Louisville Water Company

Historical Marker #2317 in Jefferson County commemorates the Louisville Water Company Filtration Plant, Reservoir, and Gatehouse.

The Louisville Water Company was chartered by the Kentucky General Assembly on March 6, 1854. It became the state's first public water utility after a spirited campaign led by Louisville Mayor James Speed. Regular water delivery began on October 6, 1860.

Water usage grew tremendously in the years following the Civil War, prompting the company's chief engineer, Charles Hermany, to choose Crescent Hill as the site of a new 100 million gallon reservoir. The project was completed in 1879, and was some fourteen times larger than the original. Attention turned to more sophisticated filtration systems after it was seen that the techniques employed at the Reservoir and Gatehouse were ineffective in removing silt from water obtained from inland rivers.

Hermany enlisted the help of George Warren Fuller, the father of sanitary engineering in the United States, to come up with a plan to more effectively filter water. Based on Fuller's research, construction of the Crescent Hill Filtration Plant began in 1897. Because of Hermany's death in 1908, however, the goal of effective filtration was not initially reached. Fuller was again consulted, and he suggested changes that, by 1909, finally removed the sand, mud, and bacteria that had plagued Louisville's water supply for nearly fifty years.

The Louisville Water Company made significant contributions to both the sanitation of drinking water and architecture. The company was a research pioneer in water filtration methods that were eventually practiced across the United States. In the area of architecture, Hermany's predecessor, Theodore Scowden, constructed the original 1860 classic style pump house and 169-foot-tall water tower. The structures were designated an engineering landmark by the American Water Works Association in 1970, and a National Historic Landmark in 1971.