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Now-demolished Todd Building at Fourth & Market Streets (Montage by Broken Sidewalk & Diane Deaton-Street)
Now-demolished Todd Building at Fourth & Market Streets (Montage by Broken Sidewalk & Diane Deaton-Street)

Here’s another in our Lost Louisville series where we showcase a great historic building that was demolished in the city. This is the Todd Building on the corner of Fourth and Market Streets, one of Louisville’s early skyscrapers dating to 1902. The Todd Building sits in that area I wrote about before where every single historic structure was demolished. Like so many other great Louisville Landmarks, this site is now the home of a state-owned parking garage.

Built in 1902, the Todd Building was also known as the Belleview Building and the Equitable Building. The ten-story stone building soared over 128 feet into the air, and along with its neighboring Lincoln Bank Building, formed a towering gateway on Fourth Street (more on the Lincoln Bank Building in a later post).

The Todd Building was replaced by a parking garage (Diane Deaton-Street)
The Todd Building was replaced by a parking garage (Diane Deaton-Street)
Now-demolished Todd Building at Fourth & Market Streets (via UL Photo Archives)
Now-demolished Todd Building at Fourth & Market Streets (via UL Photo Archives)

According to the Encyclopedia of Louisville, the steel-framed structure was named for banker and business man James Ross Todd. It was designed in the Chicago-style by powerhouse architects Arthur Loomis and Charles Julian Clark who designed dozens of other Louisville landmarks.

Like many historic structures, the Todd Building paid extra attention to the materiality at the sidewalk level. It was clad in granite on the first two floors and featured yellow brick above that. Austere ornamentation in sandstone and terra cotta surrounded windows and adorned the top floors.

While the structure was once one of Louisville’s most esteemed addresses, occupancy dwindled after the Depression and World War II. In a short-sighted move, the Todd Building was destroyed in 1983 to make way for a parking garage that can’t quite keep up architecturally. Anyone have memories of the Todd Building they can share?

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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

11 COMMENTS

  1. What a beautiful building. I wasn’t around in the 60’s and 70’s, but I honestly don’t understand how people in authority at that time thought it would be a good idea to destroy the Todd Building and others like it. A parking garage? Really? If we only saw then what we see now…

    I’m a modern city skyline enthusiast, but Louisville has what I would almost call two skylines: the modern skyline we all know and a historic one that doesn’t get as much attention. And I almost find the historic skyline more interesting. In the area along Broadway roughly between Second and Ninth Streets you find many taller buildings (tall for their time) that resemble the Todd Building and really show what the entire downtown area looked like 60 years ago. While I’m all for building bigger and better downtown and looking to the future, I’m also for preserving our past and remembering what downtown was in its heyday.

  2. There seems to be an recurring pattern with buildings like this. I think that the refrain of a well known song sums it up quite nicely:
    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don’t know what you’ve got
    Till it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

  3. Ben, I agree about the two-skyline thing. You may have already seen it, but I used that for the design of the first Livable Louisville Forum poster, etc. You can see the old skyline and the new skyline together in the graphics at the LL web site.

    The Todd Building features prominently on that skyline.

    In some regards, I can almost laughably forgive the 60s-70s for their poor choices – those decades managed to screw up way more than just historic preservation… But what I don’t understand is how this kind of city-destroying ethic continues even today. This one was destroyed in 1983, and plenty of others were destroyed years and decades after that.

  4. The Todd Building is a great loss to the fabric of downtown, but also look at the black and white photo above and think about the streetwalls that have been destroyed! All the three- and four-story buildings that lined the street would have made that a much more enjoyable place to take a walk or have a cup of coffee etc.

    Parking garages! If we could only strive to implement a streetcar system again, we could begin to see the true value of the spaces currently being wasted on automobiles. It was never more apparent to me than when we attempted Park(ing) Day and realized how much space one automobile parking spot actually takes up.

  5. I know I’ve seen a building that resembles the Todd building somewhere in the area surrounding the Convention Center. It is much smaller (I think only 4 or 5 stories tall), but it sports that same rounded corner and has grabbed my attention every time I’ve driven past it. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

  6. The only building left downtown with a curved corner that I’m aware of is on the corner of First and Market Streets and contains a women’s counseling center on the ground floor and is vacant above. It has a nice Davis Pawn Shop sign with a diamond on it. It’ll probably be the subject of a post sometime as it’s one of my favorite buildings.

    It’s a real shame that it’s the only rounded corner building left as Louisville once has so many great examples all around downtown.

  7. Yep, thats the one! It is a shame that it is the sole remaining example of this type of structure; and from the looks of it, it needs some serious TLC.

  8. I seem to remember the Todd Building as the Hoffman Bldg. Welenken & Master, CPA’s (now Welenken Himmelfarb & Co) occupied the 4th and 5th floors.

  9. During the late 1960s, the Todd Building was known as the Hoffman Building, and had one of the last elevators run by an operator. I had an office on the 10th floor, which had a panoramic view of both Market and Fourth Streets. At ground level was The Decanter Lounge, one of the most famous watering holes for local politicians, run by a retired Louisville policeman named Cliff Harrod. Cliff’s claim to fame was the fact that he was the investigating officer who solved the great Oxmoor burglary in the 1950s, when a large amount of cash was removed from the safe in William Bullitt’s home. The chauffeur did it. (Harrod caught him at the Top Hat Lounge, lighting cigars with $100 bills.) In the 1970s, the building was renamed the Belle View Building, but gradually fell into disrepair and office vacancies. The Cowger Garage now stands on the site.

  10. @Thomas McAdam – Cliff Harrod was a beloved uncle of mine. Today I wandered Market Street wondering where the Decanter Lounge had been (I had visited it as a child). So thanks, Thomas McAdams, for this bit of history of my (now deceased) Uncle Cliff.

    Brian Austin

  11. Big fan of the Todd Building a.k.a. the “Belle View” (which was an ironic appellation since the building featured no north-facing windows…I believe the Todd was the “first steel-frame building built south of the Ohio River” (I’d have to work to find that attribution but it’s in my notes from the 1980s); I was personally there during most of the demolition and wrote a poem about it depicting that June evening in 1984. Another bit of backstory on the Todd is that the bldg’s owners at the time (furriers, Yudofsky, if I recall correctly) did not want the building demolished and the Todd was either already on the register or headed there when Al Schneider and then-governor Julian Carroll cut a deal that would provide the location of a G. House parking garage.

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