My experience of a romantic weekend stay at the 4-diamond luxury Seelbach Hilton Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky – appearing on the National Register of Historical Places – can never be described as “ordinary!”
The Seelbach Hilton is equal parts historical landmark and architectural masterpiece. It began as the dream of two Bavarian brothers – Otto and Louis Seelbach – in 1869 when Louis came to Louisville to learn the hotel business.
In 1903, after several years of running restaurants and gentleman’s clubs, the brothers began construction of a new hotel at the corner of 4th and Walnut Street (now Muhammad Ali), creating a lavish, turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts Baroque hotel.
Sparing no expense, they imported marbles from all over the world, bronzes from France, hardwoods from the West Indies and Europe, linens from Ireland, and valuable Turkish and Persian Rugs.
Billed as “the only fireproof hotel in the city,” the new Seelbach opened in May of 1905 by offering a 5-hour public inspection and drawing an incredible 25,000 visitors. The hotel was so popular, the Seelbach brothers began a 154-room addition in the fall of that same year.
In 1907, the expansion was completed and included the famous Bavarian-style Rathskeller, decorated with rare Rookwood Pottery. Today the Rathskeller remains the only surviving ensemble of its kind.
In the 1920s, Prohibition contributed to the wealth of underworld kingpins who were drawn to the most glamorous spots for cards and leisure. The Seelbach certainly saw its share.
As the grandest hotel in Louisville and the center of Kentucky’s bourbon and whiskey country, The Seelbach attracted some of the most famous gangsters. Notorious figures included Lucky Luciano and Dutch Schultz – known as the “Beer Baron of the Bronx.”
The King of the Bootleggers – George Remus, a Cincinnati mobster, referred to as “King of the Bootleggers,” got rich running whiskey northward during Prohibition. As a local gangster, he would spend time at The Seelbach, for business and pleasure. Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, who also visited The Seelbach for bourbon and cigars, was taken with the charismatic Remus. In fact, Remus became the inspiration for the title character Jay Gatsby in “The Great Gatsby.” (more)
by Michelle Valentine
"Love, Eat, Travel, TV"
Contact Michelle: info@MichelleValentine.TV
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