After one glance at the story of the Seelbach Hotel a distantly familiar phrase crossed my lips, a spirit that seems all but broken in this young cynical twenty first century. “Only in America” I breathlessly whispered to myself. America? Certainly this is a scene from Paris or Berlin right? Nope, not even New York or Chicago. The Seelbach is in downtown Louisville, Kentucky.
Louis Seelbach immigrated from Bavaria in 1869 at age 17 with nothing more than an unbridled ambition for greatness. He first worked for the Galt House hotel and soon opened a bar and grill. He then added a hotel to his wildly successful restaurant. In 1905 Louis and his brother opened not only the most elegant hotel in Louisville but in all of America. Their goal was to bring old world European luxury to America. The result is just as stunning today as it must have been to modest Louisville 100 years ago. So where did the wet blanket draped over this American dream-inspired spirit come from? And where did our immigrant-centered society which pledged oath to American exceptionalism turn to one of mediocrity and despair?