History of The Henry Clay in downtown Louisville


LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Henry Clay in downtown Louisville is the site of Tuesday’s Republican Gubernatorial Debate, but even before tonight it has a rich history.  

It was built nearly 100 years ago—and at the time it was as good as it gets. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Henry Clay in downtown Louisville was built in 1924 as an Elks Lodge

  • From 1928 to 1963, it was an upscale hotel drawing thousands of visitors to the city

  • From 1963 to 1986, it served as a YWCA

  • It sat empty from 1986 to 2005, when The Weyland Group bought it and restored it to its original beauty

Louisville historian Tom Owen described it as an “ornate, no expenses barred building.”

“Elegance inside and outside. It was a beautiful wonder,” Owen added.

Located at the intersection of South 3rd and Chestnut Street, it was constructed in 1924 as an upscale Elks Lodge. In 1928, it was converted into a fancy hotel and hosted visitors for the next 35 years.

“That hotel did well during World War II and through the 50s, but by 1963, with the suburbanization sprawl, downtown entered into a time of decline,” Owen explained. “But in its heyday, The Henry Clay was really a destination.”

When the hotel failed in the 1960s, the building became a YWCA, but eventually that didn’t work either. By 1986 it stood empty.

Owens laments that for 18 years, it was essentially derelict.

“In fact, the city ended up owning it and they sought developer after developer after developer,” he said.

But by 2005, with the beginning of a downtown renaissance, Owen said the Weyland Group took over the building, restoring it to its “original grandeur.”

For the last two decades, it’s been the home to apartments and a meeting and banquet space, but its historical significance goes back to what it was almost a century ago. Owens says “it is a representative of a season of downtown Louisville history.”

And Tuesday night’s Republican debate for governor adds another chapter to the Henry Clay’s never-ending story.