A project to restore the interior of one of the city’s National Historic Landmarks begins this month as Louisville Water Company kicks off a restoration project at its original Pumping Station. The project will renovate and restore the interior of Pumping Station No. 1 which was built between 1858 and 1860 on Zorn Avenue at River Road as part of the city’s original Water Works. The site also features the city’s iconic Water Tower, also a National Historic Landmark.
Louisville Water will bring the Pumping Station to closely resemble its original pre-Civil War condition. The work includes restoring walls and trim and an early 1900s cast-iron spiral staircase. The project will also upgrade electrical, fire and lighting systems, relocate the restrooms and install a catering prep kitchen. This is the first large-scale interior project since the 1970s. Exterior renovation projects on both the Pumping Station and Water Tower were completed in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
As part of its commitment to education, Louisville Water will develop the Water Works Museum inside the west wing of Pumping Station No. 1. The Water Works Museum will highlight Louisville Water’s considerable archive of historic photographs, films and memorabilia and explore the company’s contributions to water delivery through its innovations in science, engineering and architecture.
Development of the Water Works Museum is part of Louisville Water’s extensive education programming which reaches over 50,000 people annually with programming that extends into classrooms throughout the Louisville Metro region as well as tours of Louisville Water facilities through collaborations with schools, community organizations and cultural attractions.
“In many ways, Louisville Water’s history is the community’s story and throughout the past 152 years, Louisville Water’s leaders have meticulously saved hundreds of photographs, reels of film and even pieces of the original water system,” said Louisville Water President and CEO Greg Heitzman. “Our employees continue to uncover archival materials, sometimes tucked away in a file cabinet or in the basement of early structures. We consider it an honor and a privilege to share these important discoveries with the people of Louisville and with our visitors.”
Louisville Water has hundreds of photographs, some dating back to 1860, handwritten minutes and customer notes, original architectural drawings, pieces of the original water mains, meters and tools. The company even produced a silent move in 1938 showing the steam engines operating and mules cleaning out the reservoir.
Badgett Construction LLC, a Louisville-based firm is the prime contractor. K. Norman Berry Architects, PLLC provided design. Solid Light, a local exhibit design company is working on the museum project. The estimated cost for the restoration is $2.6 million.
The Pumping Station Restoration Project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2013. The Water Works Museum will open at the same time.
Louisville Water’s Original Pumping Station & Water Tower, circa 1860
Louisville Water’s original Pumping Station and Water Tower have stood on the banks of the Ohio River for 150 years, serving as a visual landmark for the city of Louisville and the water utility that bears its name. Designed by Theodore Scowden and his assistant Charles Hermany, the Pumping Station housed the Cornish steam engines that were part of the water company’s operations when it began in October, 1860. Scowden designed the station in Classical Revival to resemble a two-story temple with wings on either side. The structure includes a slate roof and terra-cotta and cast iron decorative elements.
The Cornish engines operated almost daily in the Pumping Station until 1912. Once retired from service, the station was a garage and warehouse and housed a University of Louisville River Institute. The Louisville Visual Arts Association currently leases the interior space.
In 1971, the U.S. Government designated the Pumping Station and Water Tower National Historic Landmarks. The Secretary of the Interior at the time called the tower “one of the finest examples of industrial architecture in the world.”
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