Louisville’s Lost Skyscraper

The Columbia Building, looking west on Main between Third & Fourth Streets. Photo circa 1950 by unknown photographer.

The Columbia Building, looking west on Main between Third & Fourth Streets. Photo circa 1950 by unknown photographer. [OCB-7]

By Sarah-Jane Poindexter

Today's 'Then & Now' features the Columbia Building, Louisville’s first skyscraper.

Built in 1890, the Columbia Building was originally known as the Commercial Club Building, and for a decade was the tallest building in Louisville’s skyline.  The ten-story building was designed by the Louisville firm Curtin and Campbell as a Richardsonian Romanesque high-rise in the First Chicago School style, featuring rounded archways in red sandstone and pressed red brick on the upper levels.  In 1964, the City Urban Renewal Agency bought the building, along with other surrounding properties, with the intent to revitalize the downtown Louisville riverfront.  The Columbia Building was razed two years later and in 1972 replaced by a twenty-four-story Modernist International style high-rise, known today as the BB&T Building.  Currently a stone from the original foundation remains in front of the new building, commemorating Louisville’s first skyscraper.

For more "Then & Now" examples of Louisville architecture see the forthcoming article "Main Street: Mirror of History" in The Filson, spring 2011 edition, vol. 11, no.1.

Filson Historical

2 comments on “Louisville’s Lost Skyscraper

  1. Jon Huffman

    My house was designed and owned by Cornelius Curtin, designer of the Columbia Building. It was built in 1885, and is as solid and plumb as the day it was built.

    Reply
  2. admin

    It would be wonderful to see the Columbia Building today and if Curtin and Cambell’s design persisted as well as your home. Is your house located in Louisville?

    Reply

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