The earliest map found is from the late 1800’s and at that time, approximately 1/3 of the existing complex was already built. In 1892, the complex consisted of the Slocum warehouse which could house 50,000 bourbon barrels, the Central warehouse which could house 20,000 bourbon barrels and the Williams warehouse at 70,000 bourbon barrels. There was also a foundation for the Anderson/Nelson or “E” warehouse at 40,000 bourbon barrels. Also, on the 1892 map are warehouses on the opposite side of Lexington Road that were “bonded” warehouses (Louisville Storage warehouse – 18,000 bourbon barrels and Buchanan warehouse – 20,000 bourbon barrels).
The owner in 1905 was Kentucky Distilleries and Warehouse which was a bourbon/whiskey distillery and warehouse. Before 1929, farmland next to the complex was acquired and “The largest brick construction barrel warehouse in the world” was built. The Hamilton warehouse could hold 158,000 bourbon barrels. The actual plans for the warehouse were for it to be double that size, but with Prohibition in full swing only half of it was ever completed. Two more buildings were added after 1929 and these were the “T” and “S” warehouses, their purpose is not known.
Despite Prohibition closing all distilleries in the United States, the Hamilton warehouse, (“The largest in the world”), was built during Prohibition because National was one of only six companies allowed to sell spirits for “medicinal purposes.” By 1929, National Distillers acquired 100% of the American Medical Spirits Company.
When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, National Distillers controlled about half of the spirits in the United States as well as owning several prestigious brands such as Old Grand Dad, Old Crow and Sunnybrook to name just a few. National Distillers opened several distillery locations throughout Jefferson County which was a boon to the economy. The largest site at the current Distillery Commons location could house over 140,000 bourbon barrels which was 7X the capacity of the average facility and employed several hundred people.
During the 1940’s, National was one of the Big Four distillers which controlled 70% of the bourbon and rye whiskeys in the U.S. This period of growth continued for another 2 decades until an industry-wide decline in the country forced it to consolidate, move smaller operations to Frankfort, Kentucky and close its doors at Lexington & Payne Streets (Distillery Commons) in 1974. Before the decline, 1,400 people worked here, most of which walked to work.
For a brief time, the facility also bottled gin and tequila as well as several other distilled spirits. After its closure in 1974, the property sat vacant until Ray Schuhmann purchased it in August, 1979 and developed it into commercial property for a variety of businesses. Kinetic Properties is still the current owner and serves as landlord for Distillery Commons.