Old Louisville
Date added: 
August 16, 2023

Building History:

Birdie and Vi’s traces its origin back to the late 19th/early 20th century. Formerly known as the Magnolia Inn, the Fleatique used to serve an African American community called the Black Hills that sat between Hill and Magnolia Street, adjacent to Old Louisville. The location opened as a bar owned by Mr. Lewis and Gennette Maxwell in 1941. The building saw multiple add-ons and extensions, at one point it was directly connected to a salon. When the bar closed, the building mostly functioned as storage for its new owner, until it was bought by its current owners.

Current Status:

As with many similar historic buildings in Louisville, the store was dilapidated when it was first bought. Since its previous use was storage, there was a ton of leftover items that needed to be taken out. This necessitated filling about 18 truckloads with the leftovers over the course of weeks before any major work could begin, although, some of it was salvaged and used to fix up the building.

The store’s location was a major selling point, it Is culturally within Old Louisville but just outside the “Traditional Neighborhood” zoning. The store can serve Old Louisville without having to meet the regulations necessitated by it. Work began and a couple big issues cropped up. The building was sagging, necessitating jacking up the whole thing to work on its foundation. There was also a good amount of water damage that needed to be fixed or gutted.

It is a fine line to renovate buildings like these and still maintain its historic nature. Birdie and Vi’s walks the line perfectly. The building was modernized in some senses: insulation, window replacement, and being brought up to code with ADA and fire safety regulations but remains incredibly vintage. The owners salvaged odds and ends from other local bars that had closed down such as Jim Porters, Memory Lane Bar, and The Whirlaway. A lot of the flooring and wall in the building are original, what isnt was replaced by salvaged wood that keeps the same feel.

Birdie and Vi’s struggled somewhat, opening into a world afflicted with COVID. But the bar/antique shop now functions as an important community amenity, serving an area without a ton of retail and acting as a gathering space. The store is also a vital LGBTQ+ safe space and is LGBTQ+ owned. Birdie and Vi’s exemplify the potential of these historic stores, shifting an unused space to one that has become a pillar of it’s community.

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