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NSSAR’s future home looking forward, looking back: Part 2
BUILDING OF BRANDEIS & SANDERS: A COTTON WAREHOUSE
(FULTON CONWAY & CO.)
809 WEST MAIN STREET
The earliest reference to the building appears in the Louisville Commercial account of the 1876 fire. The fire reached the rear portions of the structure, but the flames were quickly controlled and the damage was considered negligible. The building was originally a four-story structure of cast iron and stone facing. A somewhat open cast-iron ground floor consisted of four attenuated pilasters supporting the cornice. The additional floors were adorned with Renaissance-inspired windows. While Kentucky was not a cotton-growing state, the Brandeis & Sanders Building is a testament to the importance of the Ohio River for transportation, and Louisville as a distribution point, for the southern cotton commodity trade.
CYCLONE OF MARCH 27, 1890
At 8:30 p.m. on March 27, 1890, a class-4 cyclone hit Louisville. The storm, nicknamed the “Whirling Tiger,” entered from the southwest and swept over the West End, including West Main Street. The storm is still listed among the top 25 cyclones (tornadoes) in the United States, with 76 reported deaths in Louisville alone. The damage included the 800 block of West Main Street, and the Kentucky Tobacco Warehouse was “completely wrecked with the exception of a part of the front and back walls,” according to the March 29 Louisville Commercial, the top two floors were never reconstructed. The Brandeis & Sanders building was “a heavy sufferer with its warehouse completely wrecked,” as reported in the Louisville commercial article. It is evident the latter structure was reconstructed to its original height from Main Street photographs appearing April 25, 1921 in The Courier-Journal.
NATIONAL SOCIETY SONS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION 1ST CONGRESS: APRIL 30, 1890
A little more than a month later from the evening of what became known as “That Awful Cyclone,” the first NSSAR Congress was held in the Galt House Hotel, located at First and Main Streets, about eight blocks from the Kentucky Tobacco Warehouse and the Brandeis & Sanders Building. The Galt House apparently suffered little or no damage.
THE GREAT 1937 FLOOD
The 1937 Ohio River flood occurred in late January and early February, with damage stretching from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill. Approximately a million people were left homeless, with 385 dead and property losses reaching $500 million. By January 27, the water level reached 57 feet (normal is less than 13 feet) in the Louisville area, setting a new record; 70 percent of the city was under water at that time. Actually, since Main Street is situated on the top edge of the riverbank, it was slightly higher than areas farther inland. Main Street at Fourth was above water. A. J. Whitley had just within the previous year moved the Fulton Conway business into its present location. Present owner, Whitley Courtenay, stated in an interview at the University of Louisville Oral History Center that his grandfather said, “The water completely filled the basement, and a small amount entered a low point in the floor in the rear of the building, with Main Street remaining dry. We were forced to evacuate the premises during the flood, and upon returning it was discovered that the building had been entered, and parts were taken; however, a very complete list was left by a government agency for reimbursement.”
1937 FIRE: BRANDEIS & SANDERS BUILDING
Shortly after the flood receded, the Brandeis & Sanders Building caught fire, reducing the building to one floor, leaving the second floor with a falsefront facades. A few years later, A. J. Whitley decided to buy the building from the insurance company and add it to his adjacent building, the Fulton Conway. While in the process of repairing the fire damage, it was discovered that a defective flue from the Fulton Conway boilers had caused the fire.
NSSAR PREPARES FOR THE FUTURE
On Feb. 23, 2008, under the leadership of President General Bruce A. Wilcox, the general officers, Vice-Presidents General, and the Trustees voted to take the first step, preliminary to relocating our National Headquarters to 803-809 West Main Street in Louisville. This historic action required the purchase of the Kentucky Tobacco Company Warehouse and the attached Brandeis & Sanders Building, which together is currently referred to as the Fulton Conway Building. The building is located in the West Main Street Preservation District Museum Row, named for the large number of museums within the area. The building will provide the necessary space for National Headquarters, as well the future Center for Advancing America’s Heritage.
All of the participants in the closing on the property formerly known as the Fulton Conway Building in the Museum District of downtown Louisville. Representing the NSSAR were, seated, from left, NSSAR’s closing attorney and Kentucky Compatriot Bill Buckaway, President General Bruce A. Wilcox, Development Director Laurie Anne Roberts and Director of Finance Craig Johnson, and standing, North Carolina Compatriot Sam Powell, left, and Executive Director Joe Harris. Across the table were Mary Ann and Whit Courtenay and, standing, the Courtenay’s attorney, Kevin Distler.
—J. David Sympson, Historian General
Read the first article about the history of our new building here.
- Kentucky Historic Resources Inventory JC-LC 40
- National Register of Historic Places Inventory, 3/22/1974
- West Main Street Preservation District Designation Report, 1/31/1977
Click on any of the pictures to see them in a larger format.