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The Seelbach Hilton Louisville

    The Seelbach Hilton Louisville
 in LouisvilleHistory: 
    The Seelbach Hilton Louisville
 in Louisville


A manifestation of the American Dream for immigrant brothers Louis and Otto Seelbach, The Seelbach Hilton Louisville is a historic landmark and architectural masterpiece. It began in 1869, when the two Bavarian brothers moved to Louisville to learn the hotel business. By 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. In May of 1905, Seelbach Hotel celebrated its grand opening, drawing 25,000 visitors to their 5-hour public inspection.

Designed by W.J. Dodd of Louisville and F.M. Andrews of Dayton, Ohio, the Seelbach boasts a lavish turn-of-the century Beaux-Arts Baroque architectural style, embodying the Old World opulence of Viennese and Parisian hotels. Equally grand, the hotel interiors feature a lobby furnished with combined marbles from Italy, Vermont, and Switzerland along with mahogany and bronze in a classic Renaissance style, and a vaulted dome of 800 glass panes. Arthur Thomas, the most famous Indian painter in the world, was commissioned to decorate the lobby with huge mural paintings of pioneer scenes from Kentucky history.

Its reputation for exceptional service and luxury amenities inspired a multitude of visitors throughout the years. Names of celebrities and dignitaries fill the guest registry. Presidents’ William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton have been guests at The Seelbach.

During the Roaring Twenties, The Seelbach was considered the most glamorous spot for cards and leisure. Situated in the center of bourbon and whiskey country, the hotel attracted infamous underworld kingpins and gangsters during Prohibition. Notorious figures included Lucky Luciano, "Beer Baron of the Bronx" Dutch Schultz, and the most legendary gangster at the time, Al Capone. Frequenting The Seelbach, Capone's legacy remains in The Oakroom restaurant, where guests can dine in the small alcove would he played cards. The gangster's favorite room has two hidden doors behind special panels, leading to secret passageways and still displays the large mirror Capone sent from Chicago so that he could watch his back.

Cincinnati mobster and "King of the Bootleggers" George Remus also spent time at The Seelbach where he became friends writer F. Scott Fitzgerald who often visited the hotel while Army training at nearby Camp Taylor. In 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald immortalized Remus and the hotel in his novel, The Great Gatsby. Remus was the inspiration for the novel's title character Jay Gatsby, and Fitzgerald referred to The Seelbach and its Grand Ballroom when his characters, Tom Buchanan and Daisy, were married in Louisville.

Louis Seelbach died in 1925, and in 1929 Otto Seelbach retired, and died 4 years later. The Seelbach Hotel Company disbanded with his retirement and the last Seelbach left the hotels’ management. Subsequent owners remodeled the hotel, and until 1968 the hotel turned a profit. By July, loss of revenue forced The Seelbach to close.

In 1978, new owners H.G. Whittenberg, Jr., construction magnate and Roger Davis, actor, began renovations with financial backing from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. The cost was more than $28 million. Finally in April 1982, The Seelbach reopened. In April 1984, Metropolitan gained control of the hotel, buying out Whittenberg and Davis. The hotel has been managed by National Hotels Corporation, a subsidiary of Radisson Hotels, and was also managed by Doubletree Hotels.

In April 1990, The Seelbach was sold to Medallion Hotels, Inc. of New York, which added the 18,500 sq. ft. 5.6 million-dollar conference center in 1995. Meristar Hotels and Resorts purchased The Seelbach in 1998, began a seven million-dollar restoration process of all guestrooms and placed it under the Hilton flag.In 2007 Investcorp International Inc. purchased the hotel. Investcorp completely renovated the hotel in 2009 spending $14 million.

The Seelbach Hilton Louisville, a member of Historic Hotels Worldwide since 2015, dates back to 1905.


International Numbers

Austria 08000706176
Belgium 080081830
France 805542721
Germany 8007241217
Ireland 1800995320
Italy 800979444
Netherlands 08000200956
Norway 80054304
Spain 900814719
Switzerland 0800001798
UK 8009179622
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