10 Things You Didn’t Know About Whiskey Row
StoryWood Wearables makes one-of-a-kind two-layer wooden bow ties with wood reclaimed from Whiskey Row, a one-block section on West Main Street in downtown Louisville that once served as home to the city’s bourbon industry. The wood we use in these bow ties is both an authentic piece of Louisville history and an enduring example of what bourbon whiskey means to Kentucky.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Whiskey Row:
- Comprised of the block between 101–133 W. Main Street, Whiskey Row was built between 1852 and 1905. Six of the buildings have cast-iron storefronts, which gives Louisville one of the largest collections of cast-iron facades outside of the SoHo neighborhood of New York City.
- In 1905, the buildings on the 100 block of W. Main contained at least 19 wholesalers, distillers, and other whiskey-related businesses.
- Understandably, Prohibition crippled the whiskey business in 1920. The buildings on Whiskey Row became home to grocers and dry goods merchants, but the whiskey industry returned after Prohibition was repealed.
- By the 1970’s, most of the buildings on Whiskey Row stood empty. Consumers had shown an increased preference for clear liquors, and businesses were beginning to migrate away from downtown Louisville.
- In 2007, Cobalt Ventures purchased the buildings from 105-119 W. Main Street with plans for an office complex with retail and entertainment spaces.
- After the 2008 financial crisis, Cobalt sought to demolish those buildings to avoid mounting tax and insurance bills. The city of Louisville initially approved the demolition, but that incited a massive public outcry over the fate of the beloved set of buildings.
- On May 9, 2011, Mayor Greg Fischer announced plans for an investment group called Main Street Revitalization to purchase five buildings in the middle of the block and begin rehabilitation.
- The buildings continued to stand vacant through 2012 and 2013 as Main Street Revitalization fought against the decades of deterioration, and outside contractors were brought in to help with stabilization. Additional public fundraising helped to pay for those efforts.
- In September 2014, the Brown-Forman Corporation, a major distiller based in Louisville with partial roots in the J. T. S. Brown and Son’s firm (which occupied Whiskey Row starting in 1895), announced plans to open a $30 million urban distillery for its Old Forester brand bourbon at 117 and 119 West Main.
- A fire broke out in the basement 111 West Main on July 15, 2015, just two weeks after construction began. The blaze spread rapidly and left 111, 113, and 115 West Main gutted. Both Brown-Forman and Main Street Revitalization re-committed themselves to the project, and the Old Forester Distillery is scheduled to open in 2018.
A purchase of a StoryWood Bow Tie crafted from the wood of Whiskey Row means that you now own a piece of history—a handcrafted item made of historic building materials whose mere survival reflects several eleventh-hour escapes from being forever lost to the annals of time.