Screen capture from Google Maps
Screen capture from Google Maps
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Screen capture from Google Maps
Screen capture from Google Maps.

So I would suppose most people know that there’s a wide array of towns bearing the name Louisville out there. Wikipedia says there’s a Louisville not just in Kentucky but also in Alabama, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Tennessee, and Minnesota. There’s even a Louisville in Tasmania, Australia and in Belize (not to mention an underwater mountain chain). Seems like we have a pretty good franchise going on.

Our own beloved Louisville, however, is the only “big city” in the selection where the population range stretches from 209 souls to almost 19,000. Why, then, doesn’t Louisville show up first in a Google map search? It’s a minor complaint, I suppose, but imagine someone unfamiliar with our city unwittingly thinking our town is some rural enclave?

The problem arises when you type in a search like “Main Street Louisville.” Go ahead and try it (or follow this link). Turns out that “Main Street Louisville” is in rural Alabama, population 612. Sure, you could tack on “KY” at the end of the search, but should that really be necessary?

And it’s not foolproof. Sometimes, a similar search for First Street or Shelby Street will land you in good old Louisville, KY, but the former shows a trailer park off Preston Highway outside the Snyder and the latter takes you to a subdivision in Fern Creek.

It’s endearing to think that Louisville is a little off the national radar, but this seems a tiny bit absurd. Anyone else encountered this issue? Do you find it annoying or should it just be ignored?

Louisville, NE does have one edge on our fair city, however; it has a higher population density at 2,038 people per square mile compared to our county rate of 1,866 per square mile.

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Branden Klayko

6 COMMENTS

  1. According to Clyde F. Crews’ new and excellent book, Crosssings, there was a call in 1929 to rename the city -not because folks got it confused with other towns, but because of its association with the ‘weak-hearted and flabby-brained Louis XVI.’ The suggestions were less than stellar: Dupontis, Nemdursa, Tarasconte, Clarkeston. We can only speculate what thing would be like with a more or less unique name like Detroit or Miami or Chicago or Indianapolis or Memphis. I still bristle when national media insist on adding the ‘,Kentucky’ to our name, as if the story could come from anywhere else.

  2. It’s all a matter of direction.

    Notice in your expamples above the entry for Hill Street. The Louisville Hill Streets have an E or a W attached. In all of the examples in the entry, you’ve used street names which properly need a directional indicator. Main, Oak, First, Shelby, and Hill are part of the street grid, divided at First and Main streets into North, South, East, and West. Imagine ordering a pizza from Papa John’s and giving the address of 600 Main Street. Would the pizza be delivered to the building at 6th and Main or the one at Main and Hancock? Incidentally, I’m surprized the Main Street search did not turn up the Main Street in the Louisville area which does not need a directional indicator, the one located in Middletown.

    The Google map system is based on mailing addresses. Your research has above has found the Shelby Street (as well as the Kentucky and Jefferson streets) in Fern Creek. Unlike in downtown Louisville, no directional indicator is appropriate on these streets. There used to also be a Kentucky Avenue in Camp Taylor, which led to additional confusion, but that street was changed to Belmar Drive (in part) and Redwood Drive. Not too many years ago the Breckenridge Lane running between Shelbyville Road and Bardstwown Road was spelled with a median “i” rather than an “e” – the spelling was changed at the request of the post office. Until that change, there was even more room for confusion. A pizza ordered for 601 Breckinridge could possibly be meant for one of three different places.

    I am confident that should you enter the common street name Barret Avenue or Logan Street or Story Avenue or Outer Loop or Blue Lick Road along with the word Louisville, you search will return a street somewhere here in Louisville, Kentucky.

    JN

  3. JN has it right on. Google does default to KY when you put in Louisville, unless it’s a street that doesn’t exist in Louisville KY. “e main st louisville” and “w main st louisville” both go right here, and so on. I never append KY when using Google Maps, and have never ended up in the wrong Louisville.

  4. Great story, Ken. I agree the names suggested are a little bizarre. By 1929, though, Louisville already had so much history I think it would have been a tough battle to change the name. I like the name Louisville regardless, but it should, by now, stand on its own without the Kentucky suffix.

    Thanks for the directional points, Jeff and CMB. I still personally think a search for a street shouldn’t need a directional indicator. And it is still spotty on the Google search.

    If you search for “W Main Street Louisville” is still brings up Louisville, Mississippi but if you try “Spring Street Louisville” it takes you to N Spring Street in the correct location (even without a directional indicator although it may be because there’s no other Spring St.?). Broadway and Market Street do the same thing.

    I would suggest a directionally ambiguous search should take you to the “real” (for lack of a better term) street and offer suggestions for the smaller streets in Louisville or one of its variants.

  5. To go slightly off-topic, many other large cities in the U.S. have Wikipedia articles named after them without the state being included. Examples are Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Detroit, Chicago.

    I wonder how much of a battle it would be to move the “Louisville, Kentucky” article to just “Louisville”. “Louisville” already redirects to “Louisville, Kentucky”. Does anyone think there would be much resistance?

  6. I can’t really say if there would be resistance as I don’t really know how changing things like that in Wikipedia works, but I don’t see why it couldn’t be dropped as per your examples. For the Cincy page, there’s still a disambiguation link that takes you to other pages including other towns named Cincinnati.

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