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"The Louisville Water Tower" Top 5 Page for this destination Kentucky Things to Do Tip by traveldave

Kentucky Things to Do: 144 reviews and 252 photos


The Louisville Water Tower functioned as the city's first water-pumping station. Completed in 1856, it is the oldest ornamental water tower in the world.

During the 1830s and 1840s, Louisville acquired the nickname of "the graveyard of the west" because polluted water from tainted private wells caused epidemics of cholera and typhoid, killing thousands. The Kentucky legislature formed the Louisville Water Company in 1854 to correct the problem. The answer was to build a water tower that would pump pure water from the area's underground aquifer and then distribute it through pipes to the city's residents.

The tower was designed by architects Theodore Scowden and his assistant Charles Hermany. Their design included a 183-foot (56-meter) Doric standpipe that arises out of a Corinthian portico surrounding its base. The pumping station is disguised as a Greek temple.

Upon its completion, the Louisville Water Tower was capable of pumping 12,000,000 gallons (45,424,944 liters) of water every 24 hours. The water was then distributed through a system of 26 miles (42 kilometers) of pipes to homes and businesses throughout the city.

In 1890, the water tower was heavily damaged by a tornado. Although it was repaired, by that time it was becoming inadequate to handle the water needs of a growing city. It ceased operations in 1909 after a modern pumping station and new reservoirs were built elsewhere in Louisville.

Nowadays, the Water Tower houses the Louisville Visual Art Association. Founded in 1909, it is the region's oldest contemporary visual art organization.

The Louisville Water Tower and its pumping station have been designated a National Historic Landmark.

Directions: The Louisville Water Tower is located at 3005 River Road, in Louisville.

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  • Updated Nov 21, 2010
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