Two Historic Distilleries Are Threatened

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Two Historic Distilleries Are Threatened

Unread postby cowdery » Mon Mar 28, 2005 4:23 pm

Fans of American whiskey and friends of America’s whiskey heritage need to be aware that two historic distilleries in Woodford County, Kentucky, are facing destruction. They are the Old Crow Distillery and the adjacent Old Taylor Distillery, both on Glenns Creek Road.

First, I want to recognize Amy Bennett, a graduate student in Historic Preservation at the University of Kentucky, for bringing this matter to my attention. Amy is researching the Old Taylor Distillery for her Master's Thesis.

During her interviews and research, Amy has learned that a company interested in demolishing both sites for salvage is in the process of acquiring them. Old Crow is currently owned by James Beam Brands Company. Old Taylor is owned by local, private individuals who originally hoped to reopen it as a distillery. Both properties are in a severe state of disrepair from years of neglect. Neither property currently has any protection from private development.

One step that could be taken is that an historic zoning overlay could be put on one or both properties by the Fiscal Court of Woodford County. This does not require the property owner’s consent. Once a historic overlay is placed on the properties, Woodford County’s Board of Architectural Review would have to oversee any changes to them. This would not necessarily prevent their destruction, but would make it more difficult.

Besides taking steps to protect the properties through local designation, we are requesting that Preservation Kentucky and the Blue Grass Trust help in coming up with other ways to gain the public's awareness of this situation and the need to preserve and document these two historic rural industrial sites.

In addition to the impressive array of mid 19th to mid-20th century industrial architecture found at both sites, they also are important to the growing field of industrial archeology. Both Old Taylor and Old Crow can provide insights into the ways that distilling processes and technology changed over time. Unlike distilleries that are currently active and have disposed of their obsolete equipment, these distilleries have the ability to shed light on past processes and life ways. Whiskey distilling is of fundamental importance to the history of Kentucky, thus besides pursuing local historic designations for the distilleries, HABS/HAER documentation of them is also important.

We believe these properties have the potential to be adaptively reused given the right investors.

Old Crow was one of the first nationally-known whiskey brands and one of the first nationally-marketed brand name products of any kind. It originated in the 1840s with Dr. James C. Crow at the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, on the current site of the Woodford Reserve Distillery. The facility that is currently threatened dates from 1878. The Old Taylor Distillery, adjacent to Old Crow, was built by E. H. Taylor, Jr., in about 1887. Taylor was a prominent leader in the Kentucky whiskey industry. He was also the longtime mayor of Frankfort, and a state representative and senator. He built Old Taylor to be a showplace and most of the pergolas, reflecting pools, stone bridges, gazebos and the castle-like main building with which he adorned the property are still intact.

Little remains of the historic fabric of Kentucky’s distilling industry. I urge everyone to help us raise awareness of this threat and help us save these historic distilleries if at all possible.
- Chuck Cowdery

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Unread postby bunghole » Mon Mar 28, 2005 5:26 pm

Chuck this is disturbing news indeed! Are you in the forefront compiling/writing the necessary briefs and filing the necessary motions?

Who do we need to contact? How can we best show our support for the preservation of these sites?

Thanks for the 'heads up' you can count on me to do all I can!

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Unread postby cowdery » Mon Mar 28, 2005 6:01 pm

The graduate student I mentioned and I are just starting to try to rattle some cages and see what we can get started. Certainly it is worth a mention to any industry contacts you have. Even if they have heard about it from me, the more voices that say "we care too" the better.

I will keep everyone posted. Thanks for your support.
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Unread postby Mark » Mon Mar 28, 2005 7:18 pm

Wow, that is disturbing news Chuck. Keep us all informed and I am sure we'll all try and do what we can! :)
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Unread postby bunghole » Wed Mar 30, 2005 12:17 pm

Chuck, I've reposted your missive on CigarWeekly.Com on the "I'll Drink To That" Forum (with full quotes, ect.) and have gotten a good response.

Many a cigar connoisseur also likes their whisky (Sc**ch mostly) and read both Malt Advocate and Whisky mag, so they know; trust, and respect your name.

Have you any new intel to pass along?

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Unread postby BSS » Tue Apr 05, 2005 8:15 pm

This list is posted annually in the Lexington newspaper and typically gets some people worked up. Not sure how you might get it on this list but it saves a lot of buildings.
Look at the updated list and the 2002 list and it has Buffalo Springs Distillery in Stamping Ground on it.
http://www.bluegrasstrust.org/endangered/index.htm
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Unread postby cowdery » Mon Apr 11, 2005 2:23 am

Amy Bennett, the UK graduate student who is researching Old Taylor for her thesis, found out that two Memorandums of Agreement were filed with the county clerk in October 2003 between Jim Beam and an Alabama company for Right of Entry and Demolition and Option Agreement to purchase. The agreements cover two parcels of 1.547 acres and .67 acres, respectively, which may represent the one collapsed warehouse. So, at least as far as what has been filed with the county, it hasn't gone any further than that yet.
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Unread postby bunghole » Tue Apr 12, 2005 12:15 pm

cowdery wrote:Amy Bennett, the UK graduate student who is researching Old Taylor for her thesis, found out that two Memorandums of Agreement were filed with the county clerk in October 2003 between Jim Beam and an Alabama company for Right of Entry and Demolition and Option Agreement to purchase. The agreements cover two parcels of 1.547 acres and .67 acres, respectively, which may represent the one collapsed warehouse. So, at least as far as what has been filed with the county, it hasn't gone any further than that yet.


Chuck,

I don't recall seeing a collapsed warehouse at Old Crow. Just the one at Old Taylor. Howie and I spent what few minutes we had shooting at Old Taylor and then drove down to Old Crow to turn around and head back to Woodford Reserve.

Several of the warehouses were in very obviously bad shape, but Old Crow was occupied by workers and something was going on there.

If there was a collapsed warehouse perhaps it has already been reclaimed.

The collapsed warehouse at Old Taylor is right off the road and is very much a public hazzard.

As an aside this needn't be an "us vs. them" war. Amy should be able to photo archive both sites as they are right now. If she isn't anygood with a digi-cam then find a student that is. Given her interest in the sites Jim Beam should allow her some access for a photo-shoot.

Likewise a phone call to Robert Withrow might yield untold dividends. A simple photo-archive of both sites as they are today would yeild a basis for further dialog.

Preserving yesterday for tomorrow is in everyone's best interest. There is no need to make enemies when the very same energy can be better used to make friends.

:arrow: ima :smilebox:
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Unread postby BSS » Tue Apr 12, 2005 4:41 pm

An agreement with Jim Beam would have nothing to do with the collapsed warehouse at Old Taylor. Taylor is owned by an individual whom purchased it in the 90s.
That agreement would be for Old Crow, which does not have any collapsed warehouses. I don't know if it is bad news, but when I dove by yesterday, a female Beam employee was taking pictures of the house that appears in the Paul Sawyier painting of Old Crow.
It must also be noted that 3 of Crows oldest warehouses, a few other buildings, and some water tanks were torn down in the 90s. So Crow has already had quite a bit torn down. It's just hard to tell anything was ever there where they did. It's hard to tell what those tracts cover. From what I've heard about the company that wants to tear it down, I would think it would be the limestore distillery house.
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Unread postby cowdery » Wed Apr 13, 2005 12:38 pm

I thought the collapsed warehouse was on the Crow side of the fence, but I could be wrong.

No one that I know of has expressed any hostility toward anyone in this thing so far. Amy has done a lot of documentation and hopes to enlist other students to do more. We understand the deal between Beam and the salvager for Crow is very nearly done. All we have heard about Taylor is that the same company is talking to the individuals who own that property as well.

Historic preservation frequently is a quixotic quest. I have a personal soft spot for 19th century industrial architecture, but it is an affection not widely shared. Even if efforts to save either or both plants are unsuccessful, there is value in making people aware of these types of situations, so that maybe a consensus will develop for preserving more, rather than fewer, physical embodiments of historical memory.
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Unread postby BSS » Wed Apr 13, 2005 7:05 pm

The collapsed warehouse is one of the two long 3 story warehouses. The one that is still standing is inbetween the Taylor/Crow property line and the collapsed warehouse. I think these were the two longest whiskey warehouses in the world.
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Unread postby jbohan » Mon Apr 18, 2005 5:10 pm

This is a post card I won on Ebay, I don't have the card yet, this is from the selling page, will try to get a clearer picture once the card arrives. It says it is a spring house inside the Old Talyor Distillery
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Unread postby BSS » Mon Apr 18, 2005 7:29 pm

I have the same post card, looks about the same in person.
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Unread postby cowdery » Mon Apr 18, 2005 10:25 pm

Here it is as it looked about 13 years ago.
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Unread postby jbohan » Mon Apr 18, 2005 11:33 pm

Thanks for the picture, although it makes me sorry to see that green on the walls where there should be water. :cry:
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