Repair work underway at 121 West Main Street (Photo courtesy tipster)
Repair work underway at 121 West Main Street (Photo courtesy tipster)
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Scaffolding is up and repair work has started at 121 West Main Street, directly east of the new Patrick O’Shea’s. Several tipsters wrote in to report activity at the building adjacent to the much contested Iron Quarter site. With work ongoing at the Whiskey Row Lofts and construction complete at Patrick O’Shea’s, 121 West Main represents the last of the non-Iron Quarter buildings to be fixed-up.

Detail of eroded facade at 121 West Main Street (via flickr / local louisville)
Detail of eroded facade at 121 West Main Street (flickr / local louisville)

121 West Main Street is unique on the block as its cornice stands taller than surrounding structures and its cladding material, while still cast-iron at its base, is comprised of sandstone instead of brick or limestone. Sandstone was a common building material in the 19th century as it was inexpensive and soft allowing for easy carving.

That softness often leads to its downfall, however, as with the crumbling facade on Main Street. The reddish sandstone veneer on 121 West Main is similar to the many brownstones found along the east coast and presents similar repair problems. One common solution is to patch the decaying stone with a mixture of cement, lime, sand, and mortar coloring. Applying such a veneer coat to the sandstone can restore the original look of a structure.

If you look closely at the 121 West Main’s upper floors, you can begin to notice where the facade has been repaired in the past with a similar patching compound (see photos below). It’s easy to spot as the carved detailing of the repair tends to be more clumsy and coarse than the original carving. You can also see the extent of erosion that’s already taken place on the original stone.

Detail of eroded facade at 121 West Main Street (via flickr / local louisville)
Detail of eroded facade at 121 West Main Street (flickr / local louisville)

Now, with scaffolding covering the entire Main Street facade, it appears crews are undertaking a more extensive repair. Notice in the top photo where the grey color shows through the scaffolding to determine where work has already started. I haven’t been able to inspect the building personally, but such a repair likely would involve scraping away previous veneer patching and providing a textured cement undercoat over which a new veneer can be applied.

For more information on sandstone and brownstone facade repair, check out this article from the Old House Journal.

Now that the Whiskey Row Block has been declared a Local Landmark, any non-repair based changes must be approved by the Metro Landmarks Commission, so we’ll see what happens as the project plays out. We couldn’t get in touch with the building’s owner by the time of writing.

A scaffolding permit issued by the city does stipulate that the sidewalk be cleared by October 7 in time for the grand opening at the arena on the 10th. (You know, you wouldn’t want anything ugly to be a sore thumb on that block…)

A separate building permit was reissued for interior work (not governed by the structure’s Landmark status) on the five-story building. That permit indicates that new stairwells and an elevator shaft are being added along with new bathrooms on the first through fourth floors. General fire protection including sprinklers throughout and a fire wall & door separating the Washington Street level garage from the main building are also planned. Repairs are estimated to cost about $500,000.

There’s no word on any tenants that may take space in the building, but with all the development activity going on in the area surrounding the arena, there’s sure to an interesting opportunity in the future. For now, though, it’s great to see repair work started on the building.

Detail of eroded facade at 121 West Main Street (via flickr / local louisville)
Detail of eroded facade at 121 West Main Street (flickr / local louisville)
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Branden Klayko

4 COMMENTS

  1. Anyone know what the future plans are for this building? I was at lunch at Patrick O’Shea’s last week and they said that it is very secretive. It would make a great Urban Outfitter or other store! Now that alot of restaurants are in the area, we need destination retailers!

  2. I agree. At a recent conference I attended that brought people in from all 50 states, several commented on the great restaurants, but the lack of great shopping (or even some department stores that are common elsewhere). Perhaps that should be the next effort. In Louisville, you can eat a great meal at a different restaraunt each day of the year, but have to drive to Indy or, heaven help me, Cincy, for many stores.

  3. I know it is nice to have reliable tenants that can cover large spaces and have nation wide name recognition but I would vastly prefer corporate chain stores not be involved in the rebirth of downtown/E. Market. It already makes me cringe to think Louisville’s priorities are new and updated sporting complexes. Instead of Urban Outfitters, Saks, or even American Apparel it would be great if some enterprising local kid with an eye for design started their own clothing line using organic hemp or cotton grown regionally if not locally. I’m sure it would be a little pricey but certainly not any worse than the above mentioned retailers and, frankly, if I’m going to feel guilty about spending $300 on a new outfit I would like to at least be able to console myself with the thought that the money is staying in Kentucky.

  4. The idea for a locally owned/started store is great! I do think that first, there needs to be a couple of more recognizable retailers in place to create that sense of destination for surrounding parts of our region (much like the above comment about driving to other cities, which I have done many times). Once traffic increases to the downtown area for shopping, a smaller unknown will have a much better chance at making it in this economy. The perfect scenario to me, is a mix of chains and private stores/boutiques to reflect the diversity of the folks in our city. Come on H & M…don’t kill me for that one. lol

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