Image: Photo of 800 Ash Street from circa 1910 (Courtesy Tammy Jones-Scrogham, color by Broken Sidewalk)
Just after 9:00 on Saturday night, a massive fire tore through a vacant mixed-use building on the corner of Ash and Shelby streets in Schnitzelburg. The historic building pictured above at 800 Ash Street was completely destroyed. Most recently the structure housed the Ash Street Station bar, although you might not recognize the modern building that had been callously covered over with vinyl siding.
The original structure dates to at least the 1880s, with some reports of its construction in the 1870s, making this building one of the oldest in the neighborhood. The nearly 4,000-square-foot structure was in foreclosure and held for sale by BB&T Bank for $70,000. The building covers two lots and historically has housed two commercial storefronts. As far back as 1890, a bar occupied one half of the building, which carried through nearly to its end.
According to Lisa M. Pisterman’s recently published Louisville’s Germantown & Schnitzelburg (pick up a copy at Carmichael’s), the grocery pictured at top was run by the Hartstern family, German immigrants who lived above their store. It was a cold winter day when the historic photo was taken, with a show-covered roof and street and ice hanging off the building.
At the turn of the century, the area surrounding Ash and Shelby streets was intensely industrial in nature, primarily surrounding a rail yard at Bergman Street. In the area around the rail yards were coal yards, clusters of massive oil tanks, a textile mill, lumber yards, all alongside the residences of Schnitzelburg and Shelby Park. It’s easy to imagine the area, situated on the periphery of the city at the time, as a lively and gritty outpost occupied by many German-speaking immigrants. Some industry still lingers today.
No one was injured in the fire, but it has been reported that a dog was killed in the upstairs apartment, although the owner wasn’t home at the time. No explanation of the fire has yet been offered.
Please share your memories of the building in the comments below. If you have any old photos of the structure or a snapshot of the charred ruins, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post them this week.