21c Museum Hotel Louisville by MGallery

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Discover the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville by MGallery, which encompasses five historic warehouses and the former Falls City Tobacco Bank.

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21c Museum Hotel Louisville by MGallery, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2019, dates back to the 1800's.

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Located in the heart of Louisville’s West Main Street Historic District (listed on the National Register of Historic Places), the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville has been a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2019. But well before the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville came into existence, the location was once an essential component of the city’s historic riverside port throughout the 19th century. Contemporary developers actually constructed the modern edifice from five separate warehouses that sheltered a wealth of tobacco and bourbon products as they made their way south down the Ohio River. One of the structures even served as the lucrative Falls City Tobacco Bank for several decades during the mid-1800s. These buildings saw thousands of barrels pass through their doors over the years, as Louisville functioned as a major thoroughfare connecting the American Midwest to the bustling Mississippi Delta. But the warehouses had eventually shuttered their operations by the late 20th century, due to the rise of newer, more modern industries within Louisville’s economy. As such, the warehouses sat dormant for some time, until husband and wife Steve Wilson and Laura Lee Brown obtained them in the 2000s. Deeply passionate about historical preservation, both Brown and Wilson wished to rehabilitate the ailing structures as part of a grander strategy to revive Louisville’s historic downtown. They subsequently envisioned transforming all five warehouses into a luxurious boutique hotel that would both feature the best in modern comfort, while also protecting their fantastic historical architecture. Furthermore, Lee and Brown planned to infuse the hotel with its own outstanding collection of contemporary artwork, thus, infusing downtown Louisville once again with a flair of cultural vibrancy.

Construction on the five warehouses began in earnest in 2006, shortly after Brown and Wilson officially purchased the location. Renowned architectural firm Deborah Burke & Partners crafted its new configuration, melding each building together in within a single, seamless design. In fact, the work accomplished by the company even earned it several awards over the following years, including honors bestowed by the American Institute of Architects, AIA New York State, and Interior Design Magazine. Brown and Wilson spared no expense renovating the warehouses, with the construction itself taking several months to complete. When the structures finally reopened a year later as the “21c Museum Hotel Louisville,” it stood as an architectural masterpiece. The destination quickly received praise for its art-laden rooms, including Asleep in the Cyclone—a custom suite that doubles as an original piece of avant-garde artwork. It also featured a magnificent restaurant called “Proof on Main,” which quickly garnered awards from such respected publications like Esquire magazine. The new boutique hotel even possessed its very own art exhibition space. And to celebrate the business’ debut, Brown and Wilson placed a double-size, golden replica of Michelangelo's David in front of the hotel, which Turkish artist Serkan Özkaya had created some months prior. Today, the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville serves as the flagship destination for Brown and Wilson’s fascinating 21c Museum Hotel group. (In 2018, Brown and Wilson sold the company to for a sum of $51 million, although they retain a stake in its ownership.) 21c Museum Hotels are honored to have these historically significant structures serve as the foundation for its prized inaugural hotel.

  • About the Location +

    The 21c Museum Hotel Louisville resides in the heart of the West Main Street Historic District, one of the most celebrated neighborhoods in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. While the area is now known for its fantastic array of cultural attractions, it first started out as the site for a rudimentary wilderness citadel back during the late 18th century. In 1778, a group of settlers led by Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark arrived in the vicinity, dispatched to attack a British outpost several miles away. Establishing a settlement on nearby Corn Island, the pioneers remained in the area for months thereafter while Clark pushed forward toward his objective. The settlers eventually created a wooden stockade called “Fort Nelson” some four years later, with Richard Chenworth presiding over the small community that emerged around it. Then, in 1784, the Virginia General Assembly (Kentucky was still a part of Virginia) formally approved an official town charter recognizing the village as the community of “Louisville.” The locals had selected the name in honor of King Louis XVI, who had just helped the newly created United States defeat Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. Louisville quickly became a point of embarkation for additional generations of frontiersmen eager to head west, with the most notable being Meriweather Lewis and William Clark of the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition. But Louisville’s proximity along the banks of the Ohio River also made it a significant trade center. Hundreds of merchants opened their owns storefronts and warehouses around old Fort Nelson, which peddled products like whiskey and tobacco. Soon enough, Louisville was one of the most visited ports along the entire Ohio River, attracting all kinds of businesspeople from both the North and South. (Railroads also enhanced Louisville’s economic standing, starting with the arrival of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in the mid-1850s.)

    Louisville’s prominence as a commercial hub made it extremely important to the Union war effort during the American Civil War. Even though Kentucky as a whole was a slave state, it officially remained loyal to the nation due to its economic ties with the northern states of the Old Northwest. Fortunately, the city escaped suffering any damage amid the conflict, although several nearby communities—including Perryville and Corydon—experienced heavy fighting at one point or another. (The Battle of Perryville in 1862 was one of the war’s most strategically significant fights, as it prevented a large Confederate army from occupying the commonwealth and threatening the Midwest.) Louisville once again proceeded to grow rapidly as a regional economic powerhouse as soon as the hostilities ended, with a spate of new commercial edifices debuting downtown. Main Street in particular became a major site for the expanded construction work that characterized Louisville’s growth at the century’s end. The designs of the buildings subsequently were far more intricate, showcasing the beauty of Romanesque and Mediterranean-inspired architecture. Most of the structures even possessed their own unique detailing, including a rare array of cast iron facades. The area remained the heart of Louisville’s vibrant economy throughout much of the 20th century, too, until newer industries overtook shipping in importance. Today, most of the historic warehouses and storefronts have been thoroughly renovated, reopening as boutique shops, restaurants, and art galleries. In fact, the West Main Street Historic District is also known locally as “Museum Row,” due to the high number of museums that reside in the neighborhood. Among those cultural institutions active now are the Muhammad Ali Center, the Louisville Slugger Museum, the Frazier History Museum, and the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft.


  • About the Architecture +

    The former 19th-century warehouses that currently constitute the 21c Museum Hotel Louisville feature a fantastic array of Romanesque Revival-style architecture. Romanesque Revival-style architecture is a wonderful architectural style first appeared in North America in the middle of the 19th century, as design principles from both Rome and medieval Europe found a popular audience. Architects interested in specializing in Romanesque Revival-themed architecture specifically studied the works of Norman and Lombard engineers who were active in the 11th and 12th centuries. Structures created with the aesthetic are commonly defined by their pronounced round arches and round towers. Yet, those grand archways and towers were far less ostentatious than their historic counterparts located on the other side of the Atlantic. Romanesque Revival-style architecture also implemented squat columns, decorative wall carvings, and the extensive use of masonry. But architects would sometimes favor wood over bricks or stones due to financial concerns. The first wave of Romanesque Revival-style architecture impacted North America in the 1840s and 1850s, appearing in such cities like Washington, D.C., and Toronto. University College at the greater University of Toronto is one such example of a brilliant Romanesque Revival-inspired structure to emerge at the time. But the general public in both the United States and Canada did not fully embrace the aesthetic, preferring the tastes of Italianate and Gothic Revival architecture at the time. It was not until an American architect named Henry Hobson Richardson started using the form in the late 1800s that Romanesque Revival style finally became popular. A graduate from the renowned École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Richardson developed numerous designs in places like New York City, Boston, and Detroit. His approach to Romanesque Revival style was somewhat different, as it also incorporated elements of medieval Mediterranean design principles. His vision of Romanesque Revival-style architecture was soon embraced by other architects, including those in neighboring Canada. Historians today largely refer to Richardson’s design philosophy as “Richardson Romanesque” architecture.


  • Art Collection +

    Visitors, tourists, and the public, as well as hotel and restaurant guests, are greeted by multiple artworks on the exterior of 21c Louisville before entering to explore the art within the building. Serkan Özkaya’s 30-foot tall David (inspired by Michelangelo) can be seen from blocks away as they approach. This double-sized, golden replica of Michelangelo’s David has become a popular Main Street landmark since it’s installation in 2011. Another frequently photographed work is the art car Arillated: The 21c Pip Mobile that is parked outside the main entrance. Louisville artist Monica Mahoney bejeweled a 1996 Lincoln Town Car with thousands of red glass gems to resemble the interior of a pomegranate. (Arillated can be rented for a unique addition to special events.) Situated within a sunken courtyard and visible from the sidewalk outside as well as through windows on each floor of the building, is Ned Kahn’s Cloud Rings, part of a series by the artist that enable viewers to observe and interact with natural processes. Inside and outside the building, guests will happen upon the 21c flock of Cracking Art Group Red Penguins. These four-foot-tall sculptures made of recycled plastic migrate through the building each day and serve as a playful reminder of the importance of sustainability and environmental conservation.

    Specially commissioned site-specific works by some of the contemporary art world's most exciting artists can be found throughout 21c Museum Hotel Louisville. Guests regularly bring friends to experience Text Rain by Camille Utterback and Romy Achituv, which is an interactive video projection installation offers guests the opportunity to do what seems magical—lift and play with falling letters that do not really exist. An event from Louisville history is explored by artist Anne Peabody who created a physical record of her memory of the tornado that leveled much of the city on April 3, 1974. Wheel of Fortune consists of broken eggs, flashlights, dolls’ heads, turkey basters, and batteries made of wood, as well as found objects made of glass that swirl together to form a massive funnel cloud in 21c’s Atrium Gallery. Virgil Marti’s Landscape Wallpaper explores relationships between art and decoration, landscape and the built environment. Art is indeed everywhere at 21c. Enter one of the elevators and guests will find themselves gazing up into a seemingly infinite space, a feeling created by Ivan Navarro’s Untitled, light box installations from his Holeway series. A trip to the main level restrooms brings visitors face to face with In the Absence of Voyerurism #6 and #7, site-specific video installations by Sean Bidic that are integrated into the restroom mirrors. Spend the night in Asleep in the Cyclone, a sculptural installation by Jonah Freeman and Justin Lowe that is also a functional hotel room, offering 21c guests a completely immersive art experience.

    Proof on Main, the restaurant at 21c Louisville, is filled with an immersive installation, The Practices of Everyday Life by David Burns and Austin Young, the artist-duo Fallen Fruit. Constructed from dozens of individual photographs, texts, and objects, this research-based work is intended to celebrate the culture of place, including recognition of Louisville’s LGBTQ history, Native heritage, and significant events of the 19th and 20th centuries. “We are interested in the idea of the public, citizenship, and community, and how everyday people are poets and scribes and artists and documentarians as much as they are strangers, neighbors, and friends,” write the artists. “We created a work of art that celebrates people and place using source material from architectural salvage yards, historical images, personal diaries, and ephemera from Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana.”


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