Why the Mellwood Tavern?
In 1885, The Rendezvous Inn opened its doors at the corner of Letterle and Reservoir Avenues. This tavern and inn opened immediately north of the The Mellwood Distillery, opened in 1875 which was selected for its position on the south fork of Beargrass Creek. The Mellwood Distillery was situated on Frankfort Avenue with Reservoir Avenue running between a row off buildings that supported the distillery.
The Rendezvous Inn serviced the neighbors living north and west of the tavern. That area between the modern day Mellwood Tavern and the Ohio River was a heavily concentrated neighborhood until the Flood of 1937.
The man who built the distillery was George Swearingen. The distillery was
an expansion of a still on his family’s land in Bullitt County. As described by Mellwood Distilling v Harper, Swearingen’s small family still was called “Millwood.” When he ordered the sign for his new Louisville distillery (which sat on the border of what is now known as the Butchertown and Clifton neighborhoods), the sign was spelled “Mellwood” instead of “Millwood.” Rather than reorder the sign, Swearingen decided to leave the name. In 1895, Reservoir Avenue was renamed Mellwood Avenue and the name “Mellwood” was forever cemented in Louisville’s history.
Mellwood Distillery was sold by Swearingen in the late 1890’s & it closed in 1918 due to prohibition. After Repeal, it re-opened as General Distilling Company and operated for years making many different labeled bourbons over the years. Most of the buildings that supported the distillery which spanned from Frankfort Avenue to Letterle (now Brownsboro Road) were demolished in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
The Rendezvous Inn has been bought and sold many times and has had many names. Many of the local patrons still remember the bar as The Rush Inn, an institution that was operated by the Rush family in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s and then sold on to the Rand family in the early 1980’s. Prior to that it was also called the Mellwood Inn.
Today, the tavern is still locally owned and operated & it is still a proper Inn. The Rendezvous Room on the second floor is the former location for overnight guests. The Mellwood Tavern has a quaint apartment on the north side of the building where we host friends and out of town guests today. The current Rendezvous Room used to have 4 bedroom units and a communal restroom on second floor of until 2020.
The Mellwood team is proud of the work that it has taken to revive this local gem and we look forward to serving Whiskey By The Drink for a good long time.
The Mellwood Tavern