Fun Facts About Louisville

Things You Should Know About Louisville, Ky

If you are from Louisville or if you are considering visiting our fine town you may be interested in knowing a few tidbits. Louisville is about bourbon, horses, and the Cardinals but there are a few other details you may find of interest. If we have missed something please contact us and we will add it to the list. This is an ever growing list as we are always learning something new about home sweet home.

  • The most prominent early Indian tribes in the area known as Louisville, Ky today were the Cherokee, Chickasaws, and Shawnee. Most of these tribes were eliminated from Kentucky by about the early 1800’s either through warfare or resettlement to other territories by the federal government. No separate records were kept for people with American Indian blood.
  • The first European settlement was on Corn Island and was founded by General George Rogers Clark. It was called Corn Island because that was the first crop raised there. The settlement was built on the island to protect the white settlers from Indian attacks and support military activities.
  • Corn Island extended along the waterfront of present-day Louisville from Fifth to Fourteenth Streets and it is reported that at low water there were places where it was possible to wade ashore. 
  • Corn Island eventually disappeared due to a combination of factors but mostly because of the removal of limestone by the settlers for building materials. Learn more about the disappearance of Corn Island at: Historic Photos of Louisville Kentucky and Environs.
  • Louisville was named after King Louis XVI of France due to the support for the colonists during the Revolutionary War. King Louis XVI did not fare so well with his own citizens as he was beheaded during the French Revolution in 1793.
  • Louisville is where it is because of the Falls of the Ohio. The rapids hindered progress of boats down the river so Louisville became a portage. The location where cargo was unloaded up river of the rapids and then carried past the rapids to other waiting boats. Several towns popped up due to the continued traffic, including Louisville, which was incorporated in 1780.
  • The first reported horse races were conducted on Market Street in the late 1700’s. It was a dangerous affair for both participants and spectators as several injuries led to the first race tracks such as Elm Tree Gardens and Oakland Race Course which were the predecessors of the famous Churchill Downs.
  • Churchill Downs was founded in 1874 by Meriwether Lewis Clark Jr., grandson of the explorer William Clark. It was a financial failure for the first 28 years in operation and changed hands many times.
  • The original name of Churchill Downs was the Louisville Jockey Club. The first mention of Churchill Downs was in a local newspaper and is a reference to John Churchill, Clark’s uncle, who owned the 80 acres where it was built in a rural area south of Louisville. The name caught on and it was officially incorporated in 1937.
  • The Kentucky Derby is the oldest continuously held major sporting event in the United States. It has been staged every year at Churchill Downs without interruption since the inaugural running on May 17, 1875 – the first day of racing at the track then known as the Louisville Jockey Club.
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