Sep 5, 2012 10:32 PM
LOUISVILLE. (AP) - A construction crew restoring a row of historic buildings in downtown Louisville found an underground room that was briefly a sex club in the 1990s.
An artist who painted graphic murals in the large sub-basement room under a building on Main Street says it attracted people interested in sadomasochism.
The surreal, sometimes grisly murals by artist Judson Baker are reproductions of famous paintings by Salvador Dali, Edvard Munch and other artists.
The underground space has deteriorated from rainwater that leaked into the abandoned building, The Courier-Journal (http://cjky.it/RLhNDB ) reported.
Aside from the murals, there is also a wooden table and a winch that resembles a medieval stretching rack with a rusty chain. WHAS-TV first reported the discovery of the underground club.
The building is one of a row of pre-1880s historic buildings on West Main Street downtown that a group of investors is spending about $7 million to restore. The previous owner had proposed razing them.
Baker's murals are reproductions of paintings by famous artists, including Francisco Goya's "Saturn Devouring His Son," Salvador Dali's "Bleeding Roses" and Edvard Munch's "The Scream." The preservationists are going to attempt to save the underground murals.
"Once the demolition is completed, we will save them, but we don't know which ones will be saveable," said Bob Gunnell, a spokesman for Main Street Revitalization, the investment group that now owns the buildings. "Until the demolition is finished, we won't know."
The word LATEX is painted on the wall in the basement room, and Baker said that stands for "Louisville Area Trust Exchange." He said the hidden room was "a club where people could meet each other" in the early to mid-1990s.
The club was open for only one night in the sub-basement of 119 W. Main St., Baker said, although he could not recall the exact year. He was approached by friends who asked him to paint murals on the walls.
Gunnell said the paintings are on brick walls, and there's no way to remove or protect them. "You couldn't get them out if you wanted to," he said.
But Gunnell said the preservation group is going to do everything in its power to keep them safe, and once work on the building is done the murals will be re-evaluated. Their future is still uncertain, because the investment group doesn't know what kind of development will go into the space, he said.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.