The history of Louisville spans hundreds of years, and has been influenced by the area's unique geography and location. In the area that is now Louisville, several American Indian tribes lived, hunted and thrived. These included the Cherokee, Chicaswa, Mosopelea, Yuchi and Shawnee. Shawnee communities were the most predominant in the area, but as the westward expansion of Europeans accelerated they were forced to move south and west. The first European settlement in the vicinity of modern-day Louisville was led by in 1778 by Col. George Rogers Clark. Today, Clark is recognized as the founder of Louisville, and several landmarks are named after him.
The city's early growth can be attributed to river boat commerce that had to be unloaded and moved downriver before reaching the Falls of Ohio. By 1828, the population had swelled to 7,000 and Louisville became an incorporated city. As shipping and cargo industries grew through the expansion of river and rail routes, so did the city. Today, Louisville has become a major center for health care and medical sciences industries. Advancements in heart and hand surgery and research in cancer treatment have been facilitated with a new 88 million dollar rehabilitation center and a health sciences research that was built in partnership with the University of Louisville. The city's economic prosperity can also be attributed to major corporations and organizations like the Brown-Forman Corporation (Fortune 1000), Hillerich & Bradsby (known for Louisville Slugger baseball bats), Hilliard Lyons, Humana, Kindred Healthcare Inc., and Norton Healthcare. Papa John's Pizza and Yum! Brands, Inc.
Louisville is home to a number of world-famous annual cultural events including the Kentucky Derby. Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display in the nation starts the two-week series of events thatprecede the race. Other activities include the Pegasus Parade, The Great Steamboat Race, Great Balloon Race and a marathon and are just a few of the approximate 70 events connected with the Derby. Other Louisville events throughout the year include the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival (commonly called Shakespeare in the Park), the Kentucky State Fair, the Adam Matthews Balloon Festival, the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, and the St. James Court Art Show in Old Louisville - this show is the second most attended event next to the Derby.
The West Main District in downtown Louisville features what is locally known as "Museum Row". These include the Frazier International History Museum, the Speed Art Museum and the Muhammad Ali Center, which opened November 2005 featuring Muhammad Ali's boxing memorabilia. Located adjacent to the University of Louisville, the museum features over 12,000 pieces of art in its permanent collection and hosts regular temporary exhibitions. Louisville also has several historical properties and items of interest in the area, including the Belle of Louisville and Fort Knox, which is home to the U.S. Bullion Depository and the Patton Museum of Cavalry and Armor. Rounding out this list are the Historic Locust Grove farm, former home of Louisville Founder George Rogers Clark; the Farmington Historic Home, home of the famous Speed family; the Farnsley-Moremen Landing; the restored Union Station; and the Waverly Hills Sanatorium- a hospital built in the early 20th century to accommodate tuberculosis patients- now listed as one of the nation's most haunted houses.