Louisville’s beautiful Water Pumping Station, on River Road at Zorn Avenue, is scheduled for a major make-over soon. More than 150 years of Louisville Water Company history will be preserved, renovated and put on display as the company gears up for a $2.35 million interior restoration project at its landmark original Pumping Station.
The first interior restoration of the site since 1978, current plans call for Pumping Station No. 1 to be restored as closely as possible to its original and pristine condition as when it was constructed between 1858 and 1860. Exterior renovation projects on both the Water Tower and Pumping Station were completed in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
“Louisville Water’s history is Louisville’s history and it is rich with scientific and engineering innovation and architectural achievement,” said Louisville Water President & CEO Greg Heitzman. “This project is part of our longstanding commitment to preserve the infrastructure and stories about the people who have guided us to where we are today.”
Along with the restoration, Louisville Water will develop a “Water Works” Museum within the Pumping Station. The museum will include photographs, film and interactive displays that tell the story of how Louisville Water has helped shaped the city’s past and present.
Positive response to a 2010-11 anniversary exhibit at the Frazier History Museum entitled “Water Works: 150 Years of Louisville Water Company” fueled the idea of incorporating a museum into the preservation plans. Many of the elements of that exhibit will be incorporated into the Water Works Museum.
“Each year thousands of people tour the historic structures as part of collaborations we’ve developed with local schools and community organizations,” said Louisville Water Strategic Communications Manager Kelley Dearing Smith. “We see the Water Works Museum as a natural and positive extension of the education work we already do within our community. Plus, we think it will be a new, fun destination.”
Work on the Pumping Station is scheduled to begin this fall and is projected for completion by the fall of 2013. The “Water Works” Museum is planned to open in October, 2013.
Louisville Water has reached a lease extension agreement with the Louisville Visual Arts Association, which currently leases the interior space through July of 2012. The Association will continue to utilize part of the Pumping Station through the end of 2012 at which time they will relocate.
As a possible extension of this scope, Louisville Water’s Board of Water Works has approved a feasibility study to look at the costs and location of a separate education facility. The “Water Education Center” would focus on the current studies of the “World of Water” and serve as an additional event venue. The feasibility study is being assisted through work by both the University of Louisville MBA program and the University of Kentucky College of Design. Louisville Water plans to make a decision about the feasibility of the Water Education Center by early 2013.
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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