Preservation group honors Pepper distillery campus efforts

The Historic Pepper Distillery Campus

The Historic Pepper Distillery Campus has been awarded the Blue Grass Trust Clyde Carpenter Award for Adaptive Reuse.
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The Historic Pepper Distillery Campus has been awarded the Blue Grass Trust Clyde Carpenter Award for Adaptive Reuse.

What do you get when you turn a former distillery into a bar, a restaurant, an ice cream lounge, two new distilleries and a brewery? An award.

The Blue Grass Trust recently honored the businesses that have brought back to life parts of the former Pepper Distillery campus on Manchester.

The Clyde Carpenter Adaptive Reuse Awards were given last weekend to five businesses on the campus for “outstanding efforts toward the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of a building or buildings in Central Kentucky.”

Maureen Peters, past president of the trust, said they were singled out because “they took the initiative to buy down there when nobody else was much interested.”

In announcing the award, she said: “From amazing food, live music, art, breweries, and soon a working distillery. The unique architecture of the Distillery District has become home to one of the city’s best new hotspots. Tonight we are honoring the building owners of the district for their investment in the area and would like to thank them for helping preserve Lexington’s historic past and creating a lively present.”

The trust gave special plaques to Jon and Lisa Cox, owners of The Break Room at 1178 Manchester; Jeff Wiseman, co-owner of Barrel House Distilling at 1200 Manchester; Toa and Michael Green, owners of Crank & Boom at 1210 Manchester; Tony Higdon and Chris Casey, co-owners of 1224 Manchester, which is home to Ethereal Brewing and Middle Fork Kitchen Bar; and Chris and Teri Kelly, co-owners of 1228 Manchester, home to Goodfellas and the Pepper Distillery.

The owners plan to put a plaque up on each building to celebrate.

But even they have been surprised at their own success.

“We envisioned it being popular, but I guess not as fast,” Higdon said. “I was literally just driving around one day looking for some property to invest in. I pulled in, and it was abandoned with windows broken out, so I just crawled through a window and was pretty impressed even though it was in rough shape.”

He called Chris Kelly, who is a structural engineer, and they decided to buy it and refurbish it.

Higdon said that the Pepper redevelopers are proud that it’s stayed local.

“It’s a passion, and it’s turned into kind of a family down there,” he said. “We’ve tried to keep the right feel.”

Toa Green of Crank & Boom said in an email: “The area is so special in that everyone has a common mission to bring a once bustling area back to life. Many thanks to Rebecca Burnworth of Burnworth Design for bringing ours and many other business owners’ visions to fruition with her design and attention to historic detail. We really wanted to highlight the character and uniqueness of our building while bringing vibrant energy to the space so that we can help create new memories for our Crank & Boom fans.

“It takes a lot of work to restore an old building with a lot of surprises and intricacies with the build out. We are so thrilled to be recognized by the Blue Grass Trust for all of our hard work in bringing joy and energy back to the Pepper Campus.”

Other Blue Grass Trust winners

▪  Schnell Contractors of Louisville won the Preservation Craftsman Award, given to a building industry craftsman or company who has exhibited a strong commitment to quality craftsmanship for historic buildings. Their work in the Lexington area includes the terra cotta repair of the façade at the old Lexington Laundry Co. now part of the Pam Miller Downtown Arts Center, the steeple restoration at St. Paul Catholic Church, and the Historic Courthouse.

▪  Jeff Fugate, Lexington Downtown Development Authority, won the Public Service to Preservation Award, for service to preservation movement or to a specific project. Under Jeff’s leadership the past five years, the DDA has spearheaded $73 million in economic development on Main Street with the preservation of two historic structures: the First National Building and the Fayette County Courthouse.

▪  Carol Peachee and Mack and Sharon Cox won Clay Lancaster Heritage Education awards, for service in researching and disseminating information about the Central Kentucky region. Peachee was honored for her art photography, particularly of the James E. Pepper Distillery and other early distilleries. The Coxes were honored “for their unsurpassed research about early Kentucky furniture, portraits, paintings, and silver from 1790-1820.”

▪  Sayre School won the Community Preservation Award, given to a non-governmental group or individual for service to the preservation movement or to a special preservation project. Sayre was honored for renovating the 1910 Constitution Street duplex, one of the oldest duplexes in Lexington.

▪  Yvonne Giles won the Barbara Hulette Award for efforts in preservation of Central Kentucky's history, heritage, built environment, landscape, archaeological resources, sense of community or significant endeavors. Giles was honored for her efforts at preserving the city’s black history, including its often-forgotten cemeteries.

▪  Andrea Gottler won the Lucy Shropshire Crump Volunteer Award, for exemplary service to the BlueGrass Trust throughout the year.

▪  Bob and Donna Sessum won the Lucy Graves Advocacy Award, for advocacy leadership in supporting the historic preservation movement in Central Kentucky. As residents of Hanover Towers, the Sessums fostered a relationship between the towers and residents of the Ashland Park neighborhood that led to the establishment of an historic overlay for the area.

▪  Pemberton’s Nursery and Calvary Cemetery won Landscape Preservation awards for the preservation, design, stewardship, restoration or enhancement of an historic cultural landscape in the Bluegrass.

▪  Holly Wiedemann won the John Wesley Hunt Award for lifetime service to the preservation movement in Central Kentucky. She and AU Associates are heading up Lexington’s Old Courthouse renovation, one of many adaptive reuse projects she has focused on.