Historical Marker #2588 commemorates the Falls City Jean and Woolen Mill in Louisville, Kentucky.
The Falls City Jeans and Woolen Company was incorporated 1882. The building was completed around 1886. The Industrial Revolution was going strong during this time and Louisville was a production hub. By 1905, Louisville was home to eight woolen mills. Falls City Jeans and Woolen Company was one of the largest mills.
Once the mill got going, Falls City Jeans produced more than 2,500,000 yards of jeans per year. Their jeans were sold all over the country. Their jeans also became known as “Kentucky Jeans,” which were a light cotton cloth made of finer count yarns. The jeans were easier to make, cheaper to make, light weight, and good jeans to wear while working. They were made with a twill weave, which meant that it was a very coarse fabric and could be made by factories that did not have the new machinery. By 1890, the mills in Louisville were producing about $1.5 million in annual sales and jeans could be bought for $1.50 a pair.
Falls City Jeans and the seven other woolen mills in Louisville all had similar architecture and were built nearly the same to achieve the best production of their products. Along with three other woolen mills listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Falls City Jeans and Woolen Mill building still stands today.
The structure of the Falls City Jeans and Woolen factory has a gambrel roof with a row of gabled dormers forming a full upper story. The building is two-stories-tall, made of red brick, has walls that formed large planes, a raised basement, and features a large entry tower that served as an identifier to differentiate from the other industrial architecture buildings in the area.
While the textile industry flourished during this time, it never reached the economic importance as the tobacco and distilling industries. Nevertheless, the earliest record of a woolen factory and cotton mill in Louisville was in 1832. It was not until after the Civil War when Louisville experienced a boom in the textile industry which was aided by the expansion of railroads. The mills were built near railroad switch stations so that they were able to get their products shipped out. Louisville was able to reach every city within 300 miles and eventually all over the country. In the 1880 census, Kentucky was the nation’s second largest producer of cloth jeans.
More mills were built throughout the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, which helped Louisville grow. Falls City Jeans and Woolen Company led for many years until the industry changed. After the factory shut down, Enro Shirt Company and Ohio Valley Bag & Burlap used the site to produce their products. Even though the company is gone, the legacy it left behind is still seen in Louisville today.
The marker reads:
Falls City Jeans & Woolen Mills
Incorporated in 1882, the Falls
City Jeans & Woolen Mill Company
produced the most Kentucky Jeans
in Louisville. The company created
2.5 million yards of jeans a year.
Later, Enro Shirt Company & Ohio
Valley Bag & Burlap used the site.
Factory designed by architect DJ
Williams. Added to National
Register of Historic Places 1982.
The Burkhart Company
Kentucky Jeans were cotton cloth made
with finer count yarns, using a
twill weave. Kentucky Jeans were
coarse and most suitable for work
clothing. After the Civil War,
Louisville was a hub for cotton
processing, with 8 cotton mills
by 1905. The expansion of the L&N
Railroad supported Louisville’s
thriving textile industry.
Shelby Park Neighborhood Association
This marker was dedicated on August 1, 2019.