The Campbell Street Power Station is a former power plant in use between 1899 and 1921 for the Louisville Railway Co. in Louisville, Kentucky. The site was reused as a grain elevator and warehouse for Ballard & Ballard Mills between 1947 and 1961.
The Louisville Railway Company was a privately owned company that operated trolley and interurban lines in Louisville and its suburbs. The company began in 1859 as a horsecar operator and slowly acquired rivals before merging with two other local streetcar companies were merged to form Louisville Railway in 1890. 2
The company began the conversion to electric trolleys in the same year, which required the erection of power plants to feed into dedicated trolley power lines. The First Power Station was constructed at 17th and Walnut streets in 1889 and enlarged in 1895. 1 The company then built the Campbell Street Power Station at Logan and Jacob streets in 1899 1 which was expanded in 1904 to accommodate expansions into suburbia. 3 4 It was outfitted with compound belted condensing machines and later direct-connected engines and vertical, compound condensing engines. 9 The use of steam turbines for power generation also required extensive use of water from nearby Beargrass Creek.
At its peak, Louisville Railway operated more than 500 cars, connecting with interurban lines that connected to Jeffersontown, Okolona, Prospect, and Shelbyville. 3 The popularity of the personal automobile and the introduction of lower-cost buses to the city in 1923 began to erode passenger travel over rail. The first interurban line to be abandoned was to Okolona in 1931, cumulating with the abandonment of all interurban service in 1935 and streetcar service in 1948.
The decision was made in December 1920 to close the Campbell Street Power Station by January 1921, which necessitated a reduction in service as there wasn’t sufficient power to operate all of the streetcars during rush hours. 9 The building was placed on standby for potential use during peak demand and as a substation for Louisville Gas & Electric until 1930 8 before it was purchased for $100,000 by Ballard & Ballard Mills in 1947 for the site of an eight-story mill and grain elevator. 6 10 The company, established in 1880, had been a major supplier of flour for much of the southern United States. 6 7
Ballard & Ballard was purchased by the Pillsbury Company in 1951. 8 Pillsbury stopped milling Ballard flour in 1961 but continued to maintain facility until 1968. 12
The former Ballard & Ballard Mills site was acquired by two Louisville real estate contractors and a mortgage banker for $550,000 in June 1969 12 who proposed to it into a $2 million mixed-use residential and commercial project at the cost of $2 million. 11 12 It would include the conversion of the grain silos into a 16-story apartment building to hold 84 split-level circular apartments, 48 single-level circular efficiency apartments, 24 efficiency rectangular apartments, a rooftop swimming pool, public restaurant, and bar, and the construction of a separate 25,000 square-foot office building. The warehouses would be retained for use for long-term storage customers while the Campbell Street Power Station and a portion of the mill would be demolished.
Construction was set to begin in January 1970 with work set to be finished by early 1971 but a lack of financing tabled the apartment conversion. 12 Additionally, a significant portion of Ballard & Ballard Mills site was destroyed by fire in early March 1970. 6
Gene Herrick of Herrick Electric, a firm that offers electrical motor repairs and contracting services, purchased the old Ballard & Ballard Mills site on Logan Street out of a bankruptcy sale in 1986 with the intention of selling the building for a profit. 5 It currently resides in a portion of the former Ballard & Ballard warehouse.
[su_spoiler title=”Sources” icon=”caret”]
- “Street Railway Progress in Louisville, Ky.” Electrical World, vol. 6, no. 10, 6 Sept. 1899, p. 175.
- “Louisville Railway Company Collection Item List.” Filson Historical Society.
- “News of the Week.” Street Railway Journal, vol. 11, no. 9, 28 Feb. 1903, p. 341.
- “River Line.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 18 Feb. 1904, p. 6.
- Garr, Robin. “Few signs attest to street’s cleanup for nation’s bicentennial.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 4 Jul. 1986. pp. A12.
- “LFD History – Full Text.” City of Louisville, Kentucky, 2013.
- “March of the Years.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 10 Feb. 1943, p. 2.3.
- Smith’s Warehouse. “Smith’s Warehouse Sale.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 16 Aug. 1970, p. D1.
- “Traction Improvements Assist City’s Growth.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 17 Jun. 1924, p. 6.
- “Ballard Buys Old Utility Site on Campbell.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 8 Aug. 1947 p. 2.1.
- “A Mill for Swingers.” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 22 Aug. 1969, p. B1.
- Riehm, Joan. “Ballard Mill to Become Apartments for ‘Swingers.'” Courier-Journal [Louisville], 22 Aug. 1969, p. 1.