Nineteen whiskey distillers, wholesalers and other liquor businesses called the 100 block of Louisville’s West Main Street home over the last two centuries.

Whiskey Row was known more for the business of warehousing barrels and loading and offloading them to barges on the nearby Ohio River than for the actual distilling of Kentucky Bourbon, but the block still was important enough to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. In July of 2015, though, three of those historic buildings burned to the ground, incinerating previous renovation plans with them. All that was left behind were the cast-iron, Chicago-style facades saved by 80 Louisville firefighters. Emergency crews propped them up with steel supports.

Many developers balked at trying to build anything behind the heavy, still-protected remains of the buildings. The block was never a good candidate for facadectomies even before the fire. The 1860 facade of the J.T.S. Brown Warehouse at 115 W. Main couldn’t be changed at all and even bore the name of the distiller who later became a part of the Brown & Foreman Co.

But a plan was developed “to celebrate and embrace the culture (of Whiskey Row) and those historic facades … they have a history and a story to tell that goes back to the Civil War era,” says Aubrey Hartman, Vice President and Hospitality Designer at HKS in Dallas and lead designer of the $100-million, nearly 200,000-sq-ft hotel project being built behind the facades. “The history, everything all the way through to the fires that ravaged that block and those buildings just a few years ago needed to be respected and reflected in the design.”

The square of land at the corner of Main and First streets is only a block from the KFC Yum! Center arena and only a few more blocks from the newly renovated Kentucky International Convention Center. It was prime property for another hotel. Developer Steve Poe, CEO and founder of Poe Cos., had experience developing Louisville’s 620-room Marriott convention center hotel and the well-received Aloft Hotel directly across the street, but he was initially skeptical.  Full story here.