The Roaring 20s, Prohibition & The Rathskeller

Eleanor R.

SHARE

historic Seelbach Great Gatsby hotel

The 2019 Reset Conference attendees will be immersed in more than a century of history as we take over the renowned Seelbach Hilton Hotel.

The hotel was originally opened in 1903 by Otto and Louis Seelbach, who were Bavarian brothers with a dream of owning their own hotel. The imported goods from all over the world to fashion and decorate the hotel — marble, wood, linens, rugs, and metals. Upon entering the hotel, you notice right away that the ornate decor has been preserved over the years. Rich gold accents, white marble, deep wood tones, and art deco designs are evident in every inch of the building.

The Rathskeller ballroom in the basement is decorated with Rookwood pottery and is unlike any other place in the world.  High arched ceilings, earthen tones from the pottery, and hundreds of pelican statues make this room truly one of a kind. Tickets are still available for our first ever gala, which will be a Roaring 20s themed party, featured a three-course plated meal, a DJ & dancing, and a cash bar. The gala will be Saturday night of the conference, and tickets are $65.

Prohibition

From 1920 through 1933, the United States went through a time of Prohibition, a ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. But that didn’t stop the mobsters in many cities, including Louisville. Notorious gangsters like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Dutch Schultz, and George Remus (who is rumored to be the inspiration behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby character in The Great Gatsby) came to large cities to get bootlegged liquor. In January of 1920 it became illegal to sell “intoxication beverages” with .5% alcohol or more. The now underground liquor trade was then controlled by bootleggers and racketeers and distributed through speakesies and the like.

Rathskeller ballroom at Seelbach hotel

Credit: Seelbach Hilton hotel

Al Capone

Al Capone used to frequent the Seelbach back in those days and he even had a private room in the Oakroom restaurant inside the hotel. This little alcove off the main dining area has a window and a huge mirror. The legend is that Capone wanted to be able to watch his back in case the law or his enemies were to enter the room. There is also a series of underground tunnels in Louisville, including two tunnels which Larry your Seelbach concierge and historianCapone would use when in need of a quick escape like during a police raid.  The Seelbach’s historian and concierge Larry Johnson (pictured right) also said that there used to be a button at the front desk that the staff would push if law enforcement arrived, and that would alert Capone in the Oakroom that he needed to get out of there.

Flapper Girls

When women gained the right to vote in 1920, it afforded many more freedoms than before. Many women adopted the flapper persona — wearing flapper dresses, drinking, smoking, attending wild parties, and acting more “unladylike” as other women of the time. Radios and radio stations became more widespread, leading to popular music reaching throughout most of the United States. Automobiles were also becoming a necessity, and you could buy a Ford Model T for just $264!

We hope that you’ll take some time while in Louisville to appreciate the history that will surround you at every turn in this elegant hotel. Larry the concierge will be on the TV when you first turn it on, and you can learn so much just from watching him or talking with him for even a few minutes. He is super friendly and loves to talk about the hotel — he’s happy to answer your questions!

 

Eleanor R.
Reply...