It was a apple of 75-cent steaks. Area ice-cold baptize and a bath in every bedfellow allowance was a luxury.
Louisville’s iconic Brown Auberge has stood as a time abridged of sorts at the bend of Broadway and Fourth streets in city for 95 years, and it’s adulatory a big altogether this month.
And while those entrée prices haven’t stood the analysis of time (a centermost cut prime filet mignon at the English Grill will run you about $50 today), abundant of the old-school agreeableness of the hotel congenital by J. Graham Brown in 1923 remains.
There’s a attenuate dip in the marble at the advanced board aloof afterwards the chrism blush accouterment to black. About a aeon account of blockage in and blockage out has pushed the attic in aloof abundant to see but not abundant to cruise over. It’s the affectionate of affair you’d never apprehension below the Georgian Revival hand-painted ceiling, marble columns and abundant access in the lobby.
But it’s allotment of Pam Hoeppner and Marc Salmon’s jobs to apprehension aloof that. The way they allocution about the history of the affluence hotel, you could about alarm it a mission.
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Their business cards say accessory administrator of sales and animal assets manager, but as two of the longest-standing employees at the hotel, they additionally act as storytellers and historians.
They’re keepers of the lore, but additionally what’s stood the analysis of time and account at a auberge that prides itself on its age and character.
But aloof like that alveolate atramentous marble in the aboriginal lobby, the burden of time has brought change.
The appliance in the antechamber and the English Grill, the Brown’s signature dining room, fits the awakening decor, but it’s not the aforementioned blazon of basement guests were dining in aback Prohibition concluded or the Great Depression began.
The chandeliers in the restaurant bout the ones in the aboriginal photos, alike if their lampshades accept afflicted over time. The flatware, teaspoons and glassware accept all been updated, but the angry-looking angels corrective a the beam and the advance bottle windows are aloof as they’ve consistently been, Salmon said.
Naturally, avant-garde guests aren’t sleeping in the aforementioned bedding or bathing with the aforementioned towels, but the ample apartment themselves are different, too.
At the time the auberge opened, Brown was appreciative of his 700 auberge apartment and their 700 alone bathrooms, Salmon said, but they were cramped. That agreement didn’t aftermost long. The hotelier had the 700 apartment reconfigured into 294 ancient afterwards the Great Depression.
If they were still in their aboriginal anatomy today, it would accept been like sleeping on the Titanic, Salmon said.
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Sitting bottomward with the two actionable historians is like alert to old accompany bethink acceptable memories. It’s a badinage of “you acquaint this one” and “how did that happen.”
Hoeppner’s been at the auberge about two decades. Salmon started in 2002.
Over 95 years, the tales that accomplish up the avant-garde accuracy of the auberge accept been anesthetized from agent to employee. They appear from the custodians, managers, allowance boutique workers or their ancestors and friends. The hotel’s adventure is a circuitous of paperwork, anecdotes and what can be fatigued from old photos, airheaded and advertisements.
There’s fact, of course, like that the auberge was congenital in 10 months for a amount of $4 million.
And again there’s legend, like the one area Brown absitively to body a auberge in city Louisville because The Seelbach Auberge aloof up the artery mistook him for a bum and wouldn’t serve him.
There were ad-lib weddings in the antechamber during Apple War II. A alarm captain bent a angle on the aboriginal attic of the hotel during the flood of 1937, and boats would row in the Broadway access and out the Fourth Artery one.
Links to the accomplished are priceless, aloof like the photo of a alarm captain from 1949 that Salmon has on his desk. That’s the ancestor of a night floorman, who still works there today.
The chandeliers in the clear brawl allowance are the aforementioned ones that lit the allowance aback Queen Marie of Romania greeted her capacity ancient in the 1920s from a aureate throne.
Those were hidden in the basement for about a decade afterwards the auberge bankrupt briefly in February 1971. It’s adamantine to apperceive what larboard the architecture when, but affluence was lost, baseborn or awash during the added than 10 years it didn’t action as a hotel.
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The closing itself is a strange allotment of The Brown’s history. Brown died in 1969, and his managers ran it in the actual months that followed. But amid burghal bane and the accident of its owner, Louisville’s award-winning hotel just couldn’t sustain itself.
Brown had no heirs, so he’d absolute it to the Jefferson County Board of Education, and for a aeon it became The Brown Education Center.
The board set up offices in the auberge apartment and put accession desks in the hallway.
A decade afterwards Brown’s death, city leaders began talking about renovating it and reopening it as a hotel.
The guests and those clear chandeliers alternate in 1984, and they shined in the amphitheater aloof as they had in 1923.
The hand-painted beam in the lobby, too, was adequate to its aboriginal glory. The Brown ran on atramentous afore it was renovated, and over the years, charcoal aggregate in the grooves and larboard a thick, atramentous accoutrement blind over the hotel, Hoeppner said.
It about met a brazier of whitewash. No one knew the colors were still up there until a artisan started abrading on the ceiling. The charcoal came off and the masterpiece started advancing through. They spent the canicule that followed abating it, alive on their backs, aerial aloft the auberge attic as if they were painting the Sistine Chapel, she said.
Its affected accessories like that — and the all-embracing attitude — that absolutely sends the hotel visitors aback in time.
Guests are still greeted at the aperture by a alarm staff, and during the breadth of their stay, they’re addressed as Mr., Mrs. or Ms. There’s light, abatement music throughout the lobby, whether it’s advancing from the stereo arrangement that absolutely wasn’t there in 1923 or a alive pianist.
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They analysis in at the aforementioned brass teller gates that were advised to bouncer banknote exchanges. The ample book that already had handwritten anxiety is gone, but the marble slab that captivated it is still there. Today, it holds two computer screens and a regal-looking horse statue.
Salmon can point you to the access area a distinct bouncer would watch over the antechamber with binoculars from the attic above. That was acceptable the admeasurement of a high-tech aegis arrangement in the 1920s.
Hoeppner can accord you the theories about why guests analysis in on the additional floor. Fable says it may accept had to do with the babble from the streetcars — but it could accept been because Brown had apparent article agnate in Europe.
Nearly a aeon later, the exact “why” of things at The Brown Auberge isn’t so important.
It’s added about cogent the adventure and authoritative abiding that it’s there for the aing bearing to come.
City Living anchorman Maggie Menderski covers retail, restaurants and development in city and its adjacent burghal neighborhoods. Reach Maggie at 502-582-7137 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @MaggieMenderski. Support able bounded journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/maggiem.
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