If you’ve never been to the Kentucky Derby, add it to your bucket list. It’s one of the coolest and most unique experiences I’ve found in my travels in the U.S. And while you’re in Louisville, make a visit to The Silver Dollar.
Built in 1890, the Silver Dollar’s first life began as the Hook and Ladder Co. No. 3 firehouse. Named for the school board president Albert A. Stoll, it was one of the oldest operating firehouses in the country until it closed down in 2009 and became The Silver Dollar. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is located in the Clifton preservation district of Louisville.
Nextdoor is the Hilltop Theater, which has recently been restored and is looking for a business owner to give it new life. Oh, how I ache to move to Louisville to light up that vintage marquee and make this theater a snazzy speakeasy or hip music venue with craft beer and artisan cocktails. I’m working on finding an investor…
My favorite hipstorical places are those that have done their best to preserve original details from the building’s original purpose. And during this restoration project, Shine Contracting did just that. From the outside, the Silver Dollar’s firehouse facade stays true to its roots, but with a fresh coat of red paint, no doubt. One of the three original fire poles is still in the building, and they’ve preserved the 60-year-old hand-painted map of Louisville used by firefighters for decades. Original call boxes still hang above the booths inside.
Where the kitchen now stands was once a horse stable. Yes, a horse stable. I don’t know about you, but when I think of fire station, I think of ear-piercing sirens and big red trucks. But The Hook and Ladder Co. was around far before firetrucks were fueled by gasoline. In the early days of the firehouse, fires were fought by men arriving by horse and carriage and steam pumper.
The vision behind this charming little barbecue joint was to reimagine the honky tonks of 20th century California, birthed by a subculture of southerners who came to California during the dustbowl. The owners have done a fantastic job of creating a truly unique space and a delicious menu inspired by flavors of the south with modern twists. Try. the. Chicken and waffles. You will not be sorry. I didn’t even get photos of the food. There was no time. It was too delicious.
I visited The Silver Dollar with cousins and friends on a lovely evening in May. We sipped Mint Juleps and Kentucky Mules on the back patio.
We weren’t quite adventurous enough to try the pickled pig’s feet or fried chicken livers on the menu (exactly the two things my dad would have ordered if he were there). But from the beef brisket to the fried catfish, all of my cousins and I enjoyed our meals and the fun, honky tonk atmosphere of The Silver Dollar.
Suggestions for more hipstorical places in Louisville? Email me and help me build my archives!