FRANKFORT — Buffalo Trace's George T. Stagg Distillery has been named a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service.
The designation highlights it as a "highly intact" example of pre-Prohibition industrial architecture that also shows how distilling expanded once the federal ban was repealed in the early 1930s.
The buildings, which still are very much in active use, feature distinctive quarry-faced stonework and decorative brickwork in a 1930s-era factory; other barrel warehouses and buildings are much older, dating to the 1790s.
According to the National Park Service, the distillery was established in 1857-58 and acquired in 1870 by E.H. Taylor Jr., whose portrait hangs in the yeast room. Taylor refurbished the distillery, building brick warehouses including Warehouse C, across from the current Buffalo Trace gift shop.
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The site also includes what is known as the George Dickel building along the Kentucky River, where a Tennessee whiskey called George Dickel was made after Prohibition in the 1940s until Tennessee finally was allowed to make alcohol again.
Very little new construction has been done since 1953, with the exception of removing railroad tracks, demolishing the original offices, and building spirits storage tanks for the booming bourbon business.
One feature not likely to be found at many modern factories: an Adirondack-style log cabin, complete with hammered copper sinks, that was used as an employee clubhouse. Buffalo Trace uses it now for receptions and dinners.
The distillery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001, but the new honor already has drawn attention.
The National Geographic Channel show Diggers, which features amateur scientists hunting artifacts with metal detectors, found the distillery on the list and has filmed an episode there, said Buffalo Trace spokeswoman Amy Preske.
Buffalo Trace is at least the third distillery to be named a National Historic Landmark, along with Labrot & Graham's Old Oscar Pepper Distillery near Versailles, where Woodford Reserve is made today, and the Burks' Distillery, owned by Maker's Mark, in Loretto.
Kentucky has more than 30 landmarks on the list, including Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate and Keeneland Race Course in Lexington and Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill in Harrodsburg.
The honor comes with a plaque and a nice sign by the road to alert tourists.
Not that they seem to be having too much trouble finding the place: Preske said Buffalo Trace expects to see 80,000 visitors this year.
This year's Kentucky Oaks Day, May 3, before the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, was the distillery's single biggest day for tourism, with 1,800 visitors, she said.
Employees of the distillery were told officially of the designation last week and given special T-shirts in celebration.
AT A GLANCE
Kentucky's National Historic Landmarks, their year of induction and city.
Ashland, the Henry Clay Estate (1960), Lexington
Daniel C. Beard Boyhood Home (1965), Covington
Belle of Louisville riverboat (1989), Louisville
Berea College's Lincoln Hall (1974), Berea
Mayor Andrew Broaddus Lifesaving Station (1989), Louisville
Buffalo Trace's George T. Stagg Distillery (2013), Frankfort
Burks' Distillery (1980), Marion County
Churchill Downs (1986), Louisville
Covington and Cincinnati Suspension Bridge (1975; also in Ohio)
Fort Boonesborough (1996), Madison County
Green River Shell Middens Archaeological District (1994), Butler, Henderson, McLean, Muhlenberg and Ohio counties
Indian Knoll (1964), Ohio County
Kentucky School for the Deaf's Jacobs Hall (1965), Danville
Keeneland Race Course (1986), Lexington
Labrot & Graham's Old Oscar Pepper Distillery (2000), Versailles
Liberty Hall (1971), Frankfort
Locust Grove (1986), Louisville
Louisville Water Co. Pumping Station (1971), Louisville
Dr. Ephraim McDowell House (1965), Danville
Middle Creek Battlefield (1992), Prestonsburg
Mill Springs Battlefield (1994), Nancy
Old Bank of Louisville (1971), Louisville
Old State House (1971), Frankfort
Perryville Battlefield (1960), Boyle County
Pine Mountain Settlement School (1991), Harlan County
Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill Historic District (1971), Mercer County
Zachary Taylor House (1961), Louisville
Transylvania University's Old Morrison (1965), Lexington
United States Marine Hospital (1997), Louisville
Wendover, Frontier Nursing Service Headquarters (1991), Leslie County
Whitney M. Young Birthplace and Boyhood Home (1984), Shelby County
SOURCE: NATIONAL PARK SERVICE