Shippingport building town down (Courtesy Tipster)
Shippingport building town down (Courtesy Tipster)
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Last week, an easily overlooked structure at the corner of Rowan and 11th streets in the shadow of that elevated-highway-monstrosity we call our riverfront was destroyed. The area north of Rowan Street to the Ohio River was once a large rail yard but is now an expansive wasteland that we spotlighted back in 2009.

Shippingport building town down (BS File Photo)
Shippingport building town down. (Branden Klayko / Broken Sidewalk)

Now demolished, the small one-story structure was in poor condition—in need of tuckpointing and missing part of its roof. The remaining two thirds features deep eaves that reflect its previous use as the Illinois Central Railroad Freight House. Long ago when Shippingport was a bustling hub of industry, goods would be transferred between trains and wagons or trucks at this facility.

While the structure was precariously located between the elevated Interstate 64 and the wet site of the floodwall, it’s not all that difficult to imagine that in better times this building could have been a valued part of Shippingport. Imagine a beautiful riverfront park west next to a landscaped urban boulevard instead of the highway there now and the picture dramatically changes.

What was once a falling down historic industrial building could have been a farmer’s market pavilion or any number of other uses. Without that vision for redeveloping Louisville urban core, the site today is simply viewed as a liability.

Shippingport railyards long ago (Courtesy R.D. Schooling)
Shippingport rail yards long ago. (Courtesy R.D. Schooling)

Most of the vacant property just north of the floodwall is owned by Kentucky Forwarding International (KYFI). I asked the company if they had plans for the property now that the building was gone, but there are no plans on the table. KYFI explained that they were simply being proactive in removing an aging building that served no use—a position at odds with preservationists.

Several years ago, the picturesque-yet-in-need-of-repair cobblestone Rowan Street was given to KYFI by Metro Louisville, presumable because the city did not want to pay for maintenance. The street was a popular spot for downtown workers looking to escape parking meter fees to park their cars—and it was only a couple blocks from the heart of West Main Street.

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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

7 COMMENTS

  1. man, that sucks. i loved this building, and the freight building farther down that is on the lumber yard grounds (foreground of the third picture). both figured prominently in my thesis project for the redevelopment of the area north of main between 9th and 15th. there are also a couple of other freight platforms down by 15th north of main. nice simple structures.

    we just keep getting rid of things that could enrich the character of future development. and it’s not on anyone’s radar (except broken sidewalks’, that is).

    stupid.

  2. I “saw” a Heine bros and a bike shop in that building. We need to change the way we do things around here.

  3. It’s infuriating that a rail line connects me and our CSA in Henry County, and yet the only way to get out there is to drive a car. I know this is slightly off-topic, but I agree with JC that we need to rethink things. Unfortunately, with our political choices, it looks like more of the same car-based future. Where is the vision, Louisville? We so could lead at our own pace, but I’m afraid we will be forced to follow until it’s too late, and then we will react with lousy, hasty decisions.

  4. I did not know that building was torn down. That was a neat, very old, railroad depot building. Nevertheless, it suffered greatly. This little pocket back in there under I-64 is kind of neat. The street on which this building was located (Rowan) is paved with old cobblestone. I think in the next block you can see some paving done with river rock. Between the old building and the Riverwalk, there are yellow brick remains of, I guess 12th street, and over toward, I think 13th, you can see old rails. There’s one set there that is really narrow gauge and has 3 rails for each wheel. Not sure how that would’ve worked.

  5. I have researched, visited, and photographed this little building for a couple of years. It fascinated me. I’ve learned that it’s history in who we are as a city was HUGE.
    When I dropped by the building a couple of weeks ago, it brought me to tears. Now, I want to be absolutely sure that the cobblestones stay exactly like they are. There’s another article on this site about NY’s cobblestone’s. Someone commented that historic things/surfaces replaced must be ‘replaced in kind’. I don’t want NEW cobblestone on that spot, I want THOSE cobblestones.
    I spoke with Richard Jett from the Landmarks Commission, he said he knew it was to be destroyed but ‘there was little that could be done’. And our Mayor just GAVE it away. How often does our city just GIVE away property? What a travesty.
    I see Mr. Schooling’s name in the above. Isn’t he the gentleman that is writing/has written a book about Louisville’s railroads? If so, I mentioned this little building to him last year in a forum on city-data.com. I’ll be buying a copy of that book.

  6. Tonight I stumbled upon your site. I’m so happy about that. I was researching this vacant space as it used to be a meeting space for me and my fiance. We met at an intersection and even once we moved in together, continued to coincidentally meet at intersections around the city 🙂 It never occurred to me until tonight that our quick lunch dates that we had on this stoop is similar to an intersection. Its all very mystical but I’m happy to find info on what used to be in this space. Do you know what it was prior to the shipyard? The only other thing I found was Fort-on-shore? Thanks a lot..I love the site, keeps me abreast of Louisville changes since I don’t watch the news.

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