View Full Version : Two Historic Distilleries Are Threatened
Fans of American whiskey and friends of America’s whiskey heritage need to be aware that two historic distilleries in Woodford County, Kentucky, are facing destruction. They are the Old Crow Distillery and the adjacent Old Taylor Distillery, both on Glenns Creek Road.
First, I want to recognize Amy Bennett, a graduate student in Historic Preservation at the University of Kentucky, for bringing this matter to my attention. Amy is researching the Old Taylor Distillery for her Master's Thesis.
During her interviews and research, Amy has learned that a company interested in demolishing both sites for salvage is in the process of acquiring them. Old Crow is currently owned by James Beam Brands Company. Old Taylor is owned by local, private individuals who originally hoped to reopen it as a distillery. Both properties are in a severe state of disrepair from years of neglect. Neither property currently has any protection from private development.
One step that could be taken is that an historic zoning overlay could be put on one or both properties by the Fiscal Court of Woodford County. This does not require the property owner’s consent. Once a historic overlay is placed on the properties, Woodford County’s Board of Architectural Review would have to oversee any changes to them. This would not necessarily prevent their destruction, but would make it more difficult.
Besides taking steps to protect the properties through local designation, we are requesting that Preservation Kentucky and the Blue Grass Trust help in coming up with other ways to gain the public's awareness of this situation and the need to preserve and document these two historic rural industrial sites.
In addition to the impressive array of mid 19th to mid-20th century industrial architecture found at both sites, they also are important to the growing field of industrial archeology. Both Old Taylor and Old Crow can provide insights into the ways that distilling processes and technology changed over time. Unlike distilleries that are currently active and have disposed of their obsolete equipment, these distilleries have the ability to shed light on past processes and life ways. Whiskey distilling is of fundamental importance to the history of Kentucky, thus besides pursuing local historic designations for the distilleries, HABS/HAER documentation of them is also important.
We believe these properties have the potential to be adaptively reused given the right investors.
Old Crow was one of the first nationally-known whiskey brands and one of the first nationally-marketed brand name products of any kind. It originated in the 1840s with Dr. James C. Crow at the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, on the current site of the Woodford Reserve Distillery. The facility that is currently threatened dates from 1878. The Old Taylor Distillery, adjacent to Old Crow, was built by E. H. Taylor, Jr., in about 1887. Taylor was a prominent leader in the Kentucky whiskey industry. He was also the longtime mayor of Frankfort, and a state representative and senator. He built Old Taylor to be a showplace and most of the pergolas, reflecting pools, stone bridges, gazebos and the castle-like main building with which he adorned the property are still intact.
Little remains of the historic fabric of Kentucky’s distilling industry. I urge everyone to help us raise awareness of this threat and help us save these historic distilleries if at all possible.
Just to let you all know, being a Woodford County resident of about 1 mile away from these distilleries, Woodford County has some of the stingiest Planning and Zoning ordinances in the state. I'm not too sure how this would go over with them if pressed by the public. However, if there is not historic designation, there probably isn't much you can do. It must be noted that a lot of the Old Taylor, and some of Crow's buildings are almost what I would classify as public hazards. I know their on private property, but the owners should have some responsibility to keep broken windows boarded and rock walls and buildings stable. I would hate for them to be torn down, however, if people wish for them to stay, they need to be repaired to a certain extent. Old Taylors owners better be glad there is not a code enforcement officer that really cares what goes on in that area. But it is pretty remote, and not many people (especially outsiders) actually drive down there.
Jim Beam heavily uses Old Crow, are you sure they are thinking about selling it? I could see them tearing down some of it, but not the whole thing.
If you want to contact someone about it, here is the Woodford County Planning and Zoning Commission's website:
Woodford Planning and Zoning Commission (http://www.woodfordcountyplanningandzoning.com/) The Judge Executive is Joe Gormley and can be reached at 859-873-4139. Maybe if you want to voice you opinion, these would be the people whom could help.
My information, though still fragmentary, is that the Crow deal is already done and they also want the Taylor property. As for Beam's use of Crow, they are completing some new rackhouses at Clermont and it could be that, with the condition of the facilities at Crow and the quality of the road there and its remoteness, they intend to stop using those facilities and intend to sell the property. I don't know that, but I do know they are building new warehouses at Clermont and planning to build more at Boston.
If they are building new houses at Clemont, I agree that their really isn't much of a reason to keep using Crow.
So can you tell a little more about what these prospective owners are wanting to do. Salvage materials from the building?
It really could be an uphill battle. Living my entire life here, it is shocking that most Woodford County residents, don't even know that place is down there. And a lot of the ones that do, really don't know any of the history behind them.
We are still investigating and any information a local such as yourself might be able to obtain would be appreciated. What I believe at this point is that the prospective buyers intend to demolish the buildings, salvaging anything of value in the process, i.e., vintage masonry, scrap steel, etc. Then they'll clear the property and sell it for whatever use. A lot of that is conjecture, based on what little we know. My assumption is that this company has determined that the price the land would likely bring "clean," plus the value of the salvagables, exceeds the purchase price.
I did learn today that if the distilleries wanted to continue using the warehouses they would have to invest something in repair and they have determined it isn't worth it, because the whiskey doesn't age all that well down there in that valley because of the humidity. That's why they're building new warehouses instead.
For those who don't know, Beam has been using the warehouses at Crow, which it still owns, and Wild Turkey and others have been leasing the useable warehouses at Taylor, which Beam sold a few years ago to some local individuals. The person who bought it then wanted to restore and reopen it, but he died.
I'm not exactly sure what the distillery land is zoned, but I think it might actually be rural agriculture, and the distilleries were a non-conforming use due to them being constructed prior to the zoning regulations being implemented in 1989(and after they had pretty much stopped production). If they are torn down, I would say the land would not be able to be sold as commercial, basically taking away most of the value. Plus Woodford County has a 30 building rights minimum for building houses in the agricultural zoned areas. So if that is zoned rural agricultural, and only 1 deed existed for each distillery; whoever bought the clean land would only be able to build a house on each deeded piece of land or just use it for agricultural purposes. Crow might have more than 30 acres, but it wouldn’t be a lot more. This would greatly diminish the value of the land. So they must be expecting to make a lot of money off the salvaged materials with low expectations for the value of land to be resold.
I am trying to get in contact with David Hall (CLG) Historic Preservation Director for the city of Bardstown. Maybe http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif with his experience with this type of thing he could help (or guide) us to saving those buildings?
David Hall, really knows his stuff. My daddy built "really nice" home, in the middle of the "historical district" in Bardstown. The prints were given to him for approval and he followed thru the entire building process to make sure the building was historically correct http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Right down to the gutters on the ground http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
Thanks, Bettye Jo. That's exactly the kind of help we need. We still haven't been able to determine who the prospective buyer is and what they plan to do but, typically, they will keep everything quiet for as long as they can, until it's a done deal. There are lots of people who see historic preservation as nothing but a bloody nuisance and in some ways, they're right, but when you have historic sites you have to do everything you can because when they're gone, that's it.
whats the possibility of getting a group together for the Bourbon Festival this fall and taking a look at some of these old places,or getting together a map of some sort so we can go on our own. I know some may not be safe to get to close to,or there may be issues of trespassing,but even taking a look and knowing where they are would help us get a better understanding of the sweep and history of the whiskey industry
Most all of them are safe to look at from the road. But they are privately owned and have no trespassing signs posted. However, when I say they are unsafe, it is typically the owner’s responsibility to either demolish or stabilize buildings and cover broken windows even if they are on private property(Old Taylor). You can get a feel for the history of Old Taylor from the road, but Crows distilling house is tucked behind warehouses 100 or 200 yards off the road. A Beam employee might lead a group around if prior arrangements are made. But I highly doubt they would let a group into most of the buildings, especially the distilling house. But it never hurts to try.
A map wouldn't be hard to come by, their pretty easy to find without a map.
Chuck and I have posted pictures on here before. If you search under old taylor pics, old taylor pic, and old crow pics less than 2 years old, you will find them.
Do a Mapquest search for Glenns Creek Road, Frankfort, KY. You'll get a bunch of number choices and can pick pretty much any one you like to bring the map up. The distilleries are just across the county line in Woodford County. Glenns Creek Road is also Rt. 1659. Woodford Reserve is on the same road, but closer to Versailles. Though in Woodford County, Taylor and Crow are very close to Frankfort.
I hope there is somthing that can be done to save these places.
I come here every year to see and imagine what it was like when Dr.Crow
used to make that excellent bourbon. Recently I opened up a bottle of Crow from 1944 bottled, and distilled in 1940. It was great and the taste opens up like nothing the bourbons these day have.
This is from 2003 the main path inside the Taylor, I think the still room is on the left.
These equipment where left inside of the building to the right I think.
Chuck might have an idea of what they were used for.
Here's a view from a different angle, it is a huge place and taking care of it
is not an easy job.
This is one of the men who takes care of this place from completely going
down, I've been there it is hard work. His name is Mike Withrow, his dad
Cecil Withrow bottled the Stone Castle brand and shipped them to Japan.
I meet him once a year and he lets Yuki and I take time to picture and walk
around the historic place, he does let people do tastings and things inside
the distillery if you ask I thought.
Me on the left,Mike on the right.
This list is posted annually in the Lexington newspaper and typically gets some people worked up. Not sure how you might get it on this list but it saves a lot of buildings.
Look at the updated list and the 2002 list and it has Buffalo Springs Distillery in Stamping Ground on it.
BlueGrass Trust Endangered List (http://www.bluegrasstrust.org/endangered/index.htm)
Amy Bennett here. I'm the one who gave Chuck Cowdery the heads up. Old Taylor and Old Crow Distilleries certainly deserve to be part of the The Most Endangered List. I'm striving to work with historic preservationists and others to stir up interest in these two significant whiskey distilleries.
I've really enjoyed reading everyone's comments and experiences in this thread. Someone asked where the distilleries are located so I'm attaching a map.
Please, keep the discussion going, brainstorm about future uses for the buildings, and tell others about the dangers to Kentucky Bourbon and architectural heritage. Thanks.
Did you get any of your information from guy named Jake Jacobs? My father says he has a scrap book of old pictures of Old Taylor and Old Crow. I would say he is by far the most knowledgeable person concerning Millville history. If you didn't talk to him, he would be a good person to get in contact with if you need more information for your research.
May I ask why you choose Old Taylor for your project?
Brandon, thank you for the contact! I haven't talked to him yet, but I definitely will--does he live in the area?
My historic photos and information have come mostly from the Kentucky History Center and Woodford County deeds, visits to the distillery, and well-written histories of the Kentucky whiskey industry like Chuck's Bourbon Straight.
As a new Kentuckian (I've only lived here almost 3 years), I quickly realized that Thoroughbred horses, burley tobacco, and Bourbon whiskey were three of the largest impacts on the landscape of central Kentucky. When I actively began pondering over possible Master's Thesis topics, I thought about my experiences documenting two of the buildings of the stud farm where Man O War retired. I also documented a few tobacco barns as part of an agricultural landscape study. They just weren't my cup of tea.
When the opportunity came up to work on a history of the Old Taylor Distillery as part of an adaptive use feasibility study, I took one look at the puzzle of recreational and industrial landscapes and was hooked.
To gain a better understanding of what it is I'm researching, I've also been immersing myself in the Bourbon culture. I've visited all distilleries open for public tours, gone to the the Bardstown Bourbon Festival, tasted various whiskeys (I have a bottle of Basil Hayden in the kitchen right now), and read A LOT of books on whiskey. Basically gaining appreciation and understanding for the whiskey industry, its long history, lively culture and products.
That's probably a longer answer than you were expecting.
When you've finished your thesis, please post it somewhere accessible, and let us know where.
A guy I work with indicated that the distillery in Stamping Ground is being dismantled as we speak.
Don't have verification, but he mentioned in passing.
Wow. I heard the same thing today about that distillery in Stamping Ground. They were suppose to preserve it, but they have done the opposite. A terrible loss. The website that lists it as being saved needs to be updated.
I would say those are grain hoppers.
I just rode the 1659 on my motorcycle fFrom Versailles to Frankfort this morning, past these two wonderful places and the L&G. It truly is some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. And the freedom of the bike lets you take in the wonderful aromas of the aging bourbon that lies in the wharehouses. It is definatley a place I recommend to take a look at, for any historian and boubon lover.
Your picture of the Old Taylor Distillery is very powerful. I know that the Buffalo Trace Distillery could very well look like this today if some very insightful people did not buy it back in 1992 and spend over $30,000,000 bringing it back to life. I remember seeing the Old Taylor Distillery for the first time back in 1978 and wondering just what that delicious aroma was. It will be a shame to loose it forever.
The equipment you refer to appear to be grain hoppers. After the grain has been milled, it is weighed in these hoppers prior to being dumped into the cookers. If a recipe consists of 74% corn, that may equate to 3,250#. Next the rye is weighed out and cooked.
I am working with Dan Pezzoni on some historical background of the George T. Stagg Distillery (now the Buffalo Trace Distillery) and he told me about the work you have done for your thesis. Both he and I are impressed with your passion for your work. If you are ever in Frankfort, stop by for a tour. I will be happy to show you around.
See my tangential (i.e., hijacking) response under "Weights and Measures" in the General Bourbon forum.
You can easily drive by these places. And certainly if you need help the folks at L&G/Wrodford R or at BT would likely sketch out the way for you. They are not difficult to find if you know the area.
In Japan we have Sake and Shouchu, it is our countries historical drink,like the
French has there Wine and Cognac, we too had our rough times and alot of
historical(or not) Kura (which is a like a distillery) has vanished during these
times. Bourbon is known and loved all around the world, it is America's
drink and I mean really only in America, I as a non american can do so little
or nothing at all, but I save money to go to this place every year where long
ago Dr.Crow might have been at the same place where I stand, and thought
about whiskey. These places must be important to the history of your
countries main drink if it can be saved in any way I would want to help.
I just love the air and surrounding around Glenns Creek, there is no where
like it. Full of history.
Too much Barton and HH and a little Shouchu tonight. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/drink.gif
I noticed several people have asked to see what these places look like. I took some pictures today (the weather was perfect) and I thought I would share.. Hope these help..
Historic Distilleris (http://www.thevarnish.com/distilleries/)
The first few photos are of Woodford Reserve... About 5 miles down the road are the 2 properties in question.. The bulk of the photos are of Old Taylor since it is in the worst shape. Beam currently uses part of the Old Crow place for storage.
I'm with Chuck, very nicely done.
Thank you for taking the time to do that... http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif
One of MDV's pictures was from almost the exact same angle as a favorite of my own, taken in 1991 or 92, and I was shocked by how much the buildings had deteriorated in that time, a short time considering that they are over 100 years old. Here is the earlier shot.
No problem... My pleasure... I'm a newbie on these boards ("long time drinker, first time poster"), and I wanted to contribute a little... I am hopeful that we can raise the awareness of the plight of these structures and something can be done....
Please, anyone who wants to copy or use any of these images in anyway, please feel free to do so... The more they are spread around, the better, I think.
those pictures are really nice. taking a look at them in person this fall will make a nice side trip
The National Trust for Historic Preservation just contacted me. They are going to do a piece on Old Taylor and Old Crow for their online magazine and perhaps their print magazine as well. I'll let you all know as I know more myself.
Here's a link to the online article.
And for the record... I never told the reporter that the Old Crow warehouse pictured in the article was built in 1879 (more like 1910) ... and there are a few other inaccuracies.
Hate to inform you all of this, but all the shutters have been removed from the warehouse in that picture and the other 3 beside it. Not sure if this is indications of pending activity or not.
Thanks for the update. When I talked to folks at Jim Beam Brands they said to expect the buildings to be down by the end of the year.
ETA: You are talking about the Old Crow Warehouse(s) pictured in the online magazine article--correct?
Just wanted to tell you I was interviewed for a short radio segment on the distilleries. The program will air on August 5th, on public radio WJFF, at 10AM. You can listen live via streaming audio at www.wjffradio.org. (http://www.wjffradio.org.)
Hurray for public radio!
Just a reminder:
the segment on the distilleries will air on August 5th, on public radio WJFF, at 10AM. You can listen live via streaming audio at www.wjffradio.org. (http://www.wjffradio.org.)
Small update - I happened to drive by Old Taylor on Saturday and noticed a small tied up helium balloon at the main gate of the Stone Castle Building (http://www.thevarnish.com/distilleries/pages/P4160266_JPG.htm) along with a hand written sign on poster board advertising a "SALE". I immediately slammed on my brakes and whipped the car into reverse. The gates were open and I drove cautiously onto the historic grounds of the once proud facility. On the south side of the property, near the old spring house, was an open building and more hand written signs about the sale. I was very intrigued, to say the least. No other cars or people were around. I got out of the car and went into the building. In the far corner, surrounded by a dozen tables of "stuff", sat a Mrs. Dorothy Withrow. She is the widow of the last owner (or just operator/custodian?) of the Old Taylor Facility. As you know, the property is under contract (set to close by September 1) with an investment group/company from Tennessee. This group bought the buildings down the road at Old Crow and they also have the option to buy the Old Crow land itself.
Anyway, Mrs. Withrow was there selling off items from her late husband's collection. Most of it was general nick-nack type mercahndise from a variety of other distilleries (glasses, airplane bottles, decanturs, pub mirrors, etc). There were a couple of intersting items, but I think most of the really really good stuff was not being sold (or had been sold already).
I bought a few small items and we talked for a few moments. She brought me up to date on the sale and fate of the Old Taylor property. She and her husband ran an "Antique Mall" in the 1990s in the old bottling house. Her husband passed away around 2000, just as they were beginning to bottle bought bourbon under the name "Stonecastle Bourbon". Only a tiny amount was made, as I understand it, and it all went oversees (Japan?). She said that the group buying Old Taylor will be tearing down a few of the buildings that are already in disprepair. But, she says, she was told that they want to renovate the actual Stonecastle "Castle" for a restaurnt and B&B. She also talked as if the group wanted to restore some of Colnel Taylor's famous gardens and springhouse (which was increadible, even it its current dilapidated state).
So, long story short, it appears as if there may be some hope of saving at least the Stonecastle Building. Maybe some of the other buildings will survive. It would be a heck of a place for a museum. With any luck, by the Bourbon Festival in 2006, there will be a new side trip available for the Festival goers. Who knows?
Just thought I would send out that update. Mrs. Withrow talked as if she might have even more items from her husband's collection and might rent a trailer to come down to the Festival next month. If anyone would like to speak with her about some of the items she may have for sale, let me knoo and I'll give you her number. She asked me to spread the word if I could. Again, alot of the stuff is your average glassware, decanturs, etc stuff, but someone may find a jewel here or there.
Keep your fingers crossed that the Castle will survive...
After my event at Woodford Reserve yesterday, I drove toward Frankfort rather than Versailles (forgetting about the recommendation I had received that great tacos were to be had at the Victoria Restaurante) on Glenn's Creek Road. Not much has changed at Taylor and Crow since the last time I was there, last fall. However, there did appear to be a fair amount of activity at Crow. There were about ten cars parked there and several Jim Beam trailers. I saw a few people moving around, but no heavy equipment (i.e., demolition equipment), so I'm guessing they are getting the last of their whiskey out. Pretty day, pretty drive, sad scene.
Old Taylor sold for 1.15 mill. So expect some things to start happening there in the near future.
Old Taylor sold for 1.15 mill. So expect some things to start happening there in the near future.
Where did you get that? Public record of some kind? Was anything else disclosed, such as the buyer?
"Stonecastle Properties, Inc.(Michael Withrow) to Old Taylor Partners, LLC (Michelle Anderson, secretary), 83.246 acres on McCracken Pike (Old Taylor Distillery property), $1,150,000."
"Stonecastle Properties Inc. to Michael Withrow, 4.9 acres on McCracken Pike, $1, no deed tax noted."
They sold it to a company similar to that of Old Crow. There is someone that reads this site that has information about the future of the site(they has never posted). I would expect most of the buildings to come down except the Castle, Administration Building, Depot, and Spring House. However, there are plans to do something with these buildings. If the person I know reads this and wants to expand on it, I'll leave it up to him. But thats about all I know.
"Old Taylor Partners LLC, 40 Burton Hills Blvd, Suite 320, Nashville, Heritage Group LLC" was created in August.
Just to let you all know, they have been doing work around Old Taylor. And most of that work looks to be taking buildings apart. They have a crain beside the warehouses across from the castle, with the roof already removed from one of them. There looks to be a lot of construction materials laying around too. I'll try to get some pictures posted sometime soon.
This is one of the warehouses right across from the Castle at Old Taylor.
They are getting a lot of good wood out of this.
They probably have about 150 stacks of wood from this warehouse neatly stacked and ready to go.
Oh! It looks like they're finally starting the Old Taylor Historic Distillery Visitor's Center. Maybe?
I'm now grateful that I made the pilgrimage last September, before the wrecking ball.
Edit - Attached is what the rickhouse looked like last Fall. Let's hope this portends positive changes. I seem to remember that the Withrow family owns the Castle itself. Is this true? It would be nice to think that the rickhouse demo is coordinated with something positive at the Castle.
I don't think the Withrow's own the castle portion. I think Mike owns a small lot where his house sits which is behind and to the left of these two warehouses.
Do they also seem to be salvaging brick? When they tore down Maxwell Street, "vintage masonry" was one of the prime things they salvaged.
You can't tell if they are or not. That picture was taken this weekend. And you can see that they have basically torn the roof off the structure and punched the hole in the side. So most of the brick is still standing. I'll have to wait and see how they go about taking down the walls.
Here are some updated pics from the Old Taylor distillery in Woodford County. As most of you know, the place was sold for salvage and they appear to making moving right along. As of September 2006, a few buildings had already been completely torn down and all that remained were stacks of brick and lumber. View the demolition pics here: http://www.thevarnish.com/distilleries/taylordemo/index.html
Also, last Fall (2005), I was able to go on the grounds of Old Taylor and see some things you can't see from the road - notably Colnel Tayolor's old Gazebo, Spring House, and Gardens... All of these are terribly overgrown, but you can still get a sense of great history. The images from this expedition are here: http://www.thevarnish.com/distilleries/taylorgardens/index.html
Also, I found a print from the KY Historical Society that is currently on display in the restrooms of Bourbons Bistro in Louisville (http://www.bourbonsbistro.com/). They have all sorts of interesting prints, but the prints in the restrooms are of the Old Taylor place and they show the gardens in full attendance for some sort of event. I took a picture of these prints with my cell phone and these poor renditions are available here: http://www.thevarnish/com/distilleries/taylor1.jpg and http://www.thevarnish/com/distilleries/taylor2.jpg
Hope you all find these as interesting as I do...
Thanks so much for those. The pictures of the grounds are heartbreakingly beautiful. Surely, they will preserve the Castle and Gazebo and Springhouse. Tell me they will.
The last I heard (Spring 2006), there were tentative plans to presever the castle and surrounding grounds, but I have not heard anything more recently. If anone else has any info, please share.
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