It is with some sadness that the Parker Tobacco Company is being demolished.
Began by Alex Parker, Sr., along with Frazer LeBus, Frank Vaughn and Fall City Tobacco of Louisville in 1932, Parker Tobacco was a tobacco redrying and threshing plant that became a large tobacco leaf purchasing, processing, marketing and commercial storage operation. It featured over 500 employees and had presence in South Africa and South America at its height.
Declining smoking rates in the United States, even as tobacco usage increased in China, India and Japan, started Parker’s decline in the 1990’s. The elimination of government quotas also financially hurt the company. The issue was compounded further when a burley cooperative refused to participate with Parker Tobacco in regards to quality issues. In 1997, Parker filed for Chapter 11 and never regained fiscal solvency.
Parker Tobacco is a location that I’ve returned to over the years. I stumbled upon it by accident while driving Kentucky State Route 10 along the Ohio River, admiring the well kept community that referred to itself as the “New Orleans of the North” due to its impressive architecture and its southern heritage. But little did I know that after coming across this humble closed business that I would return to it again and again for the next several years.
I showcased Parker to newcomers and veterans alike, and all were impressed with the relatively small amount of decay and cleanliness of the property. Papers and documents about the plant and its operations were scattered the offices. Orderly brown and green chairs on shag brown carpet resided in the lobby. Processing equipment, still in functioning condition, linearly lined the rear.
But years of deterioration took its toll. A fire on May 22, 2007 blazed through the prize and redrying room in the rear, destroying approximately half of the factory. And with a large gaping hole providing ready access to the remainder, and water damage caused by time and the fire, it was obvious that Parker would be demolished sooner than later.
But it took nearly three years to get to that point.