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.

The Seelbach Hilton Louisville was constructed at the dawn of the 20th century, in which the United States had started to emerge as a global superpower.

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.

  • 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 +
    "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. Lucky Luciano, Italian mobster and criminal mastermind. Dutch Schultz, German-American mobster. Al Capone, American gangster and businessman. George Remus, American lawyer and bootlegger. F. Scott Fitzgerald, American fiction writer, best known for his most brilliant novel, The Great Gatsby (1925). "
  • 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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