Implanting A Lasting Impression Of Louisville’s Downtown Ornate Beauty And Expansiveness

November 19th, 2022 by admin Leave a reply »

West Main Street at the center of Old Louisville downtown is at the heart of the cultural district of Louisville featuring the second largest collection of cast-iron facades in the United States.

Over a century ago, cast iron made it possible to build beautiful decorative features that were too expensive to carve out of stone. The sidewalk bricks in front of the columns are placed sideways and flecked with iron to make the cast iron buildings easily identifiable. To doubly ascertain you carry along as you walk by a magnet which is most likely to stick to buildings whose facades are cast iron. Ironwood trees grow in front of cast iron buildings surrounded by replicas of authentic coal hole covers. A stand of three trees are planted together thus indicating that the building is masonry. Cast iron walking sticks and tree rings give hints as to the original uses of nearby buildings.

West Main Street has more examples of 19th century cast-iron architecture than any other place in America except New York’s SoHo. The façade of the Hart Block, a five story building designed in 1884 at a foundry is a jigsaw puzzle of bolting cast iron pieces together. This early Victorian pre-fab construction allowed for large windows and greater height. The tiny St Charles Hotel, constructed before 1832 is the oldest here.. A third generation Main Street building, it was preceded by Fort Nelson which was followed by log huts. Three story brick buildings came in next and lined the streets at the time of Civil War.

Fort Nelson, a haven for settlers in the late 1700s once stood between 6th and 8th streets on Main before being ravaged by fire and tornado more than a century ago. This site was the terminus of the Wilderness Road, the first overland route west from Virginia across the Appalachian Mountains through the Cumberland Gap, and the site of the first permanent settlement in what would become Louisville.

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