In the Kentucky bourbon industry's 19th century heyday, when riverboats were still the primary way whiskey was shipped, Louisville had a singular importance. Louisville is where it is because that is the only place where the Ohio River is not navigable. Because of that accident of nature, Louisville developed as the region's primary transportation and distribution hub. Just about everything had to come off the boats there, at least temporarily, at least until they dug the channel around the Falls of the Ohio and built the locks.
This was still true in the Kentucky whiskey industry's late 19th century prime, even as the railroads were growing in importance. No matter where their distilleries were, virtually every Kentucky whiskey producer, rectifier, and dealer had a presence on Main Street in Louisville. They called it Whiskey Row. They were there because they needed easy access to the River and to each other.
Main Street was the first street at the top of the river's south bank, running parallel to it. Many businesses on the north side of Main Street built ramps so they could roll barrels of whiskey from their back doors straight down the bank to the river and waiting paddle wheel steamers.
Most of the buildings along Main Street had pre-fabricated cast iron facades, cast in Pittsburgh and floated down the Ohio on barges to be assembled on site. This was a new building technology at the time. Main Street in Louisville has the largest concentration of cast iron facades outside of New York City.
Several blocks at the western end of Louisville's Whiskey Row were preserved years ago but this is the last chance to preserve a long-neglected but equally historic block on the Row's eastern end, which also just happens to be one block from the new downtown arena.
Here is a good, short article about it from Preservation Magazine. Here is a lengthy op-ed piece in the Courier-Journal by Rachel M. Kennedy, Executive Director of Preservation Kentucky.