Much like the park it overlooks, the Waterfront Development Corporation’s headquarters at 129 River Road has had its space converted to new uses in response to the changing face of waterfront life. It started as a replacement office building for the Ohio River Sand Company, whose right-of-way was overrun by the construction of the then brand new Interstate 64, and it has become a quirky downtown Louisville landmark. The building was donated to the Waterfront Development Corporation by Mary and Barry Bingham in 1988.
Built by the architectural firm of Hartstern, Louis and Henry, the building was intended to be “a showcase for the raw materials Ohio River Sand furnishes the building industry.” Over the years it has certainly performed its intended function, as millions of motorists and tourists every year get to see the odd cantilevered office perched precariously at the water’s edge.
The building’s broad windowed floors extend 13 feet over the sidewalk side and 19 over the wharf side, shadowing the spot that once held tables for weighing the trucks that carried sand to and from the ORSC’s yards. Supporting the slab concrete overhang are two-foot-thick beams of reinforced concrete that almost entirely wrap the office floors.
The third floor of the building, where Waterfront keeps its offices, has several odd features, most notably the heavy steel vault that serves now as WDC’s file room, but once held thousands of dollars safely inside on heavy business days for ORSC’s cash only establishment. The Corporation’s second-floor board room boasts a sweeping view of the Ohio River, which provides a fascinating diversion during meetings.