Title: Tobacco Warehouse History
Date: Oct. 9th, 2007


The tobacco industry in the Buffalo Trace region has changed over the last 100 years and the system now in place has come full circle with a similar system in place at the beginning of the 1900s.

Today, farmers take their tobacco to a receiving station for purchase, not much different from the days when the tobacco buyer came to the farmer's barn to buy tobacco straight from the field.

But for a period of almost 90 years, from 1904 to the mid 1990s, farmers in Mason, Bracken, Fleming, Robertson and Lewis counties brought their tobacco to auction warehouses, when buyers walked the warehouse floors, bidding against one another for the best grade of burley tobacco. In southeastern Ohio, the same scenario was repeated in the many warehouses in Ripley, Ohio.

According to the publication, "The Spirit of a Greater Maysville and Mason County," in the days when the American Tobacco Company constituted almost the whole of the entire tobacco manufacturing industry, there were no auction sales. Tobacco was purchased from each farmer individually and with no opportunity for competitive bidding, the farmer most often had to settle for what he could get for his tobacco crop. Sometimes, a farmer could get no bid of any sort because in the northern Kentucky district there was only one buyer and frequently there was more tobacco to buy than was needed or the buyer had time to see.

W.W. Ball Sr. is credited for establishing Maysville as one of the first loose-leaf markets. In 1904, Ball organized a company that built a re-drying warehouse for lease to the American Tobacco Company.

After hearing of the success of the auction warehouse system in North Carolina, Ball set out to build a similar warehouse for Maysville and on April 19, 1909, the Maysville Loose Leaf Tobacco Company was incorporated. Other investors in the venture were H.D. Ellis, A. H. Shinkle and William Groppenbacher. The warehouse built by the company, the Farmers Warehouse was the first loose-leaf warehouse in Maysville and the second in Kentucky.

The second loose-leaf warehouse built in Maysville, and the third in the state, was the Planters Warehouse. It was built in 1909 and was originally known as the Tuckihoe.

In 1911, the Central Warehouse was built; it later became the Southwestern Tobacco Company re-drying plant.

In 1912, Ball sold his interests in Farmers and Planters warehouses and organized a third company which built the Independent Warehouse.

From 1912 to 1929, the number of active tobacco warehouses totaled 12: seven of the warehouses had been taken over by the Burley Association for storage purposes. By 1930, the association was no longer in operation, but the warehouses were still owned by the Eastern District Warehousing Corporation, a subsidiary of the association.

During the 1928-29 market, the Home warehouse was operated by stockholders of the corporation and the other six warehouses were leased to independent operators.

By 1930, the Maysville market yielded 30 million pounds of burley tobacco, the second largest burley tobacco market in the world.

Maysville was also home of several re-drying houses over the years, including R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, American Tobacco Company, J.B. Heizer Tobacco Company, Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company and Southwestern Tobacco Company. R. J. Reynolds was the largest re-drying house in the region.

It was in 1913 that R. J. Reynolds established a green prizery facility in Maysville on Forest Avenue. The prizery was used for storing and clearing tobacco bought in Maysville and nearby markets. During that year almost two million pounds of tobacco was prized by the Reynolds company.

On Sept. 23, 1925, the Reynolds company opened the structure built for the rehandling and stemming of tobacco. The R.J. Reynolds plant, which would later to become Parker Tobacco Company, was situated on more than 5 acres of land and was in operation year round, employing more than 600 people.

Maysville's reputation for quality burley tobacco was so well known, the local radio station's call letters stand for World's Finest Tobacco Market, WFTM.

By the 1960s, the Parker Tobacco Company had been established and continued to process tobacco at the R.J. Reynolds plant until the plant closed in 1998, when the tobacco industry in Kentucky and the United States began to decline and reorganize itself.

During its heyday as the second largest burley tobacco market in the world, Maysville was home to more than 50 tobacco warehouses, some of which were re-drying houses, others were used as auction warehouses and still others were built to store tobacco.

From Kentucky 10 on Maysville's east end, down Forest Avenue and out to Kentucky 11, warehouses bearing the names Duke Warehouse, Parker Warehouse, Growers, Independent, King Burley, Gray's Liberty, Peoples, Banner, Breslin and others represented the flourishing tobacco industry in Maysville.

Today those same warehouses stand vacant, ghostly reminders of an era whose time has passed.

*Information gathered from the book "The Spirit of a Greater Maysville and Mason County", published c. 1930, courtesy of David Cartmell.

The following is a list of tobacco warehouses in the city of Maysville. At one time, Maysville was the second largest Burley tobacco market in the world. and millions of pounds of tobacco passed through the doors of these warehouses during the heyday of the auction selling system.

Today, many of these warehouses stand vacant, with no future use in sight. Others have been converted for use as storage facilities for fleet vehicles and other business purposes. Still others are being dismantled by owners who realize their usefulness has passed.

Six tobacco warehouses have burned down, the first being the Burley Warehouse in May 1989; the most recent fire which consumed the re-dry plant of Parker Tobacco Company occurred in May 2007.

Amazon Warehouse — Lexington Street, now the Maysville Roller Rink.

Banner Warehouse No.1 — Second Street, now used for non-tobacco storage.

Banner Warehouse No.2 — Morrison Alley and Bank Street, originally People's Warehouse, now used for non-tobacco storage.

Breslin Warehouse No.1 — Lexington Street, has been converted for light industrial, business use.

Breslin Warehouse No.2 — Lexington Street, demolished 1994 after roof collapsed due to heavy snow.

Burley Warehouse — Third Street at Kehoe Viaduct, burned down May, 1989, now site of the Mason County Public Library.

Crain Warehouse No.1— Union Street, was American Tobacco until 1937, then auction house, RJ Reynolds receiving station until 2005, building now for sale.

Crain Warehouse No.2 — Elizabeth Street, started as Holliwell Warehouse, became processing plant for American Tobacco, sold to Falls City Tobacco, purchased by Parker Tobacco, purchased by Crain, now vacant.

Duke Warehouse — Kentucky 10, now Carrigan's Supply Company.

Duke Warehouses — Kentucky 10, nine warehouses built for storage, Duke No.2 became a re-dry and auction warehouse. Work has begun to dismantle and salvage wood and metal from all nine warehouses.

Duke Warehouse — Carolina Avenue, sold in 2007, future use unknown.

Grays Warehouse - Forest Avenue at Union Street, now Emerson Power Transmission.

Grays Liberty Warehouse — Commerce Street, burned down, June, 1997.

Growers No.1— Poplar Street, torn down 1994, now Maysville Utility Commission Water Plant.

Growers No.2 — Poplar Street, burned down June 1997.

E.B. Hillenmeyer Co. Warehouse — Forest Avenue at Parker Tobacco, vacant.

Farmers Warehouse No.2 — Forest Avenue at Union Street, converted from warehouse to shoe factory, now houses light industrial business.

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Home Warehouse — Forest Avenue at Lexington Street, half of building torn down 2007, remainder used as storage facility for Standard Supply Company.

Independent Warehouse No.1 — Forest Avenue, now houses light industrial business.

Independent Warehouse No.3 — Wood Street, began as Star Warehouse, occupied, use unknown.

Independent Warehouse No.4 — Forest Avenue at Buckner Street, began as RJ Reynolds, then became Parker Tobacco, then Independent, now vacant.

Kentucky King Warehouse — Forest Avenue at Clark Street, now a tobacco receiving station.

King Burley Warehouse — Progress Way, now a tobacco receiving station.

Liberty Warehouse — Commerce Street, burned down June 1997.

Parker Tobacco Company — Stemming, re-dry, processing facility Forest Avenue, plant closed 1998, re-dry section burned down 2007. Future plan may include dismantling of building for salvage, and demolition.

Parker Tobacco Company — Four tobacco storage warehouses behind processing plant, vacant. Four other warehouses behind plant sold, building either vacant or used for non-tobacco use.

Parker Tobacco Company — Four tobacco storage warehouses on Kentucky 11, vacant.

Parker Tobacco Company — Six tobacco storage warehouses on Parker Lane, sold by Parker Tobacco, now used as non-tobacco storage facility by current owners.

Peezer Warehouse — East Third Street at Lexington Street, small warehouse converted to garages for residential use.

Planters Warehouse — Forest Avenue at Union Street, now Emerson Power Transmission.

Pope Warehouses — Martha Comer Way, now industrial businesses.

Simon Kenton Warehouse — Kentucky 11, vacant, use unknown.

Southwest Warehouse — Union Street, burned down June 2003.

Standard Warehouse — Forest Avenue, used as storage facility for Limestone Cable Vision.

White Warehouse — Lexington Street behind Standard Supply, use unknown.

Wood Warehouse — Poplar Street, used as non-tobacco storage facility.

Wood Warehouse — Kentucky 8, used as non-tobacco storage facility.

Wood Warehouse No.3 — Center Street, dismantled, reconstructed on Kenton Station Road at water tower, used as non-tobacco storage facility.

This list was compiled using information from "The Spirit of a Greater Maysville and Mason County", published c. 1930 and Mayor David Cartmell.


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