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.