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cowdery

Two Historic Distilleries Are Threatened

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cowdery

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.

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BSS

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.

Chuck,

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 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.

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cowdery

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.

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BSS

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.

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cowdery

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.

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BSS

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.

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boone

Chuck,

I am trying to get in contact with David Hall (CLG) Historic Preservation Director for the city of Bardstown. Maybe 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 grin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gif Right down to the gutters on the ground grin.gifgrin.gif

Bettye Jo

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cowdery

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.

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mike1

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

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BSS

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.

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cowdery

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.

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koji

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.

Koji

post-74-14489811807605_thumb.jpg

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koji

These equipment where left inside of the building to the right I think.

Chuck might have an idea of what they were used for.

post-74-14489811807849_thumb.jpg

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koji

Here's a view from a different angle, it is a huge place and taking care of it

is not an easy job.

Koji

post-74-14489811808068_thumb.jpg

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koji

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.

Koji

post-74-14489811808271_thumb.jpg

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BSS

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

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Bennett

Hi Everybody,

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.

post-966-14489811837905_thumb.jpg

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BSS

Amy,

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

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Bennett

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.

smile.gif

post-966-14489811838118_thumb.jpg

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TNbourbon

When you've finished your thesis, please post it somewhere accessible, and let us know where.

Thanks.

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pepcycle

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.

skep.gif

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Bennett

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.

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cowdery

I would say those are grain hoppers.

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etohchem

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.

Etohchem

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Ken Weber

Koji,

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.

Ken

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