On August 1st, we took a look at the old Ash Street Station / Hartstern Grocery that was recently destroyed by fire, but across the street on the corner of Shelby and Bergman streets sat another historic building that no longer exists. A Sanborn map from 1890 lists the building as the Louisville Soap Company and notes the upper floors of the timber-framed building were filled with tanks of soap. The southern portion of the building facing railroad tracks featured a brick turret that likely matched a smaller building opposite the L&N tracks.
The structure sat at a slight bend in Shelby Street so it would have held a prominent position as it terminated the southward view (simulated below). The building also terminated the westward view of Ash Street.
By 1930, food-producer Van Camp’s, known for their beans, occupied the building along with many other adjacent properties. I could find little information on the demise of the building, but today, the site sits empty as a parking lot. Anyone know the rest of the story? Please share in the comments.
[ Map and photo labeled UL Archives courtesy University of Louisville Photographic Archives – reference url 1, url 2. ]
Branden, thank you for finding inspiration in our Germantown – Schnitzelburg community Facebook page — and RUNNING with it.
Oh – I also found an additional photo in the UofL Archives showing ANOTHER local Van Camp facility, identified as being on Floyd St.
Were there multiple Louisville Soap Co locations?
This document implies a building was constructed in 1916 for $50,000. Page 86, right column toward the middle of the page…
Van Camp operated two soap factories. The one picrured on Shelby St., made bars of soap. The other plant, on Floyd Street, across from the L&N Shop, made flake soap, which was just becoming popular around 1930.
Still in the early 1930s, the bar soap made on Shelby was often grated or shredded to use in washing machines, or used whole on washboards.
In 1933 or 34, the plant pictured on Shelby was destroyed by fire, along with the alkaline plant on the other side of the railroad.
@C R Obst – Thanks for the history! It’s too bad the building was destroyed. It seems this intersection is rather prone to disastrous fires.
I have also researched the demise of the building, but I cannot find proof (such as a newspaper article) that the building actually burned. I did talk with an elderly gentleman (now deceased) who lived in the neighborhood and told me he watched the fire in which the building burned to the ground. It seems such a fire would be documented somewhere.
When I was a boy, 40’s&50’s, this building was known as “Durkee Foods”. Their was a tank farm across the street from this building that held vegetable oil. There was a fire in the tank farm in the late 40’s and men from the neighborhood helped firemen fight the fire.
On the south side of the railroad, to Merriweather, was the oil processing facilities for the soap factory. There were several storage tanks and a processing building. In the 1920s the place went up in flames. It was the largest fire ever in the Germantown area. All alarm fire, all firemen called to duty. Sparks from the blaze caused other fires several blocks away. The soap building, in these pix, was save being protected by train cars parked on a siding, beside the railroad line.