LOUISVILLE, Ky (WDRB) -- Weeks after a fire on Whiskey Row, community members say there's reason to celebrate.
Dozens witnessed the unveiling of history Wednesday morning as workers revealed the new Old Forester Distillery banner.
"These buildings, which were once home to Louisville's bourbon industry will come to life again with the same purpose," said Governor Steve Beshear.
Just weeks ago, fire and flames smothered the block while people watched in disbelief.
But now, the new Old Forester construction site symbolize hope and restoration.
"I was pretty panicked. I didn't know what to expect. I was quickly looking on my computer and was able to see a lot of feeds and it looked dangerous. But the buildings look great. Everything I've heard from my team is positive. That's the way we're approaching this. It's a project that's ready to go," Old Forester President Campbell Brown explained.
The new distillery will allow Brown-Forman to double its current production of Old Forester.
It will include exhibits, tasting rooms, bourbon-making demonstrations and event spaces.
The expansion of the business serves as a teachable moment for the Brown family and its younger generation.
"Now if my teachers ask about Brown-Forman or Old Forester, I'll know what the answers are,” said Madison Brown, the great-great-great-granddaughter of Brown-Foreman founder George Garvin Brown.
As people toasted to Brown-Forman's original brand, other business owners on Whiskey Row watched from the sidelines, hoping to rebound from this month's lull.
The fire and subsequent road closures have greatly impacted business on the strip.
"I think you'll see an uptick in business once we get into the fall and the winter as basketball gets going again. As concerts get going. This Brown-Forman unveiling today is going to be another tool in that toolkit to attract people to the area,” said Metro Council President David Tandy, who also represents the 4th district.
It’s a setback that many were unsure of that has inevitably strengthened the resilience of Louisville and its residents.
The $45 million distillery will cover about 55,000 square feet in two historic buildings at 117 and 119 Main Street, and will serve as a home for the Old Forester brand with public tours, a tasting room, exhibits, bourbon-making demonstrations and event spaces, according to a news release. This area was not affected by the massive fire earlier this month.
The new distillery will allow the company to double its current production of Old Forester.
The historic properties at 117 and 119 Main Street were built around 1857 and used for warehousing barrels of whiskey produced at numerous distilleries in the areas. At least nineteen distillers, wholesalers, and other whiskey-related businesses called this block of West Main Street home. By the mid-1870s, this stretch of Main Street was known as "Whiskey Row."
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