Louisville, KY


Main Street West

Curated by
James Carroll

1.0 mile
54 Points of Interest

Copyright 2020


You are taking this tour AT YOUR OWN RISK. Be aware of cars and other pedestrians. If you are walking slowly, move to the side. Do not stand in the middle of the sidewalk. Cross the street only at crosswalks. Put your phone down when crossing the street.
These are good rules for any downtown. Just remember, if you get squished it is your fault.

Table of Contents


Make your way to the Kentucky Performing Arts Center at 6th and Main Streets.

500 Block, North side

38.256923, -85.758741
Check the Map
Walk to stand in front of the entrance stairs (closer to 5th Street).
There are three Points of Interest in this section.

Skip to
600 Block, North side

Look across the street to the south of Main Street, at the tall building on the corner.

Humana building

This is a modern building so normally we would not pay attention to it. But, look how tall the entrance is–you could almost fit the building next door into the space.

You will get a chance to see a closer view later in the stroll.

Look at the brick red building immediately to the right.

Tiny, tiny details.

Starting at the top:

The ecru (off-white) details at the roofline look very much like stencils. There are no sculpted or rounded edges and the design is created from a few simple shapes.

Above the fourth floor windows you can see a Wreath surrounding a Cartouche, with a Ribbon in the background.

Now look closely at the details around the second floor windows. This will require good eyesight or a high resolution photo because the details are very small and we are far away.

You will notice two eye-shaped details above the windows; each has a pair of Cherubs holding a shield-like object. Along the sides you will see various floral details until you get to the second panel from the bottom. The left panel has a male figure and the right a female figure.

Walk to stand in front of the last building on the opposite side of the street.

538 - 540.

This time we will work upward, starting with the second floor. The windows have Garlands in the panels above and quarter columns on either side.

The third floor windows have the quarter columns, but the panels are filled with floral details this time.

The fourth floor windows are arched and have no columns. Instead, the thin vertical details flanking the windows are revealed to be Pilasters, as they have Capitals. However, since the vertical elements continue above the capitals they look a little awkward out of scale. They terminate in a heavy Cornice that visually separates the topmost floor.

Like always, this is where the serious details start–where they are too far away to see easily. The arches are smaller and in pairs. The quarter columns are back. Almost all the flat surfaces have something carved onto them, including those two center Pilasters.

Notice something different about the top of the building? It is not flat like the others. This time we have a triangular Pediment flanked by Balustrades.

Wow, this felt like Architecture 101. Sorry about that.

600 Block, North side

38.257071, -85.759921
Check the Map

Turn to look at the first building on the opposite corner.

Green + beige.

Now, this is a very busy building that has a simple design. The entire front is simply a series of arched windows, and only three colors.

Pay attention to how you are looking at the building. Does your focus stay on a particular detail? Or does it move along the arches? Or perhaps it jumps from one floor to another?

One last thing. Some of the arches are different. Can you see the difference? The arches at either end of the rows have a larger Keystone and a second smaller arch.

Look at the building immediately to the right, but do not move.

Beige + green.

This time the main colors are flipped and the details are much simpler. Does you focus move as it did on the other building? Or is it easier to stick with one arch? Which building do you prefer?

Turn around to look at the buildings on your side of the street. Notice that there are address number plaques set in the sidewalk in front of the entrances. Look for number 605.


There are two fluted columns flanked by two fluted Pilasters. They each have very detailed capitals. And they are in really good shape. Capitals like this are made of smaller details, which are often lost over time.

Walk down two buildings, to face 609. Look up.

A face?

No, not up there. There is a collection of windows that are topped with some detailed ornamentation. From here they make a really good facade shot.

Now look down at the left side of the entrance. See that little leaf-like detail? Does it look like a face to you? And perhaps a little fishy?

Walk past the building to the left and stop to face 615.

Empty, part one.

The first thing you might notice is that this building is missing the building. What happened to it? A fire? The facade is intact, so perhaps a slow leak that rotted the structure?

Whatever the cause, it opened an opportunity. Sometimes these spaces become parking lots, others become parks, but this one has been used for events. You can see remnants of the original building along the walls. If you look up a bit you can see the new framework that keeps the facade stable.

The columns on the ground floor have some nice, old fashioned details.

Continue walking to face the facade at 621.

Empty, part two.

This is the fourth empty storefront but now it is time to look up again. At the top of the ground floor there are some detailed cast iron brackets with floral molding running between.

While the other windows had no decorations, these have ornamental "eyebrows". They are in different states of completeness–some are missing keystones, other are missing parts of the molding. But it is important that they are still here.

Here is one last thing. You can see the from the existing side walls that these buildings are really just brick boxes, and the their actual character comes from the decorations up front. Right now, this empty space could take any shape, but these details separate it from its neighbors.

Walk to face the building on the immediate left.

Missing detail.

Look at the horizontal space above the ground floor windows. On the right, there is a bracket-like capital. However, the one on the left is missing. Walk over to look at what has been exposed.

As expected, there are bricks. But notice that the bricks are not in the orderly courses you see in regular brick walls. These bricks do not have to look good because they are here to be an unseen foundation.

Sometimes we get a peek behind the scenes to see how a building was actually built. It might–or might not–be visually interesting, but noticing these instances is like being let in on a secret.

Turn around and look at the narrow brick building across the street.

Divisions, part one.

Think about this building in relation to its neighbors. Does it seem uncomfortable? That its two taller neighbors are slowly moving together, squishing it out of existence?

The windows and its narrowness make the front feel vertical, but a closer look shows that there are a lot of horizontal elements that break that up. There are two elements that span the entire width, cutting the facade into three sections.

If you look really close you might see some figures here and there. We will see them again later.

Still looking across the street, move to face the next building to the right.

Divisions, part two.

We go from smooth bricks to rough-cut pale stone blocks. The facade is visually busy but shares a trait with the previous building–it too has separate sections.

The ground floor with the large arched openings, the next two floors that are bracketed by Pilasters, the next two floors above them that are not, and the topmost floor with another set of Pilasters.

And, there is a pattern in the windows as well. Can you see it? They almost alternate between being rectangular and arched, but look at the top of each window pair. The second and third floors have large single panes above the pairs. The panes above the fourth floor pairs are divided. The fifth and sixth floors match the second and third but without the upper windows.

Move to face the narrow building to the right.

Divisions, part three.

This time, every single floor is its own section. The first floor is a basic entrance, the second has arches, the third has a bay window, the fourth a large arch, the fifth is relatively plain, and the sixth has a collection of smaller arches.

My favorite section is the large arch with the dark bay windows set behind it. Flat windows would have looked... flat, and the extra depth and shadows are unusual enough to stop the eye.

Look closely at the horizontal detail between the second and third floors. It is another set of critters. We will see them later.

Now look at the very top. They are small and very far away, but it is a pair of Lion heads. Examine them closely, because they have some cousins lurking nearby.

Look at either side of the large arch. I am not sure, but those details might be a pair of Lion heads in profile. What do you think? And these are not the cousins.

Move to face the next building to the right. This is the last time I will say this, I promise.

Divisions, part four.

You know what we are looking for. The first two floors are clad in rough stone blocks. The next three floors work together as tall arched windows. The top floors is another collection of small arched windows.

And, like we so often see, all the good details are towards the top of the building.

Turn to face the building directly behind you. Make sure it is number 635.

Patterns, part one.

Look at the vertical details on the right side of the building. The tall square columns has a decorative section cut out of its corner. Just above, there is an inset panel with three flowers. Above that is a row of three flower stems–well, about one-and-a-half now. At the top is a single flower.

This pattern changes slightly on the upper levels; the flower panel is replaced by another decorative panel.

Now, look at the two center elements. The square section has a simpler corner cut. Just above that is a shallow bracket with a flower ornament. These continue up the building.

Remember these details.

Walk to face the next building to the left, number 637.


Please overlook the beige-ness of this building; if nothing else, it does not distract from the details.

The Pilasters on either side have some seriously leafy capitals. If you look closely you can see some star-shaped flowers poking out from between them. Moving left along the top of the windows, there is some nice cutout details. Just above them–and below the next row of windows–is a Bullnose ledge with even more leaves.

Look at the column to the left. The octagonal base is much taller than normal. The column has a decorative vine growing up it. The capital is unusual. In most cases it would be a round version of the pilaster capitals; otherwise, it might be a classical style. But here we have a plain flared capital with hanging decorations.

And not just any decorations. The corners have ribbons hanging from loops; because this is cast iron, they really are hanging from those loops.

But it is the swags hanging between the ribbons that are the most interesting. Usually they would be leaves or flowers, but these are made of produce. The most easily recognized are the ears of corn.

Perhaps this in a hint about the original business?

Walk to face the building to the immediate left.

Patterns, part two.

Look closely at the vertical elements. Notice something?

They are the same as the building two stops before. They are a different color, and the two center elements on the ground floor are missing the flower details in their brackets, but otherwise it is the same pattern. We will see later that the buildings themselves are not exactly the same.

Why do you think two buildings so close together would share the same ornaments? Maybe the same owner? Maybe they were being built at the same time and ornaments came with a bulk discount?

Continue to the corner and look right.

A river view.

Well, it is more like a peek because the view is constrained by buildings on the right, the floodwall on the left, and I-64 above.

700 Block, North side

38.257248, -85.761564
Check the Map

Turn to your left, and look across the street.


It is probable you have noticed him before, but now is the chance to see him up close. And, you will see him even closer later.
I know, this is not architecture, but there is no way you could miss a multi-story, gold, nude guy so I had to point him out.

Now turn back to the sidewalk and look right. You will see a tall roughly cut stone.

To commemorate.

If you have been to a cemetery this palette of green patina and light gray stone will be familiar. But the text will tell you that this is not a memorial to a dead person.

I will tell you to notice the handwriting-like lettering, all the detailed objects on the sides, and the background border that creates an outline around the entire piece.

But I noticed it because of the colors.

Walk to the corner of the first building to the left of the park.

Floral details.

We are interested in that large light colored bracket above the dark pilaster. Since it is on a corner you can see just how massive the block is compared to the decorative part up front.

And how about that carving? There are swoops and swirls and curves and asbolutely no room for weeds.

Walk until you see the 719 block embedded in the bricks. Then turn around and look across the street back toward the David statue.


What we are interested in is that long line of facades with the dark ground floors and the light upper floors. Do you think it looks like one really long building, or a collection of smaller ones?

Well, all the ground floor areas look mostly alike. One building? The height does not change either. Nor does the number of floors. Most likely one building. And the roof line details are all the same and look connected. No doubt now.

But then...

Notice how the windows are in columns of three, and then in groups of three until the far end where there is a group of four and then a group of two. That just happens with separate buildings. Look closer at the windows.

Some of the windows have flat tops and other curved. The curved ones come in different shapes. The upper windows are arched but arch details change as well–but only in those groups. Separate.


The first group has a vertical stack of blocks that makes this seem like a separate section. The next two groups are identical but vertical blocks are separating them as well. The next two groups are identical but there are no separating blocks. Could they make a double-width section? And, of course, the last two sections must be separate because they have different numbers of windows.

So, one or many? I do not know and it is not really important. Downtowns, like art, should encourage us to think–and we have.

And then there is that brick building to the immediate right–the one with the same windows and groupings and details and height. But that has a brick surface...

Continue down the sidewalk until you see the 727 block.

Inner and outer.

While there is another building on this block that is more visually busy, I think this one deserves more attention. Why?

Well, there is the color. Or really, colors. Look at that blue and then that yellow, and how they pop against the gray of the stone. Notice how, on the upper floors, the pilasters and some of the columns are left gray; notice how the unpainted ones are almost invisible in comparison.

Then there are the shapes. There are cylinders and boxes. Those capitals with the heavy, stylized leaves. The arched openings.

And then there are the patterns. The columns are in different groupings. The center windows are in threes while the flanking windows are in pairs. The pilasters in between have square rising vertically to capitals that intersect with the strong horizontal ledges.

But, none of that is the best reason. Walk to the edge of the sidewalk and look up. Do you see something missing? The windows. Now walk to the other side of those blue columns and look up.

See how the space is really open? The front of this building is another empty facade, like we saw before. But, instead of an empty space there is a building inside a building and it starts at the gray metal wall.

Walk back out to the sidewalk and look across the street.

Main Street.

Look at the two buildings directly across the street. One is shorter and narrower and the other slightly taller and much wider; they share the same color scheme.

These two buildings feel the most traditionally American Main Street. They would not be out of place in "Meet Me in St. Louis", or a Bradbury story. But, I do not know why.

Is it the colors? They are restrained and elegant looking. Is the crisp details? They do not look weathered at all. Is it the groupings of smaller elements into repeated patterns?

Maybe it is a combination of things. In any case, they just make me happy.

What? You have never seen that movie? It is absolutely the best Judy Garland movie ever--singing, dancing, big hair, bigger skirts, and a Boy Next Door.

Turn right and continue to the next building on your right. If you see 741 you have gone one building too far.

Patterns, part three.

This building is part of the science center, but look closely at the vertical details. That is correct--it the same style we have seen twice before! Only this time some of the details are picked out with different colors.

Continue to 745.

More capitals.

Before we leave this block, there is just one more set of capitals. These have a smaller row of leaves at the bottom and what looks like pineapple tops above. Then, because that was not enough there is a necktie of foliage hanging below.

As you walk to the left side of the building, look at each capital. Some have lost some parts, and look bare. These types of decorations were made of small separate parts rather than being cast as one solid piece.

Walk to the corner and look across Eighth Street.

A tower.

Or a turret. It is cylindrical, has a pointy roof, and looks too small to be a room. It seems completely impractical, but I think it would be a lot of fun being up there watching all the busyness below.

800 Block, North side

38.257248, -85.761564
Check the Map

Walk to face the first building on your right and...

Look up!

This is another building that looks good in perspective. The columns, the arches, and the side panels are all converging lines. The turret spoils the symmetry, but it is worth it from other views.

Notice how the ground floor details are polished and smooth, and the upper floors are more textured.

While we are looking, do you notice a pattern in the arches?

Above the ground floor, the number of arches equals the floor number.

Walk to face the first entrance of the building to the left.

Same details.

Notice how the ground floor columns and side details are exactly the same as the previous building. Look up. This building is brick and the second floor does not match. They also have separate street addresses.

Were they connected at one time? Two buildings, one owner?

Turn to look across the street.

Slugger, one.

I almost forgot this. This is a good spot to get the entire bat in a single photo. The building to the right is good for scale.

Walk to 811. Look to your left. Walk to face the wider Pilaster that is between the two entrances.

Fish face 2.

I know. It is actually a leafy detail but it looks fishy to me.

Now look up. Just below the capital you will see another leafy detail that looks in no way fishy. You know what else? These two details are the same exact details we saw before on the 600 block.

The capital, the two brackets, and the flower detail at the top are cast iron. This one has kept most of its details. If you look at the one on the right side of the building you can see the difference.

Walk to face 815.

Red stone.

This puts you directly in front of a Pilaster of brick red stone. Look at the bottom. The stone is disintegrating. It might seem that stone is a very solid and stable material, but some are softer than other and do not handle weathering as well.

Now look up. The upper floors are clad mostly in brick, including the arches. Each Pilaster has a capital that the arches rest on. Look closely at the capital above. What do you see?

Is that a face? It is hard to tell from this angle but it does look like there is a mouth and a nose. We will see this again from across the street.

Walk to face 819.


Look up at the capitals; they are cast iron like the ones before. As you walk down to 823 notice how each capital is in a different state of completeness.

Walk down to 831.Turn to face the street and look at the sidewalk.

Reading the railroad.

There is a short section of railroad track embedded in the sidewalk that runs to the corner. That is interesting and easily overlooked--I only noticed after walking past for five years.

You know what is more interesting? Look closer at the rail that is nearest to the street. There is text describing the fare to ride. It is only fifteen cents... in 1838.

800 Block, South side

38.257556, -85.764760
Check the Map
Continue to the corner. Cross to the south side of Main Street. We will be walking back the way we came.
There are four Points of Interest in this section.

Skip to
700 Block, South side

Continue along Main Street to 816. Look across the street to the red brick building.


Now you can see the entire facade. The Pilasters split into the arches. The bricks above the arches and between the window rows are set at two different depths to create shadow lines.

But, we can see the capital faces better. On the other side of the street they looked a like like Lions, but now we can see that they are Green Men. They have long moustaches and longer eyebrows. They look like they might be angry and yelling, but they could also be laughing out loud.

The next stop is the large baseball bat. It is on the other side of the building to the left.

Slugger, two.

Now you can really see how big the bat is.

Turn around and look at the side of the building on the corner across the street. The one with the arches.

A ghost...

sign. Sometimes these old hand painted wall adverts just do not fade away. It is hard to read it has managed to hang around.

Walk to the corner and turn to face that building.

Better from a distance.

Seeing the facade from below was good, but from here we can really take in all the details. Notice how the columns get taller on the third floor and then skinnier on the fourth.

700 Block, South side

38.257248, -85.761564
Check the Map

Walk past the first building on your right. The next two buildings are the are the ones that have those Main Street details.

Main Street details.

As you walk by keep looking up at the details. The first building is almost carnival-like in its collection--especially the column capitals on the ground floor.

Once you pass the third door stop and look up. This is the divide between the two buildings and there are two side panels running up the front.

Walk to the center section of the very next building and look across the street at the building with all the blue columns.

Dry Goods.

This is the Building-Inside-A-Building from before. It turns out the upper floor does have windows, but you still really do not notice that the other windows are empty.

From here the contrast between the stone and the colors is very noticeable. Like the buildings behind you, it is hard to stop and look at one particular section--everything seems to be calling for attention, even at the very top. Even though it is painted in a single color, the shadows make it easy to see the details.

Turn to your right and walk to face the next building.

Patterns, part four.

Remember those patterns we saw on three previous buildings. Here they are again. Perhaps there was a clearance sale and the builder bought them out.

Continue on to 712 and look across the street.


In contrast to the other buildings we have seen, this building is simply one column of windows repeated eight more times. It is also a bit letterpress-looking because there is nothing projecting outwards, except for the cornice at the top of the building.

Continue to the corner.

David, again.

Now you get a chance to see him up close.

600 Block, South side

38.257248, -85.761564
Check the Map

Cross Seventh Street and stop at the first building on your right.

Corner door and details.

This corner door is unusual and it gives us this square column that might otherwise be the corner of a brick wall.

The branch at the bottom looks like it could be from a cemetery--they are a regular motif. At the top is a great decoration, but I have no idea what to call it. It is not a bracket or a capital. What I can say is the upper part is a stylized Palmette.

Plus, this building stars in "Sheba, Baby" with Pam Grier.

Walk past the next building on your right. Stop and face the one after that; it has roughly cut red stone blocks.

Look up.

We are interested in the pilaster capitals. Why? Flowers. There is a row of flowers at the bottom, flowers at the center of the scrolls, and a large flower at the very center of the capital that might be a Sunflower.

Turn around and look at the taller of the two buildings directly across the street.


Remember those two lion heads we saw earlier? Well, the exact same lion heads are on the tall building.

Turn back to face the buildings on this side of the street. Walk to face the next building on the left: 624.

More lions!

The first pair of lion heads are at the top of this building. It would have been so much better if these lions were on the building to the right so that each pair could glare at the other from across the street...

But, look just above the two arches on the second floor. There is a large detail with a bunch of swirling lines. If you look closer at the very center, you will see another pair of lion heads, this time in profile.

Walk to face the next building on the left: 620.


There are leaves on the pilaster capitals and between the tops of the arches, but the best leaves are on the pill-shaped bases of the columns above. Each one is curvy, but they also curl in and around each other.

Walk to face the next building on the left: 618.


We will start at the ground floor. Just above and on either side of the windows are stylized lion heads. They appear to be formed partly of shells.

On the second floor, on either side of the windows, are a pair of figures.

The most dramatic detail is just above those windows. There is a panel with two lard scrolls. In the center is an animal head. It could be a lion but the ears are too large. It does look a little like a gremlin but that is unlikely. In any case, it does look ferocious.

Walk to face the empty building fronts across the street.

To be or not to be.

Now that you can see these empty facades, do you think they are a good idea? Try to imagine them gone.

There would be a large hole with a barricade along the sidewalk. The space would probably become a parking lot. But with the facades the streetscape is preserved, the space could become a pocket park, or new structures could be built behing the facades.

Continue looking across the street. Walk to face the light colored building. just to the right of the narrow brick one.


We saw a building that felt very Main Street. This building looks like it could have been pulled from a city in Europe, perhaps Paris.

The light colored stone, the subtle block texture, and the eyebrow details above the windows evoke a classic style of architecture. Imperfections in the blocks and the dark weathering marks help to age the facade.

500 Block, South side

38.257248, -85.761564
Check the Map
Cross to the opposite side of Seventh Street.
There are three Points of Interest in this section.

The End

Turn back to your right and continue to the corner. Cross Sixth Street and turn to face the first building on your right.

Leaded glass.

Look above the main windows on the ground floor. While they are not really architecture, these cut-glass windows are an interesting feature. And not exactly common.

Continue walking to 516. The number is above the door.


This is the second building we looked at. Now you can get a closer look at all those small details.

Walk to the next building on the left.


And this the first building we looked at. It may be a contemporary building, but the entrance is seriously worth a look. It looked big from across the street, but now you can get a better sense of its scale.

You are done!

Walk to the intersection and cross to the north side of Main Street. Turn left and walk past the side street and then to the stairs on your right. You are back where you started.


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