Louisville was a major 19th century iron manufacturing center, with over 12 foundries operating by 1880. Cast iron from Louisville’s foundries can still be found in many places including New Orlean’s French Quarter. Louisville’s West Main Street Historic District is a living museum of flamboyantly designed 19th century ornamental ironwork, including window caps, cornices, railings, and entire building fronts.
This extravagance of design extended to one of the most mundane industrial age objects, the round covers fitted over sidewalk coal chute homes. The coal furnaces that made the chutes a necessity have disappeared, but distinctive coalhole covers remain a physical reminder of West Main Street’s past. Most covers were manufactured nearby at major foundries like Snead & Company, Merz Architectural Iron, Grainger & Company, and Louisville Ornamental Ironworks.
Some of the historic coalhole covers displayed in front of 730 W. Main St. date from as far back as 1855. The coalhole cover is only one of many design elements that make West Main Street one of America’s most unique and distinctive historic districts.