chapter  5
2 Louisville, KY: West Main Street
Pages 14

Louisville, Kentucky, is a city in the mid-Ohio Valley of the United States with a compact downtown street grid paralleling the southern bank of the Ohio River. The river provided a 19th and early 20th century conduit for trade and an economic lifeline for the city. Louisville’s fortunes grew with its reputation as a trade center (Bell, 2011). Located just a block off the river is Main Street, the heart of commerce for the city, and where the city’s economic vitality was once handsomely reflected in the quality of the buildings. Many of the facades were built with the latest technological cast-iron structural systems of the era. On both sides of Main Street, layered, ornate facades defined the public right-of-way. The legacy of this remarkable period largely survived the urban renewal movement and remains intact today, making Louisville’s West Main Street the second largest collection of cast-iron buildings in the United States behind SoHo in New York City.1