Lexington Herald Leader, October 22, 2000
Life Imitates Gatsby: Louisville's Seelbach Hilton Hotel will be the scene of a grand reception Friday, after the wedding of former Miss America Heather Renee French of Maysville and Lt. Gov. Steve Henry of Louisville.

But perhaps the most famous wedding occasion at the hotel is one that took place in fiction.

It occurred in F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby (1925), widely regarded as one of the greatest American novels.

In the story, Tom Buchanan comes to Louisville in 1919 to marry Daisy Fay. Daisy was 18 and, in Fitzgerald's words, was "by far the most popular of all the young girls in Louisville."

Here's Fitzgerald's reference to the wedding in the novel's chapter 4:

"In June she married Tom Buchanan of Chicago with more pomp and circumstance than Louisville ever knew before. He came down with a hundred people in four private cars and hired a whole floor of the Seelbach Hotel, and the day before the wedding he gave her a string of pearls valued at three hundred and fifty thousand dollars."

In older editions of the novel, Fitzgerald called the hotel the Muhlbach, although no one has ever doubted that he had in mind the splendorous, Beaux Art-style landmark at the southwest corner of Fourth Street and Muhammad Ali Boulevard.

However, in the "authorized text" of The Great Gatsby, edited by scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli and published in 1992, the hotel is called the Seelbach, in keeping with what Bruccoli judged to be Fitzgerald's original intent.

In retrospect, it seems a little amazing that Fitzgerald remembered the hotel. Once upon a visit there, he passed out drunk on the Seelbach's ballroom floor.

The Seelbach, as most people have always called it, was built by two German immigrant brothers, Louis and Otto Seelbach, for $950,000. It was completed in 1905.

Financial trouble forced the closing of the hotel in 1975. In 1978, Louisville native Roger Davis and construction company president Gil Whittenberg obtained $20 million in financing to restore the hotel to its old glory.

Now, the Seelbach is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1983, the Preferred Hotels Association ranked it as one of the world's 40 best hotels.

For more information, consult The Encyclopedia of Louisville, which will be published in November by the University Press of Kentucky.

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