America through the HABS Archives: Louisville Water Tower

We’ll continue the “America through the HABS Archives” series by taking a look at the Louisville Water Tower and Pump Station #1.  Designed by Theodore Scowden and constructed in 1856 the Louisville Water Tower is the oldest ornamental water tower in the world.  I wonder how many of you knew that, as I certainly did not until I did some research on the building.  The tower stands 183 tall and is of the Doric order with a Corinthian peristyle around the base.  The pump station was designed in the Classical Revival style and housed boiler and engine rooms.

Water began flowing through the station in 1860 and and pumped 12 million gallons of water a day.  A March 27, 1890 tornado nearly destroyed the Water Tower.  Just 30 feet was left standing but it was quickly rebuilt in cast iron to replace the original iron and wood paneled shaft.  By 1909 the needs of the city had grown beyond the capacity of the original pumping station and water tower and a new pumping station and reservoir was constructed in Crescent Hill.  The statues on the Tower’s base include 9 figures from Greek or Roman mythology and 1 Native American with his dog.

All the photos below, except the one of the Tower’s destruction, are from the HABS archives.  The damage photo is from the Louisville government website found here.  The HABS photos are once again by Jack Boucher and were taken in May 1975.

General View Water Tower

General View of Water Tower

Detail of Architrave and Pediment

Pump Station Detail of Architrave and Pediment

Detail of Column Capital

Pump Station Detail of Column Capital

Interior of Pumping Station

Interior of Pump Station

North Facade Window

North Facade Window of Pump Station

Detail of Statues on Water Tower

Detail of Statues on Water Tower

Southeast View with New Tower

Southeast View with New Tower and Pump Station

Water Tower Damage

Damage from 1890 Tornado


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