Jasper Ward, one of Louisville’s visionary architects, was involved with a plan to convert the now demolished Ballard Mills on East Broadway into high-rise apartments. The $2 million scheme proposed in the late 1960s would have created 132 circular units and 24 rectangular units, but without a mortgage, the facility was razed and the site is currently suburban in nature, dominated by parking lots.
In 1968, a group of investors purchased the Ballard Mills from the Pillsbury Company after the facility ended production in 1961. The concrete silos, 24 in all, would be converted into a 98-foot tall, 12-story building, with new concrete floors poured in place According to Jasper Ward writing in the now-out-of-print Unbuilt America, “It will look like a bunch of silos with bay windows. We will do as little as possible not to destroy the natural form of the silos.”
Bay windows would be cut into the massive 8-inch thick concrete walls. Hoped to have been completed by 1971, the 23-foot diameter units, many of them split-level, would even feature circular beds. Restaurants would be housed on the top level along with a swimming pool under a large glass dome. According to Ward, “In 1969, cash deposits for the apartments were already coming in, and the local newspapers had titled the prospective tenants ‘flour children.'”
Proposals for converting grain silos have cropped up over the years, but few as early as Jasper Ward’s proposal. (Check out the completed Silo Point in Baltimore, Maryland—scroll down—and the now-derailed Granary project in Philly. I also remember hearing about a proposal from St. Louis contemporary with Ward’s.) Fortunately, Louisville still have several massive grain silos and elevators, many along Beargrass Creek not far from where the Ballard Mills once stood. Do we have enough “flour children” left to rekindle circular concrete living?
Very sad, but I’m curios about a building featured in the Demo Company’s website. What’s the story behind the Center Building at 5th and Jefferson?
What a shame. I love this kind of re-imagining of spaces. Look what they did in Akron (though it looks like less than a success now): http://bit.ly/jcTo1u
@Porter Stevens – That’s the old Realty Building. Here’s more info.
@Ken Wilson – I think there’s still some real opportunity to do something similar with other silos/elevators in Louisville. They are certainly sturdy structures. Time will tell.
Oh how I would have LOVED that preservation & conversion! That probably would have jump-started massive improvement (& values!) in that whole area.
I remembering visiting that mill several times in the very early ’60s to get FREE BISCUIT TUBES – for various school arts & crafts projects & even to construct theater sets (castles & forts). The tubes were about 4 ft. long – meant to be sliced into selling sizes, I guess.
Very interesting! I am at this time renovating a Ballard & Ballard Obelisk Flour Building in Memphis, TN. (Found in Memphis An Architectural Guide, Eugene Johnson) We are located on the bluff overlooking the Mighty Mississippi River. So, our adaptive use is for an event venue. Would love to find more info on our Ballard & Ballard Building if you have any to share. Our family has been in business in this building for over 55 years and consider it a family heirloom. Thanks much for your consideration
My father JC Cumming was last Pillsbury Co. Plant Manager at East Broadway Ballard site when mill was closed in Spring 1964 after extensive flood damage in March of 1963.
I haven’t lived in Louisville all that long, but the recent closure of the factory in New Albany has driven me to search for its history. I guess that was the last remnant of Ballard and Ballard in the area, and I’m not sure they still made biscuits there.