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.
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.
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.