When you turn on the water faucet in Louisville, you may not think much about what comes out. The high quality water that flows into your glass is full of history that Louisville citizens can be proud of. The Louisville Water Company wants to make you aware of its interesting past in several ways.
The system that serves 850,000 people in Louisville Metro and parts of Bullitt, Nelson, Oldham, Shelby and Spencer started out in 1860 with 27 employees and a reservoir at the corner of Zorn Avenue and River Road, in the Crescent Hill, Highland District, that pulled water from the Ohio River. By 1951, pump stations were converted to electricity, so require no manning. Steam engines from the old days are on display in one former station on Zorn Avenue, and is just part of what people can come to see in recent “Tour the Tower” sessions. Tour visitors can see the steam engine in operation, plus view historic photos.
The tower, surrounded by statues, is considered to be top notch industrial architecture. The tower, along with the pumping station, was designated as National Historic Landmarks in 1971 by the U.S. Department of the Interior. It is the oldest standing water tower in the U.S., a real feat as the structure was partially destroyed by the Tornado of 1890. The entire facility was recently renovated a cost of $4.3 million renovation. That station is currently rented by the Louisville Visual Arts Association, which has a display honoring its history as part of the water company complex. The Water Company may reclaim the space for a water history museum when the Association’s lease expires in 2012.
Another water company treasure, the Crescent Hill Gatehouse, is a popular destination for tourist and locals who enjoy walking around the reservoir at Frankfort Avenue. Walking Wednesday tours, held from 11 am – 1 pm and from 6 pm – 8 pm, from May through September 28, begin with tour of the old facility and reservoir and conclude with the walk.
The Louisville Water Company is committed to ongoing public education in addition to providing year long tips about water conservation. The company seeks funding for a Water Education and Innovation Center that might be located next to the historic water tower and pumping station along the Ohio River. One partner in the endeavor is EDGE Outreach, a Louisville-based organization with a mission to provide drinkable water in disaster-ravaged countries such as Haiti. To add a global dynamic to center, EDGE would have a major exhibit to increase awareness about world water-quality issues.
According to Mark Hogg, executive director of EDGE Outreach, “our interest in this is huge, because it would provide us with a bigger platform” to educate people that “water, sanitation and health all go hand in hand.” Since Louisville was the site of many water-quality innovations, including advances in the 1890s in the use of chlorine to purify water, he said, Louisville will be a great site for the facility.
Hopefully, there will be a preliminary design and a business plan for the center by mid-2012. The center is projected to cost $7 million, with half coming from the company and half from private foundations. Once built, the center would sustain itself from admissions and space rental. Per an agreement between water company president Greg Heitzman and the University of Kentucky, Design and architecture graduate student at the will develop a model for the project, prepare cost projections, and suggest a location as part of a class project. MBA students would have the opportunity to evaluate a business model for the center, including its potential market, revenue, expenses and long-term viability.
The new center would be owned and operated by a new non-profit set up by the Louisville water Company and would also handle funds to help low income customers prevent shutoffs. It represents the newest outreach effort by the company, which funds programs like Smile Kentucky to provide education and services to school children, Tap Into Fitness, which provides classroom based programming to promote a healthy lifestyle, Edge Outreach to promote sustainable solutions to drinking water in underdeveloped countries, and numerous corporate giving endeavors.
In this hot weather, Louisville is a wonderful place to hydrate yourself and soak up some water history. My team and I at Younger Group Real Estate can show you affordable homes in this great city in Butchertown, St. Matthews, The Highlands, and other great Louisville neighborhoods. We know Louisville!