Van Camp Building in 1932. (Courtesy Germantown facebook)
Van Camp Building in 1932. (Courtesy Germantown facebook)
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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.

Louisville Soap Company / Van Camp Building in 1890. (Via KYVL)
Louisville Soap Company / Van Camp Building in 1890. (Via KYVL)

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.

Van Camp Building over a modern photo. (Broken Sidewalk)
Van Camp Building over a modern photo. (Broken Sidewalk)
Van Camp Building terminates a vista. (Broken Sidewalk)
Van Camp Building terminates a vista. (Broken Sidewalk)
Van Camp Building terminates a vista. (Broken Sidewalk)
Van Camp Building terminates a vista. (Broken Sidewalk)
Van Camp Building viewed from Ash Street in 1930. (Courtesy UL Archives)
Van Camp Building viewed from Ash Street in 1930. (Courtesy UL Archives)
The Louisville Soap / Van Camp Building Terminates a vista. (Via KYVL)
The Louisville Soap / Van Camp Building Terminates a vista. (Via KYVL)
Louisville Soap Company / Van Camp Building in 1890. (Via KYVL)
Louisville Soap Company / Van Camp Building in 1890. (Via KYVL)
Louisville Railway's Shelby Street Car Barn still exists. (Broken Sidewalk)
Louisville Railway’s Shelby Street Car Barn still exists. (Broken Sidewalk)
Today the site sits empty. (Via Google)
Today the site sits empty. (Via Google)

[ Map and photo labeled UL Archives courtesy University of Louisville Photographic Archives – reference url 1, url 2. ]

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7 COMMENTS

  1. Branden, thank you for finding inspiration in our Germantown – Schnitzelburg community Facebook page — and RUNNING with it.

  2. Oh – I also found an additional photo in the UofL Archives showing ANOTHER local Van Camp facility, identified as being on Floyd St.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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