Historic Madrid Building on Third Street
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Historic Madrid Building on Third Street
Historic Madrid Building on Third Street. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

The renovation of the historic Madrid Building dating to 1929 on the corner of Third Street and Guthrie Street is now complete. The three-story building has been converted into modern offices and the original attached 220-spot parking garage has also been restored and modernized. The building gets its name from the old Madrid Ballroom that once operated on the top floor of the building as an ornate Castilian nightclub. The operation closed in 1952 and was subsequently the victim of a not-so-historically-friendly renovation. Now the ballroom has been uncovered and could possibly be restored to its original grandeur.

Inside the Madrid Ballroom
Inside the Madrid Ballroom. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

At least half of it anyway. The top floor of the building is divided in half with offices on each side of a central corridor. Jay Mackin, partner in the renovation project and vice president of Interlock Industries, has moved his companies offices from another location downtown into the building this June. The other side of the hall is awaiting a final tenant.

The empty half-ballroom has been stripped back to the original essentials. Previous renovations by Hilliard Lyons and Veterans Affairs nearly destroyed the historic space. Dozens of holes were torn into the plaster ceiling for a drop ceiling, probably to keep heating and cooling costs down. Now, there’s interest in restoring what’s left back to its original state, despite the additional cost associated with historic renovation.

The Original Madrid Ballroom
The Original Madrid Ballroom.

Raised floors were installed throughout the building to allow electric and data cables to run under root, an option that allows flexibility in office layout and is less intrusive to the building. The ballroom restoration will likely entail creating walled offices around the perimeter of the room, and leaving the double-height space in the center open as a large office room with cubicles.

The original windows have been saved as part of the restoration, and the over-sized rounded windows on the third floor fill the room with light. The original 80 year old glass features a nicely aged ripple effect that doesn’t obstruct the views of downtown. What look like windows and balconies in the upper portion of the room were originally false-windows intended to recreate the drama of Spanish architecture inside the Classical Revival building. Ornate painting all over the columns and ceiling has largely been destroyed, and its unclear whether the designs will be recreated.

Historic Photo of the Madrid Building
Historic Photo of the Madrid Building

Work to restore the building will hopefully occur in the new year and another historic landmark in downtown will have been saved from a crude 20th century remodel. The building is more than half filled with offices already, but the ballroom was the only portion of the building with such ornate detail. A marble-lined central staircase has also been restored and new terrazzo poured to match what was in the building originally.

The ground floor space facing the sidewalk will be leased as offices. Mackin says with the economy in its current troubled state and retail closing up across downtown, the time isn’t right for sidewalk retail in this portion of downtown. In the future, though, he says he isn’t opposed to the idea of retail if it is proved viable.

The first floor facade was opened up, however, with a new glass curtain wall to its original state. A steel and glass canopy over the main doorway also incorporates 1920s motifs. It’s good to see another renovation project take its historic building seriously and not just slap on a band-aid. The Madrid Building has been made a viable and important building once again, more than 50 years after its crown jewel shut its doors.

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Branden Klayko

Branden Klayko

Founder and Editor at Broken Sidewalk
Branden founded Broken Sidewalk in 2008 while practicing architecture in Louisville. He continued the site for seven years while living in New York City, returning to Louisville in 2016. Branden is a graduate of the College of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, and has covered architecture, design, and urbanism for The Architect's Newspaper, Designers & Books, Inhabitat, and the American Institute of Architects.
Branden Klayko

2 COMMENTS

  1. My grandparents could be found dancing many a night away at the Madrid. My mother has several pictures of her parents there, including several from New Years Eve parties. They lived on Bloom Street near 4th, where part of the Bettie Johnson Apartments are now, so this was pretty close by. Thanks for these pictures as all I have ever known of the place were my mother's black and white photos.

    JN

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