Wednesday, February 7, 2024

My Louisville Beginnings, Part Two


The building across 3rd Street from Ollie's is now the Republic Academic Center, part of Spalding University.
I never intended this to be a two-parter, but the original post got me feeling nostalgic about that time and place, now 46 years ago. That got me thinking, wondering, and Googling.

Ollie's Trolley used to be a chain. Launched in Louisville in 1973, it grew to 300 locations but never truly became successful. Most of the shops closed in the 80s. There are three left, one in Cincinnati, one in Washington, D.C., and this one in Louisville. It's a unique burger, heavily spiced. The same spice mix goes on the fries. That's pretty much the menu. Many Louisville friends eat there from time to time, so it comes up regularly in conversation. I feel a special connection because of my history at that intersection and because it's a very tasty burger.

Ollie's Trolley was the brainchild of John Y. Brown Junior. Brown was a politician, Kentucky's governor during the first part of my Kentucky tenure. He was a businessman before he was a politician, best known for buying Kentucky Fried Chicken from Colonel Sanders and building it into an international fast-food powerhouse. He also owned the ABA Kentucky Colonels professional basketball team. He died in 2022, 88 years old. 

From 1979 to 1998, he was married to Phyllis George Brown. In 1975, she became co-host of "The NFL Today" on CBS, becoming one of the first women to hold an on-air position in national TV sports. When she was Kentucky's First Lady, I worked with her on projects for a local museum she supported and also met the governor. I liked them both. She died in 2020, age 70. 

The Cosmopolitan Building is now known as The Republic Academic Center, part of Spalding University. It marks the southeastern corner of their growing, urban campus. The renovated building contains offices, labs, and classrooms and houses Spalding's School of Nursing and School of Social Work. Spalding is a private, not-for-profit, liberal arts university. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in various fields such as business, health sciences, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and education. Spalding was established in 1814 by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth.

Now more than 100 years old, the building was built as the D. H. Ewing & Sons Creamery. In 1930, it merged with the Grayson Von Allman Dairy Company to form Ewing Von Allman Dairy. By 1941, it was producing 90,000 cases of canned milk a year. The front section was always offices and the whole building was converted to offices in 1953 when the dairy moved out. That's when it became known as the Cosmopolitan Building. FS&M started in the 50s, so they may have been an original tenant. Before my time they had several clients in the dairy products industry. 

When I was ensconced there, FS&M Advertising (my employer) occupied the third floor. The second floor was the offices of a convenience store chain that was one of our major clients. I forget who was on the first floor. That may have been the convenience store chain too. Many convenience stores began as retail outlets for dairies, so perhaps it was all connected.

In 1982, the building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The architect is unknown. 

In 2010, it was sold at auction. Its value was estimated as $745,000. Spalding acquired it in 2012.

Photograph from the building's 1982 National Register application. My Pontiac may be in the parking lot.

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