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Title of Installation:

Rathskeller, Seelbach Hotel

Materials Used:

Rookwood Faience Tiles

Additional Materials Information:

General Description:

"The Seelbach Hilton is equal parts historical landmark and architectural masterpiece. It began as the dream of two Bavarian brothers — Otto and Louis Seelbach — in 1869 when Louis came to Louisville to learn the hotel business. In 1903, after several years of running restaurants and gentleman's clubs, the brothers began construction of a new hotel at the corner of 4th and Walnut Street (now Muhammad Ali), creating a lavish, turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts Baroque hotel. Sparing no expense, they imported marbles from all over the world, bronzes from France, hardwoods from the West Indies and Europe, linens from Ireland, and valuable Turkish and Persian Rugs.

Billed as "the only fireproof hotel in the city," the new Seelbach opened in May of 1905 by offering a 5-hour public inspection and drawing an incredible 25,000 visitors. The hotel was so popular, the Seelbach brothers began a 154-room addition in the fall of that same year.

In 1907, the expansion was completed and included the famous Bavarian-style Rathskeller, decorated with rare Rookwood Pottery. Today the Rathskeller remains the only surviving ensemble of its kind."*


"The 1907 addition to The Seelbach in Louisville, Kentucky, included a German rathskeller made of Rookwood Pottery created in nearby Cincinnati, Ohio, by workers hired from the Art Academy... .

According to "The Seelbach Hotel, A History of Louisville Tradition" by J. Theriot in August, 1988, "In making this expensive type of pottery, decorations were drawn by hand on the clay before firing, making the design part of the ware. After baking, various glazes were added in subsequent firings. The floors, columns and walls of the eighty-foot square room were made of the pottery. The ceiling is fine-tooled leather."

To complement the room, The Seelbach Realty Company's president, Charles C. Vogt, presented the hotel with a $10,000 gift, a Rookwood-faced clock... .

The Rathskeller (ratskellar, a German word meaning restaurant in the town-hall cellar) was built in Bavarian tradition. The Seelbach's Rathskeller menu offers this description: 'As a matter of fact the Rathskeller in every essential, artistic detail, is a reproduction of the underground drinking and council hall of one of the famous castles on the Rhine.'

The graceful arches supported by noble columns give a cathedral-like effect. The archway pillars are encircled with Rookwood pelican frescoes, a symbol of good luck, and the ceiling above the bar is covered with hand-painted 24K gold leaf leather detailing the signs of the zodiac."**


Technical Information (Size,mfg., etc.):

Year Created:


Year Installed, if different:

Does Installation Still Exist?


Location of Installation:

500 Fourth Avenue

Louisville, KY 40202

GPS Coordinates:

Directions to Installation:

Additional Information, Websites, Citations:

See for a recent video featuring the Rathskeller, and for some contemporary photos including closeups of the murals.

See also: "The Use of Tile in the Interior Finish and Decoration of Hotels", in The Architectural Review, Vol. 2, No. 4, April 1913. (Scroll down to, and click on the pdf "file") 

Submitted by and Year:

Submitted by Michael Padwee (tileback101'at', in September 2011.

(W.H. Graves, "The Use of Tile in the Interior Finish and Decoration of Hotels", The Architectural Review, Vol. II, No. 4, April 1913, p. 45)

Photo credit: elycefeliz / / CC BY-NC-ND