The Louisville Water Company Pumping Station is composed of two structures: the engine and boiler room and the standpipe tower. The standpipe tower, known as the Louisville Water Tower, is the oldest ornamental water tower in the world. Both buildings were designed in the Classical Revival architectural style in the Roman Corinthian order with ornamental details in terra cotta and cast iron. They are the finest examples in the country of the symbolic and monumental function of industrial architecture.
The Louisville Water Company was incorporated by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky on March 6, 1854. The Louisville Water Company Pumping Station was built from 1858 to 1860. It was designed by the chief engineer of the Water Company, Theodore R. Scowden (despite a persistent tradition of giving credt to Gideon Shryock as the father of Greek Revival Architecture in America), who was inspired by French architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux, who merged architectural beauty with industrial efficiency. (In 1893, the adjacent pumping station was completed to more than double the capacity of the water works.) The buildings were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.
The remarkable 169-foot standpipe tower was designed to imitate a triumphal Roman column in the Doric order. On top of the tower is a domed cupola. The base of the column is surrounded by a balustraded peristyle of ten Corinthian columns; the balustrade has ten pedestals corresponding to the column spacing with life-size statues of mythological figures on top of each pedestal. The tower was blown over in the tornado of March 27, 1890. It was immediately re-erected by chief engineer Charles Hermany, who had been Scowden&amp;amp;#039;s assistant at the time of its construction thirty years earlier.
The engine and boiler room is a two-story brick temple-form building, three bays wide with handsome tetrastyle entrance portico. The interior is divided into large spaces for Cornish engines, two pairs of deluxe steam pumps and two batteries of boilers containing three Cornish boilers each. There is an interior balcony in the central section reached by a cast iron spiral staircase.
The buildings, set in a large open expanse of park area, can be seen from great distances up and down the Ohio River.
The standpipe tower and engine and boiler are now home to the WaterWorks museum, which brings to life the history of Louisville&amp;amp;#039;s water with historic photos, films and memorabilia - some of which date back to 1860. Louisville Water Company&amp;amp;#039;s contributions to safe drinking water through its innovations in science, architecture and engineering innovation are featured.
Louisville Water Company / JRA Architects