Broad Ford Distressed
Compiled & Written by K. R. Overholt Critchfield 8-28-2009
Photographs & Commentary by cjb19772009
~~ Updated 9-13-09 ~~

A. Overholt and Company Distillery & Attached Buildings - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

~~ Flickr Photographer at Broad Ford ~~

The next few pages are filled with photographs made by Flickr photographer cjb19772009, currently known as Mtnbiker09. The series is called Broad Ford Distressed, and includes Broad Ford Distressed Summer, because who knows how long this period of abandonment, distress and demolition will last? Doubtless there will be future pages added to the series, although it sure would be lovely to do a few pages with titles like, Broad Ford Saved, Broad Ford Renovated, and Broad Ford Celebrates New Life! We can only hope!

Southern View of Distillery Buildings - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

"I tried to do a perspective shot with this one," wrote cjb on Flickr. "To fit the buildings in the background into the photo, I had to take the photo at an angle. Notice how the horizontal lines on the first building are in line with the second building."

viewer comment: "Looks like the building in the foreground is leaning!"

cjb comment: "I haven't determined yet whether it is or not. Sometimes I thought it was too. Could be my weird photo angles. But the ground these buildings are on is extremely soft and it lies on a flood plain by the river. So it's possible. Also looked like it was leaning in my panorama photo."

Distillery Building Missing Engine Room & Boiler House
Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Notice that above the walls of the missing buildings is the opening that would have housed the steel frame workings of the grain conveyor. To me, it appears the opening was initiated sometime after the construction of the original distillery building, so perhaps in the early days, the grain was transfered in a different manner. It would be useful to learn exactly when the automated steel frame conveyor was installed to transfer grain from the granary to the distillery. Also shown appears to be the outlines where two vertical supports may have carried the weight of the steel track upon which the conveyor moved back and forth from the granary.

Grain Elevator, Attached Granary & Free-standing Stack - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Grain Elevator, Granary, Stack & Distillery Building - Photograph by cjb19772009 2008

Granary, Stack & Distillery Building - Photograph by cjb19772009 2008

~~ Study of the Granary Building ~~

Grain Elevator & Granary - Photograph by cjb19772009 2008

The sheer enormity of this combined granary and grain elevator building cannot be fully grasped without the photo taken by me during my 2004 Broad Ford Safari. In it, you see family friend Susan Karas risking a wildlife attack by getting close enough to look up into one of the granary bins. If you keep in mind that Susan is more than a head taller than I am, just maybe you will identify with how it felt that day, standing next to this huge architectural wonder.

Susan Karas at the Base of the Granary - Photograph by K. R. Overholt Critchfield 2004

My set of blueprints does not include drawings of the Grain Elevator and Granary. However, the Fayette County Assessment Office web site does offer some structural information. The records online may have been submitted by previous owner Sullivan D'Amico of Pechin Leasing, Dunbar, PA, now deceased. According to the records, the dimensions of the Grain Elevator are 45' x 40', and the Granary is 45' x 95' -- the two structures are melded on the 45-foot side. If you see the building from only one angle, a detail that can be easily missed is that the Granary has three bins on one side and four bins on the other.

Grain Elevator & Granary - Photograph by cjb19772009 2008

Stack, Granary & Grain Elevator - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Stack, Free Warehouse A, Granary & Grain Elevator - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

~~ The Building Has Two Faces ~~

Grain Elevator & Granary - Photographs by cjb19772009 4-16-09

~~ Granary Interiors ~~

Inside Granary 1 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Inside Granary 2 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Inside Granary 3 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-22-09

Granary Stairs - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

~~ The Bonded Bottling House ~~

Broad Ford Bonded Bottling House - Photograph by cjb19772009 2008

~~ Report of 2004 Fire in the "Cafeteria" ~~

Shortly after my Broad Ford Safari, I heard there had been a fire at the Overholt Distillery site. Somebody at church alerted me to the event, saying there had been a brief news story on TV about it. For me, this was terrible news, for I had just been to Broad Ford, and had fallen in love with the place. Which building had suffered the fire? How much of it had burned? I went online to find area newspaper articles and photos taken at the scene, but it was never clear to me exactly which building was the one identified as "the cafeteria."

The issue remained unsolved, even after a January 2005 phone call to a State Trooper who told me what was in the official report -- the cafeteria building was "the one closest to the railroad tracks and the farthest out from the complex." And the mystery lingered on, until I saw the photographs posted by cjb. His comments about the cafeteria being the location of the fire, plus information from some blueprints that I have, told me the "cafeteria" was actually the Bonded Bottling House. My thanks to cjb for finally clearing up this mystery, and for providing such great photos of the interior. To me, the damage does not look catastrophic. In fact, the place may have great possibilities for renovation!

~~ Bottling House Interiors ~~

Bottling House Interior 1 - Photograph by cjb19772009 7-24-09

Bottling House Interior 2 - Photograph by cjb19772009 7-24-09

Bottling House Interior 3 - Photograph by cjb19772009 7-24-09

~~ Future Location of Karen's Old Farm Distillery? ~~

I have been wondering if the Bottling House is the building that would best suit my needs, the one to acquire for a small batch artisan distillery. It might be perfect, being close to the railroad tracks, small enough to renovate, strong enough to keep everything secure, and large enough to fit a shiny new copper still, much like the ones being installed by other artisan or "craft" distilleries all over the nation. The building looks like a real mess now, but maybe a renovation could be managed, before somebody decides to demolish it.

~~ New Fermenting House ~~

New Fermenting House Damaged Entry - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

The damaged entry seen above may have resulted from salvaging operations -- to enable the removal of big copper tubs, for example.

Refresher: By way of an elevated corridor, the Distillery Building is attached to the Old Fermenting House at the second-floor level. In turn, the New Fermenting House (aka Fermenting House Annex) is attached to, and set back from, the Old Fermenting House.

~~ New Fermenting House Interiors ~~

New Fermenting House 1 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Above and below we see platforms missing their fermentation tubs, or some other kind of huge cistern. It would be great to learn more about what kind of distillery tasks were performed in these chambers.

New Fermenting House 2 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

~~ Mystery of the Abandoned Sewing Machine ~~

New Fermenting House 3 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Among the pictures cjb has on his Flickr site are many featuring abandoned artifacts -- many are covered with rust, most of them are broken. These were items that were considered not worth the trouble of salvaging. The rusty artifact above caught my eye, because to me, it looked like a cabinet for a sewing machine. It reminded me of the lovely antique sewing machine that was given to me many years ago, but has been kept in the homes of other family members for the past 23 years, waiting for a time when I have a proper place to put it. The Internet proved me right, giving up a picture of a White treadle sewing machine, the kind that was made in the early 1900s. I think it is a perfect match.

~~ Machine Shop & Drying House ~~

Machine Shop & Drying House - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-22-09

In his Flickr set, cjb identifies these buildings as the After-Processing Warehouse, but the National Park Service report describes them as the Machine Shop and Drying House, connected to the New Fermenting House. Either the Machine Shop is the one-story building, and the Drying House is the multi-storied building, or the Drying House is on the left and the Machine Shop (with the little house on the roof) is on the right. Or perhaps this whole structure is the Machine Shop, and the Drying House was a building on the far right, which now is only ruins. The NPS report is a bit unclear about this, stating as follows.

"Attached to and set back from [the old fermenting house] is the new fermenting house. The machine shop and drying house are attached to the new fermenting house. Of stretcher-bond yellow brick, these buildings are one and three stories high, the machine shop has a monitor roof, and pads for a Dorr thickening tank and stillage tanks are adjacent to the drying house."

Wondering what they were drying? Me, too! Maybe they were drying grain? These appear to be some of the oldest buildings in the whole complex, and they are very close to the river. There must have been a good reason for their location and for their age. Perhaps at one time, early in the history of the Overholt distillery, barges of grain were coming upriver and downriver to the complex. Perhaps the grain had to be off-loaded and dried before it was sent to be stored in the granary. If the remains of a dock were found on the riverside, next to the building, maybe more of the story could be extrapolated.

Granted, it is a long way from there to the grain elevator, and if I had grown up on a farm or worked in a distillery, maybe the particulars of the process would not be such a mystery to me. But until all that is solved, I believe the clues we now have suggest the pictures below were taken in the Drying House, which has a yellow brick exterior and an interior of old red brick -- and cjb has given us the following great interior shots.

~~ Drying House Interiors ~~

Drying House 1 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Drying House 2 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Drying House 3 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Drying House 4 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

Drying House 5 - Photograph by cjb19772009 4-16-09

To me, the photo above looks to be expecting something -- either someone to climb the stairs, or someone to appear at the top of the stairs on the way down. It is a sad story of abandonment, too -- notice the missing bricks in the frame of the lower window, not to mention the other signs of distress. It is impressive to see how much care was given into the construction of a facility that should have lasted for many more generations.

Go on to the second page of Broad Ford Distressed, or
to the first page of Broad Ford Forsaken, Inside Looking Out.

Go on to Broad Ford Views 2, the first of several new pages in the Views series.

  End of Page . . . Return to Karen's Branches