo’s naked David spray painted gold. And children, lots of them, mill about on the sidewalk, no doubt bussed in for a field trip to the history or science museum.
“Main Street is absolutely core to Louisville’s identity,” Rebecca Matheny, director of the Louisville Downtown Partnership attests. And while it’s been Louisville’s most important street for nearly the city’s entire history, its modern incarnation isn’t an accident.
It’s definitely worth reading the full series and learning about nine other significant streets across the country. Check it out here.
During my research for the story, I uncovered a number of fascinating West Main sub-stories that helped to give rise to the modern Louisville we know today. In coming months, I’m hoping to share a few of them here.
What are your thoughts of West Main Street? How has it impacted your idea of Downtown or urban Louisville in general? How do you use the street? Share your thoughts in the comments below.