Dive into the Heart of Louisville's History

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The Ohio River is the lifeblood of Louisville, although how we came to use it as drinking water is something we don't often stop to consider. However, the intricate history of the Water Company and its beautiful first pumping station are now preserved at the WaterWorks Museum.

The majestic Water Tower is an iconic landmark for the city of Louisville, built in the Greek Revival to resemble a temple. It is sometimes difficult to remember, looking at the great, European-style structure, that it serves a practical purpose. The architect Theadore Scowden and his assistant Charles Hermany found a perfect balance between function and form when they designed the building that would house the Water Company's first pumping station.

The Water Tower and Original Pumping Station were designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1971. In January of 2013, extensive renovation began on the Original Pumping Station. The result of the large-scale restorations is a Pumping Station that closely resembles the original pre-Civil War one, with one exception. On March first of this year, the Original Pumping Station opened as the WaterWorks Museum.

Museum Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Located in the west wing of the Original Pumping Station, the WaterWorks Museum is a must-see for anyone interested in local history. The exhibits highlight Louisville Water's considerable photograph archive, some of which date all the way back to 1860. Visitors can also see architectural drawings and pieces of original water mains, meters and tools. There are also several videos documenting the history of Louisville and the Water Company.

Above the door of Pumping Station Number 3

A seal on Pumping Station Number 2

Guided tours are offered in the price of admission and are given daily. This tour, which includes a visit to the current working pumps in Pumping Station 3, is informative. More importantly, it puts the information into perspective. It is evident that those who work at the WaterWorks Museum care about transmitting their knowledge so that visitors can have a better understanding of the intertwining history of Louisville and the Louisville Water Company. Apart from being educational, the WaterWorks Museum is a neat, beautiful place to explore.


This is just me, hanging out next to some dirt.

For information about visiting the museum and Water Tower Park, go here.

For information on public and private rentals, go here.

Title and Ribbon Cutting photo courtesy of the Louisville Water Tower Park website. All other photos: Seth Dixon.

About Rebecca Ball
As great lover of books and adventure, I grew up wanting to be anywhere else. I satiated some my wanderlust in the castles and expansive forests in Europe over the past few years. Now, I live in the city that will always be home with a cat who thinks she's a person.
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