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Galt House Hotel and Suites

The Galt House Hotel and Suites is the largest hotel in Kentucky and is presently Louisville’s only hotel on the river. We explore the famous and sometimes infamous story behind this celebrated entity, in this Et Cetera.

According to "The Kentucky Encyclopedia," the Galt House was Louisville’s “best-known hostelry in the nineteenth century.” The first Galt House Hotel went up about 1835, at the northeast corner of Second and Main.

It was named after William Craig Galt, a local physician, from whom the land was purchased; the 60-room hotel was actually built across the street from his residence.

Notable visitors to that hotel included P.T. Barnum, Presidents Lincoln, Grant, Taylor and Buchanan, and author Charles Dickens, who wrote about his 1842 Galt House visit in his "American Notes".

The original hotel was also the scene of an unusual murder in 1862, when Union General William “Bull” Nelson was shot to death by a fellow officer whom he had reportedly offended on several occasions.

Following a fire in 1865, a larger Galt House was built a block away—at First and Main.

However, due to hard financial times, that hotel closed in 1919 and was demolished in 1921.

In 1973, the Galt House was reborn when developer-builder Al Schneider (1914-2001) reestablished it as part of Louisville’s Urban Renewal Project.

A suite tower to the east was added to the hotel in 1985.

Today the Galt House includes nearly 13-hundred guest rooms and suites, a rooftop club, and a three-story conservatory.

There are also several restaurants, including the revolving Rivue.

Locally, the Galt House is recognized for being command central of the annual Derby Festival Thunder Over Louisville celebration.

Etc.:

  • Since about 1835 four different hotels bearing the Galt House name have stood on Louisville’s riverfront. The very first Galt House was not a “hotel” at all. It was actually the residence of Dr. William C. Galt, who was know for his gracious hospitality.
  • According to "The Encyclopedia of Louisville," Dr. William C. Galt assisted in the medical care of Louisville founder George Rogers Clark, when the general’s leg was amputated in 1809. Dr. Galt was also a member of the first Louisville medial society (1819), was appointed to the first health board and served as an attending and consulting physician at the Louisville Marine Hospital, among many other prestigious occupational achievements.
  • Union General Wiliam "Bull" Nelson was shot by Gen. Jefferson Davis, but not the Jefferson Davis who was president of the Confederacy. Jefferson C. Davis was a Union brigadier general and was never tried for the crime.
  • In 1864, Union generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman planned their military strategies at the Galt House.
  • The second Galt House was designed by well-known architect Henry Whitestone. It is also believed that Whitestone was responsible for the Peterson-Dumesnil House in Louisville’s Crescent Hill neighborhood.
Program 425
"Louisville Life" looks at a new documentary about the Louisville Orchestra, visits with the Glass Art Society, meets the artist behind a unique multimedia exhibit at the 21c Museum Hotel, and more. (#425)