The Brown Hotel has been a favorite with locals and visitors since it opened in 1923. An AAA Four Diamond property, the historic landmark hotel is located in the heart of downtown Louisville, next door to the Brown Theater and a block from another city icon: the Palace Theatre.
Evenings before theater performances, The Brown’s glamorous Lobby Bar is loaded with dressed up theater go-ers at cocktail hour—always a bewitching time in the south. But at The Brown, the lobby is truly a space to behold. I felt as if I’d entered the Gilded Age: beautiful hand-painted plaster relief ceilings, a grand piano (a pianist plays pop love songs), antique furniture, marble and brass everywhere, rich mahogany plus sculptures and art—all within the soaringly ornate 2-story columned space. As waiters carrying trays with ice-filled glasses skimmed by, I half expected to see F. Scott Fitzgerald throwing down a shot and/or perhaps scribbling on a cocktail napkin.
Be sure to order a traditional Mint Julep drink while you’re here or the boozy “Old Fashioned”—another Louisville cocktail invention. It’s a worthy choice–especially at The Brown where it’s well made and delicious. Ditto the famous “Hot Brown” (the hotel’s signature sandwich) and a meal you must taste while here. You can order it at the English Grill—the hotel’s opulent restaurant which serves other much more gourmet fare—or at the Lobby Bar like I did. (The history and recipe for it are on the website.)
I found it particularly telling and especially nice that the assistant general manager, Scott Hagan, made the rounds early every evening in the Lobby Bar as well—saying hello to his regulars and welcoming his guests—in true southern gentlemanly style. Attitude and service goals always come from the top–and as a result, the desk clerks at check-in were just as hospitable and warm. They were anxious to please and made me feel as if they were happy I was there.
While The Brown’s lavish lobby was my favorite place to hang out, the 293 rooms within this 16-story hotel are classic and comfy too (but sorry, no pianos). A $4 million recent renovation updated all of the floors; each features a different color scheme along with carpet and window treatment replacement (you can still open the windows which I always appreciate), and some 1,800 pieces of framed art. The colors and fabrics reflect the subdued elegant look of the hotel—keeping the timeless vibe but making it feel stylish, fresh and appealing, not stuck in a dated past.
My room was actually the Muhammad Ali Suite—and I could have easily hosted my own cocktail hour or party within its space. Perhaps Ali did. He dedicated it himself in 2001 during the premiere of the movie “Ali”. (The Muhammad Ali Center/Museum is not far from the hotel; Louisville is Ali’s hometown.) The three-room corner suite with its large living space, dining room, and bedroom also displays memorabilia that was donated by the Ali family—including autographed boxing gloves, books and photos. The master bath (there’s a second full bath as well) has a gorgeous marble Jacuzzi which I did indeed take advantage of while I stayed there. Oh, and did I mention the door to the suite even has a doorbell.
Other of the hotel’s rooms range from Deluxe to Club Luxury rooms and suites (see website for specifics). The Brown’s rooms are a mix of sizes and shapes; this is no cookie-cutter chain hotel. But all rooms do have 32-inch flat screen TVs, pillowtop beds and luxury bedding, special handwoven throws, coffeemakers, and complimentary wi-fi. Other hotel perks include complimentary shuttle service to and from the Louisville International Airport. But do know that if you are driving, there is a fee for parking as it is not part of the hotel property.
Review by Donna Tabbert Long who was hosted by the hotel while researching a story about Louisville, KY. Photos courtesy of professional photographer Michael Ventura.