The Latest News on Main Street

Preservation in Downtown: a Response to Recent Events

As our historic center, the character of Downtown defines much about our community, our heritage, and our values.  Preservation Louisville believes the historic structures in our Downtown are of great significance to both our past and future, and deserve to be protected.   Over the years multiple efforts have been made to identify historic structures in Downtown and to find tools that encourage their preservation and renewal.  Much has been accomplished, but still we see situations like Whiskey Row, and the current Elmo’s demolition, which undermine these previous efforts and defy existing regulations.

The City has undertaken at least four separate efforts at developing the definitive list of structures worthy of preservation, beginning with a Multiple Resource Nomination to the National Register in 1974 through, most recently, a 2006 survey of the Downtown area.   Ordinances and regulations have been written and adopted which should protect Downtown’s historic character.  See an example: http://www.louisvilleky.gov/NR/rdonlyres/CF24E18A-A999-472E-8F4C-76DB2A915B83/0/DDROGuidelinesRevised2009.pdf

It’s not working! 

Preservation Louisville calls upon Metro government to conduct a public forum to review historic building surveys that have been undertaken, explain current ordinances, and to present viable options for utilizing and strengthening these tools to preserve historic buildings Downtown.  Recent events demand a better method of dealing with these questions.  The public has raised valid issues.  It is time for Metro to respond and encourage a public dialogue about all the tools in the toolbox that are available to address citizen’s concerns.

What can you do?

If you have any questions or concerns about Preservation or the recent events in downtown, please contact:


"The Elmo's Building"
Historic Iron Quarter


Four preservation organizations (PLI, NPP, LHL, and OPEN) were allowed to intervene in the Whiskey Row lawsuit by Judge Heyburn.  On May 14, 2011, the preservation groups were informed by their attorney that the City agreement, announced by the Mayor, included a provision to allow the demolition of 306-10 East Main St.  This provision was decried as an unnecessary loss that had nothing to do with, and was unrelated to, the Whiskey Row buildings.  Despite the regrettable nature of this provision, no one wished to do anything that might place the Whiskey Row block in further jeopardy.  The settlement agreement had been negotiated between the County Attorney's Office and the attorneys for Todd Blue, with no other input.  Steve Porter, the attorney for the four interveners, was only informed after the deal had been struck and announced.  A copy of the agreement was finally obtained only through an Open Records request.

These buildings appear to be in good condition and were recently improved and in use.  There is no urgent reason for demolition - not building condition, and not a pending development waiting to take their place.  They will simply become another parking lot in between two existing lots on East Main Street.  Parking lots are emblematic as a failure of development.

Clearly the most important component of the City/ Blue agreement has been the protections provided to the 100 block of West Main Street, which means so much to the history and character of this city.  It is extremely unfortunate that this achievement has occurred at the expense of 306-10 East Main.  This collateral damage is an unnecessary side effect of saving Whiskey Row.  But such is the nature of the agreement negotiated by the City.  West Main will be redeveloped, but on East Main, another failure of development will be on display.

Whiskey Row Deal Update!

"Whiskey Row"
Historic Iron Quarter


Many of you may have already heard the exciting announcement on 5.9.11 about the proposed solution to the Whiskey Row crisis.  For those who may have missed the press coverage, please follow the link below to read the latest from the Courier-Journal.  

 Courier Journal  

Although there are still many details to resolve in the next sixty days, 5.9.11 marked a significant turning point and a victory for the citizens, like yourself, who stood up to protect the history and character of this community. Preservation Louisville, Inc. was pleased and proud to be one of the leaders of this effort, but we wanted you to know that we could not have succeeded without your support. 

Since an agreement which could have potentially led to the demolition of seven of these historic buildings was announced at the end of January, staff has devoted over 700 hours to discussions throughout the community in an effort to find a solution.  Our legal team donated over $11,000 of service in mounting a defense strategy that ultimately won the participation of the adjacent property owners of 121 West Main and the approval of a Federal Court judge to allow our involvement in the settlement agreement.   Board members spent countless hours assisting in these efforts.  All in all these costs to Preservation Louisville totaled over $6,000, but it was money well spent to ensure the protection of our heritage. 

On behalf of our board of directors, the other participants in our legal intervention, and all of the citizens who care about preservation in Louisville, I wanted to thank you for your generous support in helping to make this day possible.    

Please take a few moments to thank our Mayor and the Metro Council for their commitment to preserving our city's heritage.  Please click the links below to email the Mayor and thank him and his team for their dedication to protecting our civic assets.  Then email the entire Metro Council and encourage them to approve the $1.5 million dollars that the Mayor has asked to be dedicated to this project.   

 Mayor Fischer 


Metro Council 

Thank you for your continued support of Preservation Louisville and our work throughout the Metro area!  Please call or email should you have any questions.


Marianne Zickuhr
Executive Director
Preservation Louisville


Past Updates:


Property Owner and Preservation Groups
allowed to enter the Whiskey Row Law suit!

Click here to read Federal Judge John Heyburn's order

Click here to read the Courier Journal's article


Contact the Mayor and your Metro Council representative today to express your dismay about the Whiskey Row deal.    

The future of historic preservation
in Louisville is at stake!

On January 31, Mayor Greg Fischer announced a settlement with developer Todd Blue that allows for demolition of buildings along historic Whiskey Row from 105 to 119 West Main.  All of these buildings are designated local Landmarks and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.


This decision sets a bad precedent for the city of Louisville, bypassing the city's own ordinances passed by Metro Council in favor of a backroom deal with a developer who has allowed these buildings to deteriorate for several years.  In fact, the agreement proposes to commit $450,000 of taxpayer money and would allow him to replace these important buildings with a surface parking lot for up to five years.


The agreement ignores the procedures established by ordinance which requires approval of the Landmarks Commission and the Waterfront Review Overlay District in open meetings before demolition of Landmarked properties can proceed.  Disregarding these ordinances sends a chilling message to residents of historic districts and neighborhoods all across the city, who have worked within the system for decades to preserve historic structures and other buildings and to maintain neighborhood character. 


Several nonprofit advocacy organizations have been working publicly and behind the scenes to explore legal avenues, and all possible options to stop this wholesale destruction of Whiskey Row from happening are being pursuedThese organizations include Preservation Louisville, Neighborhood Planning and Preservation, O.P.E.N. Louisville, Preservation Kentucky and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.


We urge you to act now to let the Mayor's office and your Metro Council representative know the public does not support the settlement between the city and Todd Blue which if executed will allow the demolition of seven historic Whiskey Row buildings!   

Not sure what to say?  Help us reinforce these message points:

  • Those of us interested in the welfare of our community deplore the settlement reached between the city and Todd Blue to demolish the Whiskey Row buildings from 105 to 119 West Main, and the way in which this agreement transpired, without public input and contrary to the transparency Mayor Fischer promised during his campaign.             
  • This agreement allows a block of architecturally and historically significant buildings to be demolished for no reason.  No details for a project, including financing and design, have been submitted to the city and no tenants have been identified.  In reality, the developer is being given  permission to destroy an important part of our community's history with no viable project planned.
  • This agreement ignores the tangible economic benefits that preservation can bring to communities.  Similar buildings along West Main from 6th to 9th streets have resulted in a quarter of a billion dollars reinvested in the community in the last 15 yearsThis deal effectively eliminates the same opportunity for a similar level of redevelopment in this block.  
  • Preservation of these buildings has widespread public support.  If these buildings can be demolished by a backroom deal, then no building in Louisville is safe from the wrecking ball.


Act now to ensure the future of historic landmarks and open public process in Louisville!


By email, phone, mail or facebook:

Contact Mayor Greg Fischer:      


CLICK HERE to email Mayor Greg Fischer   


Find us on Facebook 


Contact your Metro Council representative: 


CLICK HERE to email the Metro Council 


Contact Metro Call:


CLICK HERE to email Metro Call

Express your views on this matter.  Let them know that historic preservation is a valued strategy that is important to a city's economic, social and cultural well-being. 


In person:

Attend and sign up to speak at an upcoming Metro Council meeting (6 p.m. 2nd and 4th Thursdays).  Upcoming meetings are February 24, March 10 and March 24.


Voice your concern about this project and the proposed investment of $450,000 of public money during Mayor Fischer Citizen Budget Hearings:   

·       7:30 p.m. February 22, Southwest Government Center

·       1 p.m. February 28, Shawnee Golf Course

·       1 p.m. March 1,  Metro Hall (Old Courthouse)

·       7 p.m. March 8, East Government Center

·       1 p.m. March 12, Central Government Center


Join the Mayor from 6 to 8 p.m. March 14 at Carter Elementary, the first in a series of neighborhood meetings for free-flowing discussion of city issues.


Contact the media:

Write a letter to the editor:    


CLICK HERE to submit a letter to the Courier-Journal  


CLICK HERE to submit a letter to Business First 


CLICK HERE to submit a letter to the LEO 


Follow the news on the Save Whiskey Row facebook page:



Find us on Facebook  




  • As preservation groups and others argued last summer when these buildings were given Landmark status, Metro Louisville's Landmark Ordinance provides a process that owners may use if they feel a building must be demolished.  The agreement between the city and developer Todd Blue subverts that process as well as protection provisions of the Waterfront Review Overlay District.   
  • Financial incentives are available to assist Todd Blue preserve these buildings.  Because this block is listed in the National Register, these buildings are eligible to receive state and federal historic preservation tax incentives for all certified rehabilitation work.   
  • Mr. Blue should be encouraged by the Mayor to sell these buildings at a reasonable cost to a developer who could rehabilitate them to serve a useful purpose.  Good examples can be found on the same block with projects such as Whiskey Row Lofts, Patrick O'Shea's Irish Bar, and Doc Crow's Southern Smokehouse and Raw Bar.   
  • Recently, Mayor Fischer publicly celebrated the success of the Whiskey Row Lofts and other projects at the west end of the block.  It is easy to see what tax incentives, city loan programs and a creative developer could do to return these historic buildings to a place of pride along Main Street.  It is a shame that Mr. Blue does not understand this potential.   
  • The Mayor should follow the city's own laws in determining the fate of these buildings, which should be evaluated for demolition by the Louisville Landmarks Commission and the Waterfront Development Corporation (WDC).  Following these city processes will help establish what portions of the buildings can be saved.   
  • Legally, these ordinances can only be ignored if there is an emergency.  But prior to reaching this agreement with Mr. Blue, the city had consistently taken the position that the buildings were not in danger of collapse.  If there is new evidence that they pose an immediate danger, the Mayor and the city should share this information with the public.
  • During the Landmark process, more than 1,000 people in this community signed petitions asking that there be public dialogue about the future of these buildings.  This settlement precludes public involvement in their future.   
  • Whatever their condition, deterioration of these buildings is the responsibility of their owner.  Mr.  Blue has owned these buildings since 2007 and has failed to maintain them.  His company, Cobalt Ventures, has been cited 23 times by the city of Louisville for code violations, 6 of which are still outstanding.  The proposed agreement rewards this neglect.   
  • The Waterfront Development Corporation has included this block of buildings in its 20-year master plan for redevelopment.  As a member of this board prior to his election, and given the success of other redevelopment projects in similar cast-iron buildings along Main Street, the Mayor should be well aware that these buildings have great potential to add value to our community.   
  • If this agreement stands, it would be the first time in the city's history that designated local Landmarks would be demolished with the city's blessing and in violation of the city's own established policy. 
  • Preservationists have been warning the city for many years that the buildings along the east end of Whiskey Row were being neglected.  All of the buildings along the block were first identified as historic resources during a comprehensive survey of downtown Louisville's central business district in 1976.  Some of the structures have been included on "Louisville's Most Endangered" lists for more than two decades, pre-dating the existence of Preservation Louisville, which named several Whiskey Row buildings to its first "most endangered" list in 2009. 
  • Mr. Blue has been approached by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Kentucky Heritage Council/State Historic Preservation Office and other groups with ideas regarding technical and financial incentives to preserve these buildings.  He has declined to pursue these sources.

February 1, 2011

Statement about the agreement between the city of Louisville and developer Todd Blue allowing for the demolition of buildings along historic Whiskey Row

Preservation Louisville is extremely disappointed to learn that the city of Louisville has apparently come to an agreement with developer Todd Blue which would allow him to demolish seven buildings on Louisville's historic Whiskey Row, all of which are local landmarks and all of which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Preservation Louisville is preparing to take whatever action is possible to protect our heritage. However, until the city's agreement is provided to the public, it is not clear what that action might be.
As recently as last June, the city's staff reported that these buildings could be saved. If there was new information on the buildings' condition, it has not been shared with the public. Whatever their condition, it is obvious that their deterioration is the responsibility of their owner. Preservationists have been warning the city for many years that they were being neglected. The proposed agreement appears to reward this neglect.
The buildings along Whiskey Row from 101 to 119 West Main were first identified as historic resources during a comprehensive survey of downtown Louisville's central business district in 1976. The Waterfront Development Corporation has included them in its 20-year master plan for redevelopment. In fact, Waterfront Development Corporation President David Karem observed in this morning's Courier-Journal, that he "envisioned the preservation of (the buildings) as a very important historic component of the waterfront."
These buildings have been included on "Louisville's Most Endangered" lists for more than two decades, pre-dating the existence of Preservation Louisville, which named them to its first "most endangered" list in 2009.
As of this morning we still have not seen the agreed order reached between the city and Cobalt Ventures, so until that time we still don't understand all the ramifications for this site. Last summer during the Landmark process more than 1,000 people in this community signed petitions asking that there be public dialogue about the future of the buildings along Whiskey Row. This settlement precludes public involvement in their future and we are shocked by this turn of events.


Metro Landmarks Commission designated 105-121 West Main Street Local Landmarks

Preservation Louisville is proud to announce that on Monday, June 28th after a public hearing the Metro Landmarks Commission voted to make the properties at 105-121 West Main Street Local Landmarks.

Due to the location and Local Landmark status, the next step in the process for the future of the buildings will be for the owner or developer of these properties to submit a proposal or plans for the future projects they would like to complete. Any proposed project or plan for these properties will have to be reviewed by two Metro organizations, the Landmarks Commission and the Waterfront Review Overlay.

It is a great victory for the Louisville community that these buildings have been designated Local Landmarks, but we must remember that this act was just the beginning of a process that will hopefully lead to the preservation of these significant historic resources and the continued economic development of Main Street. Congratulations and thank you to all who supported this landmarking process! We will continue to send out updates about any future public hearings or plans for these Local Landmarks.


Click Here to see the Agreement between Metro and Todd Blue



105 West Main Street
107-109 West Main Street
111 West Main Street
113 West Main Street
115 West Main Street
117 West Main Street
119 West Main Street
121 West Main Street

5:30 PM
Monday, June 28, 2010
Old Jail Courtroom
514 West Liberty Street

Preservation Louisville would like to thank everyone who signed the petitions in support of making the endangered buildings on Louisville's Historic Whiskey Row local landmarks. We are thrilled to report that we now have over 1000 signatures on the petitions and will be filing the applications with the Metro Historic Landmarks Commission very soon!

Thanks again to everyone who supported these efforts! We will continue to send out updates as this process unfolds. We will also send out alerts when any public hearings will be held concerning this issue.

Sign Up for e-mail alerts

Historic Iron Quarter

Preservation Louisville is joining efforts to help save
7 historic endangered buildings: 105 - 119 West Main Street
referred to as the Iron Quarter, part of Whiskey Row.

Often referred to as the "Iron Quarter", this area originally called "Whiskey Row" was named this because of the buildings Cast Iron facades and the many whiskey businesses that began there. These buildings are a historic row of attached buildings built approximately between 1852 and 1905. Architects include Henry Whitestone, John Andrewartha (City Hall) and D. X. Murphy (Churchill Downs). Many were built and used by pork dealers and whiskey companies. The L& N Railroad Co. and Belknap Hardware Co. also had headquarters in the buildings.


As Metro Louisville’s citywide non-profit historic preservation organization,
Preservation Louisville works in partnership with local, state and national organizations to promote the preservation of our community’s historic resources through education and advocacy. Preservation Louisville also provides education, technical information and resources.
The group is based at The Brennan House Historic Home


For more information:
e-mail director@preservationlouisville.org or
call (502) 540-5146

contact us about us Partner links

Make a Donation

Peservation Louisville is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that relies on tax-deductible donations to fulfill its mission.

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Donations can also be remitted to: Preservation Louisville - 631 South Fifth Street - Louisville, KY 40202