Whiskey Row

Historical Marker #2104 in Louisville notes the historical significance of that city's Main Street whiskey firms.

Louisville's rise to become Kentucky's largest city in the nineteenth century was due in large part to its location on the Ohio River. In addition, the invention of the steamboat, which could transport goods, services, and people up and down the river, boosted the city's growth. On Louisville's wharves crops such as hemp, corn, and livestock were loaded aboard all types of watercraft and sent to other Ohio River locations, including Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The goods were also shipped to Mississippi River destinations like Memphis, Vicksburg, and New Orleans. In many instances, these items found their way to even more distant ports.

Another commodity that Kentucky produced in large quantities was various types of distilled spirits, particularly bourbon whiskey. Distilleries, especially those in central Kentucky, transported their barrels of whiskey by train or wagon to the Louisville market for sale and warehousing. In fact, Main Street, just one block from the Ohio River, became so populated with whiskey firms that it was dubbed "Whiskey Row." There, distilleries, warehouses, sales agents, and distributors all operated. Their various roles in the liquor market helped make Kentucky the leading producer of distilled spirits. Companies such as John T. Barbee and Company, Brown-Forman Company, Greenbrier Distillery Company, and Old Kentucky Distillery, among numerous others called Louisville's Main Street home to their business offices.

Today, the distillery related businesses that once populated Whiskey Row are long gone, but many of the buildings that they used have been restored and repurposed as luxury apartments, condominiums, restaurants, and retail businesses.

Images

Flood Damage

Flood Damage

This photograph from the 1913 flood show damages sustained to Ruby Distillery on Main Street (Whiskey Row) in Louisville. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

Main Street

Main Street

This 1921 photograph shows Main Street looking east. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

Brown-Forman

Brown-Forman

Brown-Forman maintained an office at 117 West Main St. for many years in the early twentieth century. Courtesy of the University of Louisville. View File Details Page

Louisville 1852

Louisville 1852

This 1852 map shows the close proximity of Louisville's Main Street to the Ohio River. Courtesy of the Kentucky Historical Society. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Tim Talbott, “Whiskey Row,” ExploreKYHistory, accessed July 27, 2017, http://explorekyhistory.ky.gov/items/show/425.
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