Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
South Central States
Kentucky Louisville

Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville was founded in 1778.

The Louisville Gas and Water Company was incorporated in 1838  to "construct and establish Gas and Water Works in the city of Louisville." L. L. Shreve, J. I. Jacob, James Rudd, and Robert Tyler were appointed commissioners to sell stock.  This company did not build water works.

The City of Louisville was authorized to build water works in 1842, and the right of the Louisville Gas and Water Company to construct water works was repealed.  The 1851 city charter affirmed that the city had the power to build water works.

The Louisville Water Company was incorporated in 1854 by Thomas E. Wilson, Bland Ballard, John R. Hamilton, Charles J. Clarke, Andrew Graham, and Curran Pope "for the purpose of supplying said city and its inhabitants with water." The city of Louisville decided to buy almost all of the stock in the company in 1856, which the voters approved.  The company built a system pumping water from the Ohio River to a standpipe using a steam engine that began service in October, 1860.

The city eventually acquired all of the company's shares, but continued to operate it as a private company.  The company was thus liable to various taxes, which resulted in several court cases, including two that reached the United States Supreme Court.  After losing an appeal in 1908, the city had the property of the company transferred to them, while the company continued to operate as a separate entity.

Water is provided by Louisville Water Company.  The company maintains a Water Tower Park, which includes an1860 standpipe (rebuilt after an 1890 tornado) and a water works museum in the original pumping station.


References
1834 An act to amend the Charter of the City of Louisville.  February 22, 1834.
Sec. 1. That is shall be lawful for the city authorities of Louisville, to borrow on the credit of the city, an adequate sum to construct water works, not exceeding two hundred thousand dollars.

1838 An act to incorporate the Louisville Gas and Water Company.  February 15, 1838.

1842 An act to authorize and enable the city of Louisville to erect Water Works.  January 31, 1842.

1842 An act to amend an act, entitled, an act to incorporate the Louisville Gas and Water Company. January 31, 1842.

1851 An act to charter the City of Louisville.  March 24, 1851.
12. The general council shall have power to establish, build, and regulate water works for the city of Louisville.

1852 The History of Louisville: From Its Earliest Settlement Till the Year 1852, by Ben Casseday.
Page 189:  1833 - The policy and propriety of establishing water works had been for some time under discussion, and in this year the city went to far as to purchase a site for a reservoir on Main above Clay Street.  The project was very soon abandoned, but whether from the pressure of the times or from the opposition of many of the citizens does not appear in any record of the period.
Page 191:  During 1833 and 1834 two new amendments had been made to the charter. One of them authorizes some trifling change in the boundary of the city, and the other allows the borrowing of money to erect Water-Works.
Page 202: 1840 - Two events belong also to this year which were of vital importance.  Of these, the first was the lighting of the city with gas.  This was done by a corporate company, established by charter in 1839, having a capital of $1,200,000, with power also to erect water-works and with banking privileges, except the issue of bills.

1854 An act to incorporate the Louisville Water Company.  March 6, 1854.

1856 An act to amend an act incorporating the Louisville Water Works Company.  March 3, 1856.

1856 "Vote on the Water Works Question," The Louisville Daily Courier, September 8, 1856, Page 3.  Passed 1,401 in favor to 344 opposed.

1856 "Poisoning from Lead Pipes," The Louisville Daily Courier, November 28, 1856, Page 2.

1856 "Water Works," The Louisville Daily Courier, December 6, 1856, Page 2.

1857 "Water Works," letter from James Sloan, The Louisville Daily Courier, February 28, 1857, Page 1.

1857 "The Water Works," letter by Theodore R. Scowden, Chief Engineer, Louisville Water Company, Louisville Daily Courier, May 5, 1857 [?]  The paper for this date is not included in microfilm or on-line newspaper collections and this is the most likely publication date.

1857 "The Waterworks Question," The Louisville Daily Courier, March 7, 1857, Page 3.

1857 The Louisville Daily Courier, November 30, 1857, Page 3.
We commend the following to those who enjoy the benefits of waterworks:  About twenty-two years ago, at Philadelphia, the Water from the Fairmount Water-Works assumed a very unpleasant taste.  All analyzation proving a failure, they concluded to clean out the reservoir.  And on doing so, found the bodies of eleven children, in a partial state of putrefaction, and the skeletons of eight more, making nineteen dead bodies.

1858 "Our Water Works," The Louisville Daily Courier, October 20, 1858, Page 2.
First Annual Report of the President and Directors of the Louisville Water Company, October 6, 1858.

1860 An act to further amend and renew an act incorporating the Louisville Water-Works Company.  January 10, 1860.

1860 Tariff of Rates for the Louisville Water Company, March 29, 1860.

1860 "Tariff of Water Rates," The Louisville Daily Courier, April 2, 1860, Page 2.

1860 "Louisville Water works--The Water to be Turned on To-Day," Louisville Daily Courier, October 15, 1860, Page 1

1860 Louisville Daily Democrat, October 16, 1860, Page 2.
Water - We understand that the water was let on yesterday, but several leaks appeared that occupied the day in stopping.  We suppose the water will be let on to-day.  The engines were pumping into the reservoir yesterday, and we may congratulate the city upon having its much needed water works in operation.

1864 Rules and regulations governing the introduction, supply, and consumption of water from the Louisville Water Works, adopted November 28, 1864.

1867 An act to amend the Charter of the Louisville Water Company.  February 28, 1867.

1869 An act to increase the resources of the Sinking Fund of the City of Louisville.  March 15, 1869.
1. There shall be added to the present resources of the sinking fund of said city the stock owned by her in the Louisville Water-works Company.

1871 An act to relieve the directors and officers of the Louisville Water Company from service as grand and petit jurors in the county of Jefferson.  March 22, 1871.

1876 An act for the benefit of the Louisville Water Company.  March 15, 1876.

1880 An act for the benefit of the Louisville Water Company.  March 27, 1880.

1881 Louisville from Engineering News 8:183 (May 7, 1881)

1882 Louisville from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

1882 "Louisville" from History of the Water Supply of the World: Arranged in a Comprehensive Form from Eminent Authorities, Containing a Description of the Various Methods of Water Supply, Pollution and Purification of Waters, and Sanitary Effects, by Thomas J. Bell

1882 An act to amend the charter of the Louisville Water Company.  April 22, 1882.
1. That it shall be the duty of the Louisville Water Company to furnish water to the public fire cisterns and public fire plugs or hydrants of the city of Louisville for fire protection free of charge.
2. The sinking fund of the city of Louisville being the owner of the stock of the Louisville Water Company, and said water company, by virtue thereof, is the property of the city of Louisville, therefore the Louisville Water Company is hereby exempted from the payment of taxes of all kinds of whatever character, State, municipal, and special.

1882 History of the Ohio Falls Cities and Their Counties, Volume 1.
Page 315: The Water Works On the 6th of March, 1854, the Louisville Water Company was incorporated by act of the
General Assembly, " with power and authority to construct and establish water-works in the city of Louisville or elsewhere, for the purpose of supplying said city and its inhabitants with water." June 24th, a popular vote was taken, to determine the question of building water-works at the expense of the city, which was decided adversely by 1,251 against 1,751. However, on the 30th of June, 1856, an. ordinance was passed directing the Mayor to subscribe for five thousand five hundred shares of stock in the company, and pay for them in bonds of the city. This ordinance, upon submission to the people in September, was approved by a vote of 1,415 against 370. The stock finally became almost wholly the property of the city. In 1873 it was divided into 12,751 shares, of which three only were held by private persons, two by the city proper, and the whole of the remainder by the Sinking Fund of the city, and therefore public property. A publication of this period says:
The value of the Works to January 1, 1874, estimated at cost, is nearly $2,000,000, and there exists a bonded indebtedness of $200,000. secured by mortgage on the Works. A sinking fund was created February 14, 1870, for the extinguishment of this debt, which falls due February, 1883. This fund, up to this date, has been invested in the purchase of forty-eight bonds of the company and eight bonds of the city of Louisville maturing at about the same time i. e., fifty-six bonds, of $1,000 each.
The receipts of the company are yearly increasing, and now exceed $150,000 per annum $10,000 of which are placed to the credit of the sinking fund of the company. The remainder, up to the present time, excluding the necessary expense of conducting the Works, has been used in the making of new pipe extensions, of which some eighty-two miles have been laid. The Works have a maximum capacity to supply fifteen million gallons of water per day.
It is provided by law that the water-rates of Louisville are not to exceed those charged in either Pittsburg, Cincinnati, or St. Louis.
Page 585-587: "The Water Works"

1883 "To Water Consumers," Louisville Courier-Journal, February 17, 1883, Page 5.

1886 An act to amend the revenue laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.  May 17, 1886. 

1887 "The Louisville Water Company," The City of Louisville and a Glimpse of Kentucky

1888 Thirtieth Annual Report of the Louisville Water Company for the year ending December 31, 1887.

1888 "Louisville," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1889 "Louisville Pumping Engines," Iron Age 44:349-361. (September 5, 1889)

1890 "The Cyclone of March 26, 27, and 28," Scientific American, 62:232-234.  (April 12, 1890)  Includes picture of standpipe destroyed by March 27, 1890 cyclone on page 234.

1890 An act to amend the Charter of the Louisville Water Company.  May 9, 1890. Became a law, without the approval of the Governor, who did not sign or return to the House in which it originated within the ten days prescribed by the Constitution.

1890 "Louisville," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Louisville," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1892 Louisville Water Company v. Clark, 143 US 1, January 18, 1892, US Supreme Court

1894 "Papers on Pumping Engines before the Mechanical Engineers," Engineering News 32:482-484. (December 13, 1894)  Includes report on a 16,000,000 gallon per day Leavitt pumping engine.

1895 Duty trial of a pumping engine for the Louisville Water Company, Louisville, Ky: Built by I.P. Morris Company, owned and conducted by the William Cramp & Sons Ship and Engine Building Co., Philadelphia, Pa., 1895

1897 "Louisville," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4

1898 Louisville Water Company v. Commonwealth of Kentucky, 170 US 127, April 11, 1898 US Supreme Court

1898 Report on the Investigations Into the Purification of the Ohio River Water: At Louisville, Kentucky, Made to the President and Directors of the Louisville Water Company, by George Warren Fuller

1900 Works for subsiding, coagulating, filtering and purifying water for the Louisville Water Company at Crescent Hill.  Louisville Water Company's request for proposals including detailed specifications.

1906 An act in relation to the control, management and operation of water works in cities of the first class.  March 6, 1906.  Louisville was the only city of the first class at the time.
1, Whenever any city of the first class is the owner (through its commissioner of the Sinking Fund) of all of the shares of capital stock in any corporation existing under the laws of this Commonwealth, engaged in supplying water to such city and inhabitants thereof, such city shall control, manage and operate the plant of such corporation, including its franchise, and all other property of every kind and description, in the manner hereinafter provided.

1908 Bell, Sheriff, et al. v City of Louisville, et al., 106 S. W. 862, 32 Ky. Law Rep. 699,  January 21, 1908, Court of Appeals of Kentucky
Though a municipality has acquired all of the shares of stock of a water company, the property of the water company is not thereby converted to into public property used for public purposes.

1908 "Heavy Taxes on the Water Company," Louisville Courier-Journal, January 22, 1908, Page 1.

1908 "New Board Named to Transfer Water-works to City," Louisville Courier-Journal, July 15, 1908, Page 2.

1909 Fifty-First Annual Report of the Louisville Water Company for the year ending December 31, 1908.  This document also includes other annual reports from 1907 through 1912.
Page 5: In addition to the large construction work of last year, we had to pay $141,452.59 for back taxes, for which no provision had been made.

1909 Ryan, &c. v. City of Louisville, 133 Ky. 714, May 6, 1909, Court of Appeals of Kentucky
The transfer of the property to the city was valid.

1911 Audit Co. of New York v. City of Louisville et al., 185 Fed. 349, Circuit Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, February 7, 1911.

1911 Souvenir of the Louisville Water Company, Louisville, Kentucky : giving historical and general statistics and current information relating to the water works, by Theodore A. Leisen, May 16, 1911.

1912 City of Louisville v. Parsons, 150 Ky. 420, November 7, 1912. Court of Appeals of Kentucky

1917 The Louisville Water Company : its history, rates, statistics, and a digest of decisions of the court of appeals of Kentucky in cases relating to public water supply, by Anthony J. Carroll (1864-1943), Attorney for Louisville Board of Water Works.
Page 4: The total number. of shares of stock issued by the Company was 12,751, representing a total par value of $1,275,100. Of this amount, the City of Louisville, as stated, acquired, prior to 1868, 12,700 shares, leaving in the hands of various individual stockholders a total of 51 shares. On July 10, 1870, one of these shares was purchased by the city, the price paid being $154.15; in May, 1871, forty-five shares were purchased, the total price being $4,500; on December 4, 1900, one share was purchased, the price paid being $310; on June 25, 1903, one share was purchased, the price paid being $600, and on April 19, 1907, the three remaining shares were acquired, the total price paid for same being $463.05, and the City of Louisville thereby became the owner of all of the shares of the capital stock of the corporation.

1937 "The Louisville Water Company and the 1937 Flood," with Discussion, by L. S. Vance and W. H. Lovejoy, Journal of the American Water Works Association, 29(9):1246-1258 (September, 1937)

1962 "Louisville," from Public Water Supplies of the 100 Largest Cities in the United States, 1962, US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 1812, by Charles Norman Durfor and Edith Becker

1981 "The Louisville Water Works Pumping Station Number One," by Margaret Wheeler Hilliard, M.A. Thesis in Architectural History, University of Virginia
Chapter II includes good biographical information about Scowden.

1996 Water works: a history of the Louisville Water Company, by George H. Yater.

2003 Phelps v. Louisville Water Company, 103 S.W.3d 46, 51 (Ky. 2003), April 4, 2003.  Kentucky Supreme Court
Accordingly, the make-up of LWC is as follows:  the City of Louisville holds legal title to the physical property;  all stock is owned by the City and held in its sinking fund;  the Board controls the management and properties of LWC;  and LWC itself is still a distinct corporate entity.

2010 Water Works: 150 Years of Louisville Water Company, by Kelley Dearing Smith






2015 Morris A. Pierce