Reviving a Landmark

Quartermaster Depot saved

Developers to convert it into shopping mall

By Kelley Sears
Contributing Writer

JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (February 2004) – Jeffersonville is known by many of its residents as a quiet, hometown place in spite of its close proximity to Louisville, Ky. The city has undergone change in the last five years and more is planned, but developers hope to preserve the atmosphere and the rich history of this town.
Jeffersonville was built because of its close proximity with the Falls of the Ohio, the only barrier for navigation along the Ohio River, said Laura Renwick, field coordinator for the Southern Regional Office of the Historical Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Louisville and Jeffersonville were the last two points before you went over the falls.

Quartermaster Depot

Photo courtesy Ind. Historic Landmarks Foundation

The Quartermaster Depot in Jeffersonville.

Jeffersonville had a thriving shipbuilding industry and a quartermaster depot, built from 1871 to 1874. It was in operation from the time of the Civil War until the Korean War and was a major institution in the Jeffersonville economy and helped to define the city, Renwick said.
In 1985 the depot was decommissioned by the U.S. Army and was bought by a private individual. In the late 1990s, the owner died and the city bought it and held it for a number of years. Rumors began to spread about the possible demolition of the building.
“Because of its significance, it was truly endangered,” Renwick said.
“There were rumors going around that it was going to be built over.
This local structure was on the Historical Landmarks Foundation of Indiana endangered list until 2001 when $300,000 of federal money was finally allocated to restore this old building. Sun Properties in October earned the job to renovate the depot for commercial and office use. The project is expected to take up to 18 months to complete.
John “J.R.” Rulketter, president of Sun Properties, said the structure is special because of its historical significance. The company plans to keep the architecture the same.
“We’ve basically had to take an old structure and put it back together,” Rulketter said. “It’s definitely been languishing there for years, and our plan is to bring it back.”
He said they are making an actual parking field in the middle of the structure, similar to the one at The Summit in Louisville. But the depot’s will be more round in shape than rectangular. The Quadrangle will be in the center.
“You almost have to go stand in the center” to really appreciate the place, he said. In one section of the Quadrangle is an actual officer’s ballroom that was used on several occasions as far back as the 1800s.
Sun Properties plans on adding modern improvements but will keep the old style roof and windows.
The businesses considering moving into the depot include retail and medical offices. Because of the close proximity to Clark Memorial Hospital and the interstate, many expect it to bring more business to the area. A stoplight is planned for the front of the center.
“Really, the history of Jeffersonville is the Quartermaster Depot,” Rulketter said. “They all love the old place. It is going to be a cornerstone of the 10th Street corridor.”
Other areas of Jeffersonville will also be transformed.
Chris Padgett, director of Planning and Development in Jeffersonville, said that the changes were a complete revision of the old zoning regulations in place since the 1960s.
Citywide development standards increased to allow more landscaping for new growth and will create aesthetic changes.
Padgett said one of the most significant changes made is that development plans must now be submitted for approval by the planning commission rather than the staff.
“Signage” was a big issue of debate, Padgett said. The idea was to increase uniformity through out the city and eliminate clutter or distractions. Monument style signs are now only permitted.
The changes will also transform the commercial corridor overlay and work to redevelop significant sections of the five main commercial thoroughfares through Jeffersonville encompassing 10th Street.
The new standard “looks at the facades and actual materials of buildings, as well as how they relate to the street,” Padgett said. “Some of our older corridors are seeing a rebirth.”
The areas of redevelopment currently under way or is in the planning stages are 10th Street and Highway 62, a large portion of Hamburg Pike, Veterans Parkway, New Albany and Charlestown Pike, Holman Lane and a portion of Court Avenue and Spring Street.
Some of these areas will have significant changes, Padgett said. The hope is keep to the same hometown atmosphere that Jeffersonville has maintained throughout its history.
Renwick shares this hope. “The sentiment it has managed to maintain is unique,” she said. “Despite being in the shadow of Louisville, it is one of the best success stories, as far as development goes in southern Indiana. It has just come so far in the last 10 or 15 years.”
The Quartermaster Depot is scheduled to be completed next year. Meanwhile, additional development continues in this little city that lies in the shadows of metropolitan Louisville.

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