The Seelbach Hilton Louisville

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Discover the Seelbach Hilton Louisville, which has long been inspiration for historical icons, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, who used the hotel as inspiration for his brillant 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby.

Welcome to The Seelbach Hilton Louisville

Meet Larry Johnson, the resident historian of The Seelbach Hilton Louisville. For more videos about The Seelbach Hilton Louisville’s history, please see the hotel’s media gallery further along its profile!

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Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Seelbach Hilton Louisville has been a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2015. This outstanding historic hotel has stood as one of Kentucky’s most cherished historical landmarks for more than a century. The Seelbach was the manifestation of the American Dream for immigrant brothers Louis and Otto Seelbach, two native Bavarians who traveled to the city to learn the hotel business in the mid-19th century. By 1903, after several decades of running restaurants and clubs, the brothers began construction of a new hotel at the corner of 4th and Walnut Street. In May of 1905, the “Seelbach Hotel” celebrated its grand opening, drawing 25,000 visitors to their five-hour public inspection. Designed by W.J. Dodd and F.M. Andrews, the Seelbach boasted 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 featured a lobby furnished with marble from Italy, Switzerland, and the United States, along with mahogany and bronze in a classic Renaissance style. The architects subsequently mounted a vaulted dome of 800 glass panes atop the space. Arthur Thomas, the most famous Indian painter in the world, decorated the lobby with huge mural paintings of pioneer scenes from Kentucky’s 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 to this very day. Presidents’ William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton have been stayed at The Seelbach. During the Roaring Twenties, The Seelbach was also 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. A frequent guest of The Seelbach, Capone often dined in The Oakroom where he would play cards in a small alcove within the venue. The gangster's favorite room has two hidden doors behind special panels that led directly to a few secret passageways. It even 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. Fitzgerald himself typically visited the hotel while training for the U.S. Army at nearby Camp Taylor. In 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald immortalized both Remus and the hotel in his novel, The Great Gatsby. In fact, Remus served as the inspiration for the novel's title character “Jay Gatsby.” Fitzgerald used The Seelbach and its Grand Ballroom as the inspiration for his weddings scene between the two characters, Tom Buchanan and Daisy.

Louis Seelbach died in 1925, and his brother, Otto, passed away eight years later. The Seelbach Hotel Company disbanded shortly thereafter, with their descendants putting the building up for sale. Subsequent owners remodeled the hotel and the business turned a profit. But in 1968, a severe loss in revenue forced The Seelbach to close. Then, in 1978, new owners H.G. Whittenberg, Jr., and Roger Davis began renovations with financial backing from the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Costing more than $28 million to complete, The Seelbach opened to great renown in April of 1982. The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company gained control over the hotel two years later, buying out both Whittenberg and Davis. A subsidiary of Radisson Hotels called the “National Hotels Corporation” managed The Seelbach until Medallion Hotels, Inc., purchased the building in 1990. It quickly made a series of fantastic updates to the historic hotel, including the installation of an 18,500 square foot conference center. Meristar Hotels and Resorts bought The Seelbach in 1998, and began its own, $7 million restoration project. When the construction concluded several months later, Meristar Hotels and Resorts agreed to allow for Hilton Hotels to supervise the business on its behalf. As such, the hotel formally became known as “The Seelbach Hilton Louisville.” In 2007, Investcorp International purchased and spend a total of $14 million remodeling it two years later. The Seelbach Hilton Louisville has since continued to rate as one of the most luxurious places to stay in all of Louisville.

  • About the Architecture +

    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.


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Lucky Luciano, Italian mobster and criminal mastermind.
    Al Capone, American gangster and businessman.
    F. Scott Fitzgerald, American fiction writer, best known for his most brilliant novel, The Great Gatsby.
    William Howard Taft, 27th president of the United States and 10th Chief Justice of the United States
    Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United States.
    Franklin Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States.
    Harry Truman, 33rd president of the United States.
    John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the United States.
    Lyndon Johnson, 36th president of the United States.
    Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States.
    Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the United States.


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Renowned American author F. Scott Fitzgerald used the Seelbach for inspiration in writing his 1925 classic The Great Gatsby.


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