Crescent Hill Reservoir and Gatehouse

Crescent Hill Reservoir and Gatehouse
May 6, 2015

The fully restored historic Crescent Hill Gatehouse reopened to the public on May 13, with more than 500 visitors passing through the building, after an 18-month restoration project. Except for work after the 1974 tornado, this is the first large-scale restoration of the gatehouse, which was designated a Kentucky Historic Site in 2010.

In 1860 the first 512 customers, mostly businesses, who received running water got straight river water, minus only the mud that had settled out.  The original Reservoir was where the Veteran's Medical Center is today.  Old annual reports say when you got a cup of water from Louisville Water in 1860, it sometimes had some leftover mud in it!  We’ve improved a lot since then. As demand increased, the company needed a new reservoir.  At that time Crescent Hill was farms and large private estates.  There was lots of open land available and the new site would be 33-feet higher than the old one.  More importantly, the new reservoir would a have 110-million gallon capacity, which was ten times the capacity of the first. 

Water had to travel from the Ohio River to the new reservoir.  Workers cut through the rock and dug a deep ditch for a large, 30-inch diameter main.  When a road was eventually added, it was called “Pipe Line Lane.” That road is now Zorn Avenue after Sebastain Zorn, who served as president of Louisville Water Company.

Chief Engineer Charles Hermany designed the Reservoir.  He built the facility with functionality and design in mind.  Surveys were taken for the Reservoir in 1874.  Work began on the site in 1877 and when it opened in 1879, the Reservoir, 110-million-gallons in both sides, held at least a two-week supply of water.  Today, it holds not quite enough for one day. The Gatehouse contained valves that controlled the rush of water in and out of the Reservoir

Upon its completion, the Crescent Hill Reservoir became an instant tourist attraction. Within the first few years of operation, amenities were built to handle the many visitors who came by train, horse and buggy, and walked to visit the grounds.  The company employed “gate keepers” to open gates at now Brownsboro Road and Frankfort Avenue and planted trees, built a lake and even installed hitching posts. Some visitors came by train to visit the grounds.  There were even rules for how guests should conduct themselves.  The men who helped oversee the grounds and the company operations most likely lived on-site in small houses the water company built.  The water company also built a Visitor’s Shelter to accommodate guests -- it’s the “L-shaped” building that sits across from the Mary T. Meagher Natatorium today.  Complete in 1885, the building included water closets and bathrooms and a common area. Today, the building is nearly identical to what it looked like in 1885. The roof suffered significant damage in the 1974 tornado.

Today, the reservoir is still part of Louisville Water’s Crescent Hill operations although the valves in the gatehouse are not used.  Employees control the flow of water in and out of the reservoir at the treatment plant.

Visitors may tour the inside of the newly restored gatehouse from 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.  the second Wednesday of every month, June - September, during our Walking Wednesdays series.