This week’s blankness comes to you from the corner of Chestnut Street and Fourth Street. While it may not be as grand as the industrial behemoths of weeks past, this big blank wall is in the heart of downtown, so a little blankness goes a long way.
The wall belongs to the Chestnut Center office building, home to many of the city’s radio stations which you can hear walking down the sidewalk in front of the building on Fourth Street. The building was built in 1907, but you’d never guess it glancing at the structure today. The white-ish facade is generally uninspiring and flat, despite the window projections. There’s only one retail outlet in the entire building, and the radio offices face the sidewalk, so besides the blank wall, the building contributes little to the street.
The building didn’t always look this way, however. It was originally called the Atherton Building and then the Francis Building. It was once home to the Mary Anderson Theater, reportedly the oldest theater on Fourth Street and seated over 1,200. The building was designed by William J. Dodd, who was involved with the design of many Louisville landmarks such as the Seelbach.
The theater area has been converted to office space, so its unclear what’s actually left of the original building on the inside. It’s probably long gone, but if you walk around the alley, you can see the original theater volume still exists. It’s also unclear if any of the original facade still exists in any kind of salvageable shape under the new skin. Some re-cladding of other old buildings provided for later removal while others did not. Most likely, the historic building is just a memory under its mid-century veil.