West Market Street buildings to be demolished
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West Market Street buildings to be demolished
West Market Street buildings to be demolished. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

Two historic commercial buildings at the corner of West Market Street and 20th Street are slated for emergency demolition after a portion of the back of the buildings recently collapsed. The three story commercial buildings date to the 19th century and have been boarded up for years. The owner of the buildings is currently in court over the matter and we’re told the buildings have been condemned for five years.

West Market Street buildings collapse
West Market Street buildings collapse. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

The damage occurred when the roof caved in on the back portion of the buildings, causing a portion of the sidewall to become structurally unsound. You can’t see the destruction from Market Street but around the corner on the alley, Congress Street, the damage becomes evident. While the roof has fallen in, the front portions of the buildings appear to be in okay shape. In a perfect world, the facades could be stabilized and left standing, but let’s face it, these buildings are goners.

Who knows, perhaps the damage from the collapse could be reversed. This isn’t the first time the city has wanted to tear down a structure in the Russell neighborhood after a partial collapse. The Ouerbacker House, just four block away, was slated for demolition after a portion of its east wall collapsed this year. The building has been repaired after a preservation struggle and is slated to be renovated. Two block the other direction, a gigantic 5-story brick warehouse wasn’t so lucky. The city ordered it demolished and now it’s down to two floors. There are plenty of other buildings around West Market, too, that could be beautifully restored but will likely be demolished this year.

West Market Street buildings to be demolished
West Market Street buildings to be demolished. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

This wouldn’t be the first facade left standing on West Market, either. A couple blocks to the east, two boarded up buildings are mere facades, grass is growing on the inside if you peek through the cracks. The news for this block gets worse, though. The two-story building directly on the corner may also be demolished along with the two damaged structures. Why? Because it’s easier. The buildings share a party wall, so rather than delicately remove the two damaged buildings, just haphazardly bulldoze the block.

The front facades were painted blue and red sometime in the last year. Prior, they were a boarded up with decrepit white plywood that looked much worse. Both buildings feature carved limestone columns on the first floor and the taller structure has intricately carved stone details above. The stretch of commercial buildings here adds a distinct urban edge to West Market Street. While everyone knows the area is just a few blocks too far west of downtown for redevelopment potential, Louisville better get its act together before its historic neighborhoods look like Detroit’s. This type of commercial/mixed-use building is considered easily disposable here, and we will quickly realize the shortage of reusable urban buildings in the city if we don’t slow down the wrecking ball. Russell will come back. It’s only a matter of time. We just hope there’s a Russell left to come back to.

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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

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