Louisville’s historic ‘Whiskey Row’ burns next to PC(USA) Center
Denomination headquarters spared fire, sustains water and smoke damage
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) headquarters suffered minor water and smoke damage in a July 6 three-building fire that consumed half of a historic block in downtown Louisville.
“Whiskey Row,” so named because the block of buildings dating from the late 1800s was home to over 15 whiskey-related businesses, is part of Louisville’s downtown renewal plan. The three damaged buildings—located at 111, 113 and 115 West Main Street—are owned by Main Street Revitalization and were in various phases of reconstruction. No businesses were currently operating in the buildings.
PC(USA) staff were notified of the fire at 4:30 p.m. Monday. The buildings are across Washington Street from the PC(USA) headquarters. Fire crews could be seen battling the blaze from south-facing headquarters’ offices. An evacuation order was given to PC(USA) staff at 5:15 p.m., and the building closed at 5:30 p.m. The smell of smoke was heavy in the building, especially in the stairwells and elevators, by the time it was evacuated. Thick brown smoke hung over the building and a two-block radius on either side. More than 80 firefighters responded to the three-alarm fire.
Joe Ferguson, director of building services for the PC(USA), says the only damage was from water seeping into the basement and smoke odor. A small amount of printed materials and shipping containers were damaged in the basement when water used to douse the fire seeped past drain tile. He says a company that specializes in removing smoke odors and residue will be contacted to clean the building’s ventilation system.
Louisville Fire Department inspectors toured the PC(USA) building and reported no damage to the exterior or roof. The fire-ravaged Whiskey Row buildings sustained structural damage including collapsed interior walls and flooring. City and development officials expressed relief that the rare and historic iron-laden facades of the buildings were saved.
The western half of the block contains a number of restaurants at street level and loft apartments in the upper floors. A recently installed firewall protected the immediately adjacent building where a new stop on Kentucky’s “bourbon trail” is scheduled for construction later this summer. No information was available at press time as to what damage, if any, the other buildings sustained.