Editor’s note: As part of an ongoing series, Vital Sites is highlighting several reuse success stories in Louisville, in which historic buildings were rehabilitated, renovated, or redeveloped. Adaptive reuse refers to the process in which a site or building is reused for a purpose other than its original use. This revitalization process creates jobs, spurs economic development, reduces materials sent to landfills, and maintains the historic streetscape and character of our community.
Falls City Lofts
415 E. Market Street between Preston and Jackson Streets
Original use: dry goods store ca. 1840s
Adaptive reuse: condominiums with ground-floor office/retail
Falls City Lofts provides a much-desired downtown living location just west of NuLu and barely a block south of Louisville Slugger Field. Before it featured condos with exposed brick, high ceilings, and great views of the city, however, this four-story, 172-year-old building displayed commercial goods for sale. Merchant Jeremiah Bacon, from Pennsylvania, established his dry goods store here as a sole proprietor in 1845 on East Market, at that time considered the frontier of the primitive town of Louisville. Business quickly grew. An October 1889 Courier-Journal article stated that “the building occupied by J. Bacon & Sons [in 1846] was a modest two-story brick structure. As their business increased, they increased the capacity of their building until now they have the largest retail and wholesale dry goods store in the South.” Jeremiah’s three sons – John, Edwin, and Jere – soon joined the family business and took over operation of the store after their father’s death.
J. Bacon & Sons on East Market was a popular and successful store, featured often in the Courier-Journal for its elaborate window displays and “labyrinth of toydom” for Christmas. General retail and gifts were displayed on the main floor, with wholesale goods, furnishings, and carpets on the upper floors. They also had a thriving mail-order business. In 1882, an article declared Bacon’s “the Macy’s of Louisville, offering everything that a customer could wish, embracing a dozen departments under the same roof, and so grading prices as to make it one of the cheapest places in the city.” Needing to expand, they celebrated their final Christmas at the East Market location in 1900 and moved to what was often considered their flagship store at Fourth and Market in 1901. That store stayed open until 1972 and was later demolished.
According to a timeline published by Louisville Magazine in February 2013, the East Market building then went through a few more hands: James Greene operated Greene Furniture from about 1903 to 1962, and then a tarp manufacturer called Hyman DeBrovy & Sons operated in the building until the mid-1990s. After sitting vacant and boarded-up for over a decade, a group of investors purchased the building in 2011 with intent to rehab the 30,000-square-foot building into 17 downtown condominiums. Members of the team included Andrew Bollinger, Jeff Sleadd, Chris Eldridge, Brian Thieneman, John Gray, and Jesse Bollinger. Some interior photos of the vacant space were included in an article by Broken Sidewalk at that time.
Over $4 million was invested into the project. Windows were carved into the east side to provide more light to living spaces, and a fourth story was added to the rear portion of the structure. The limestone façade and cast-iron Corinthian columns along the front sidewalk were cleaned and restored, respectively, and the west side now features a large mural by Bryan Patrick Todd. Limited parking for residents was added on the lower level. The lofts have 12- to 15-foot ceilings, exposed brick and ductwork, floor-to-ceiling windows, high efficiency systems and Energy Star lighting. Residents began moving in 2013 and the area has continued to grow since then.
Large, nineteenth- and early twentieth-century commercial and industrial buildings lend themselves well to adaptive reuse projects with solid materials, sturdy construction, and historic character that doesn’t exist in modern buildings. We’re happy to see the old J. Bacon & Sons building back in business again!