The Water Tower of Louisville, Kentucky is the oldest ornamental water tower in the world, having been built before the more famous Chicago Water Tower. Both the actual water tower and its pumping station are on the National Register of Historic Places.
Louisville had gained the nickname "graveyard of the west", due to the polluted local water giving Louisville residents cholera and typhoid at epidemic levels. This was because residents attained water through private wells. The decision was made by the Kentucky Legislature to form the Louisville Water Company in 1854.
It was purposely decided to make the water station ornate, to make dubious Louisvillains more accepting of a water company. Theodore Scowden, assisted by Charles Hermany, were the architects of the structures. They chose an area just outside of town, on a hill overlooking the Ohio River, which provided excellent elevation. The location also meant that coal boats could easily deliver the coal necessary to operate the station. The main column, done in Doric style, is 183 feet tall. The Corinthian-style zinc-casted pedestals, ten in all, originally had J. W. Fiske-designed statues depicting Greco-Roman deities, the different seasons, and an Indian hunting with his canine. Even the reservoir's gatehouse was supposed to invoke the memory of castles along the Rhine River.
The water tower began operations in October 1860. The tower was not just pretty; it was effective. In 24 hours the station could produce 12 million US gallons (45,000 m³) of water. This water, in turn, flowed through 26 miles (42 km) of pipe.