Jasper Ward, one of Louisville’s visionary architects, was involved with a plan to convert the now demolished Ballard Mills on East Broadway into high-rise apartments. The $2 million scheme proposed in the late 1960s would have created 132 circular units and 24 rectangular units, but without a mortgage, the facility was razed and the site is currently suburban in nature, dominated by parking lots.
In 1968, a group of investors purchased the Ballard Mills from the Pillsbury Company after the facility ended production in 1961. The concrete silos, 24 in all, would be converted into a 98-foot tall, 12-story building, with new concrete floors poured in place According to Jasper Ward writing in the now-out-of-print Unbuilt America, “It will look like a bunch of silos with bay windows. We will do as little as possible not to destroy the natural form of the silos.”
Bay windows would be cut into the massive 8-inch thick concrete walls. Hoped to have been completed by 1971, the 23-foot diameter units, many of them split-level, would even feature circular beds. Restaurants would be housed on the top level along with a swimming pool under a large glass dome. According to Ward, “In 1969, cash deposits for the apartments were already coming in, and the local newspapers had titled the prospective tenants ‘flour children.'”
Proposals for converting grain silos have cropped up over the years, but few as early as Jasper Ward’s proposal. (Check out the completed Silo Point in Baltimore, Maryland—scroll down—and the now-derailed Granary project in Philly. I also remember hearing about a proposal from St. Louis contemporary with Ward’s.) Fortunately, Louisville still have several massive grain silos and elevators, many along Beargrass Creek not far from where the Ballard Mills once stood. Do we have enough “flour children” left to rekindle circular concrete living?