Shamrocks and Shillelaghs! A Bit of History on the Louisville St. Patrick’s Day Parade

With March well underway, one of my favorite holidays comes to mind--St. Patrick’s Day. As far as I know I’m not Irish, but I’m fairly sure that is of no consequence with regard to the celebration of the rich traditions of the Irish community in Louisville, KY. The celebration of St. Patrick’s Day guarantees fun to be had by all, and this year will be no exception.  For the past few years I have been able to experience the festivities of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade held in the highlands. This parade, (as well as the Limerick Neighborhood in Louisville) has a rich history which I was able to explore through an article in “Welcome to Greater Louisville Magazine” printed in March of 1974. I found this while searching through the Filson Library’s collection of historical files in the Limerick Louisville Neighborhoods file. The article, entitled “A Great Day for the Irish-St. Patrick’s Day Parade-March 16” was written by Eddie Hogsdon, and outlines a fairly detailed history of the old Irish Community of Louisville. In March of 1974 the mayor of Louisville, Harvey I. Sloane and his wife Kathy lived in the Limerick neighborhood. According to Hogsdon, Kathy represented the 4th generation of an Irish family from County Mayo, Ireland and Mayor Sloane came from a Scottish family from County Tyrone, Ireland. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade had been dormant for about 60 years before it made its return in 1974 running from 5th and St. Catherine Streets to Main Street. It stands to be reasoned that Mayor Sloane’s and his wife’s Irish heritage played a significant role in the revival of the parade and the subsequent celebrations.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parades were began by the Irish community in Louisville shortly following the Civil War and continued until the early 1920s. These early parades featured marchers who assembled in front of St. Louis Bertrand Catholic Church on Sixth Street and marched to Broadway and back. Immediately following these parades Hogsdon notes that the attendees partook in “a glorified beer garden” across town at Phoenix Hill Park. Hogsdon’s article does not mention the reason for the parade’s 60 year absence, however; one could surmise that the Great Depression of the 1930s played a role at least in its initial demise.

The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade continues to be a highly celebrated event in Louisville, although; it now proceeds from Broadway and Baxter Ave. down to Baxter and Bardstown Road. The Ancient Order of the Hibernians plan to put on another lively St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year on Saturday, March 10th.   Finally, the aforementioned article by Hogsdon can be found in the historical files within the Filson Historical Society Library.

Filson Historical

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