When engineer Theodore Scowden and his assistant Charles Hermany were planning the original site for Louisville Water Company— then known as Louisville Water Works —back in the 1860s, they had a grand vision. They didn’t want to just build the pumping facility required of the first public water provider in Kentucky; they wanted a “park-like” landscape of “unrivaled beauty and effect” that would be used and valued by the community.
That vision lives on in today’s Louisville Water Tower Park (which celebrates its one-year anniversary this week). But even before Louisville Water renovated the original pumping station building and Water Tower and opened them to the public last spring, the property was occupied by community-oriented tenants.
From 1960 to 1968, the University of Louisville’s Potamological Institute for River Studies occupied the building. It seems a suitable fit for a riverfront property where, decades earlier, George Warren Fuller oversaw the development of innovative river water filtration and treatment techniques that would forever change standard practices of water purification around the world. Those efforts led by Fuller, who is known as the father of sanitary engineering, almost completely eradicate death from diseases like typhoid and cholera in Louisville, which had previously been nicknamed “the graveyard of the west.”
Later, in 1977, the Louisville Visual Art Association (then known as the Art Center Association) began adapting the space into gallery and offices. The organization was no doubt drawn to the property by the striking classical revival style architecture. The Water Tower and original Pumping Station were designated by the United States government as National Historic Landmarks in 1971, with the secretary of the interior at the time calling it “one of the finest examples of industrial architecture in the world.” The Water Tower is the oldest and most ornamental structure of its kind within the country and features 10 statues representing Ceres, Diana, Flora and The Horae (the seasons).
The Louisville Visual Art Association vacated the building in 2012, and Louisville Water quickly began the process of renovating the property into the Water Works museum and rental space that has now welcomed more than 30,000 visitors in the course of its first year.
Join us from 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 1st to celebrate the first anniversary of Louisville Water Tower Park and WaterWorks Museum. Kids' activities, guided walking tours, cake, give aways, and more are on the agenda. Enjoy all of this for the special admission price of just $1.