Pumping Stations and the 21st Century

The Calf Pasture Pumping Station is a prime example of industrial innovation and engineering and  stands today as an architectural and historical landmark on Columbia Point. Unused for over forty years, the empty but impressive structure begs the question, what comes next? 

Restoring and reusing such a pumping station is a daunting task, but there are successful models undertaken at similar structures elsewhere in the United States, with a variety of interesting results. How have other communities restored, preserved,  and reused such impressive reminders of the history of public health and technological innovation?   What can these models teach us about the possibilities for the future of the Calf Pasture Pumping Station, and the challenges we might encounter with their preservation?   

Pumping Station No. 1
Homestead, Pennsylvania

Homestead P.S.
The Homestead Steelworks Pump House at the time of the battle of Homestead, 1892.
(Source: The Illustrated American July 23, 1892). (Click to enlarge image)

Some pumping stations have a surprising history. In Homestead Pennsylvania, “Pumping Station No. 1” is the last remaining structure of Homestead Steel Works. Purchased by Andrew Carnegie and incorporated into Carnegie Steel Company in 1883, Homestead Steel Works was one of Carnegie’s largest producers of steel. In 1892, Homestead’s Pumping Station No. 1 was the site of a violent clash between workers striking for better pay and working conditions, and Pinkerton agents hired by Carnegie Steel to break the strike.  One of the strikers was killed inside the pumping station by a Pinkerton bullet.  

Homestead Steel Works closed  in 1986, and within the next few years, most  of the structures on the site were dismantled. In 1988, the site was sold to the Park Corporation which began to clean and prepare the building for restoration and new construction. There were several environmental issues to overcome, especially soil contamination from lubricants and asbestos.  Structurally, the pumping station on the Homestead grounds was sound the land and building were filled with slag, a byproduct of manufacturing steel.  The original ground floor of the pumping station, as well as the river landing that the workers and Pinkertons disembarked from during the 1892 conflict, both remained beneath the infill. 

Ultimately, the preservation of Pumping Station No. 1 resulted from the actions of two groups with interests in preserving the site–Continental Real Estate, and the Battle of Homestead Foundation (BHF), a group of local citizens, historians and educators. In the 1990s, Continental Real Estate purchased the building, and BHF implemented interpretive and educational programming at the site.  

Today Pumping Station No. 1 is owned by the Steel Industry Heritage Corporation, which is dedicated to preserving the memory of the pivotal Homestead Strike through educational programming. Part of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, the Homestead pump house provides space to support community events dedicated to education and the arts. These include a  “Heritage Market” and  a “Bike Friendly Eco-Center,” with specially designed amenities for cyclists traveling the bike paths that run along the edge of the river, encouraging them to take a rest and explore its valuable history.

Sunday Heritage Market at Homestead Pump House
Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area Newsleter, Dec. 2010. (Click to enlarge image)


Eden Park Pump House
Cincinnati, Ohio

The Eden Park Station No. 7 , 2008
(Source: Creative Commons, Greg Hume)

The Eden Park Pump  House in Cincinnati, Ohio,  was designed by well-known architect Samuel Hannaford in 1889; it sits in the historic Eden Park, originally on the banks of a large man-made reservoir. The pumping station ceased pumping operations in 1908; in 1939 it was repurposed as a central radio communications center for the city’s fire and police departments. It remained in use as a communication center until the mid-1980s when it was then used for storage and eventually fell into disrepair. In 2012 a former city employee, Jack Martin, leased the property from the city with the proposed plan to restore it and give it new life as a microbrewery.

The “Brewery X” project showcases the struggles in renovating a 19th century pumping station and working with the local community to establish a new, business use for the property. Jack Martin, a retired architect was attracted to the Eden Park Pump House for the site of his brewery partly because of Cincinnati’s history and legacy of beer making. The city approved Martin’s initial plans for interior and exterior restoration and reconstruction , but the project has been delayed by the multiple and varied challenges posed by investors, community,  zoning and architectural boards, and the Cincinnati City Council.  As of April 2015, priced at an estimated $3.5 million, had yet to be completed.

A design rendering for the renovated interior of the Eden Park Pump House.
(Source: building-cincinnati.com and MSA Architects)

Louisville Water Company Pumping Station No. 1

Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Water Co. 1860
Louisville Water Company Pumping Station, 1860
(Source: louisville.com ) (Click to enlarge image)

 The successful renovation of the Louisville Water Company’s Pumping Station No. 1 preserves a significant architectural landmark and Louisville historical resource.  Architects Theodore Scowden and Charles Hermany designed this water pumping station, which operated from 1860-1912.  This Classical Revival structure resembles a two-story temple, with wings on both sides.   The pumping station was nominated to the National Historic Register in 1971.  Renovations began that same year, and continued until 2013.  Finally restored to its original condition, exterior and interior renovations have cost around $2.3 million.  

The Louisville Water Company’s Pumping Station No. 1 now houses a WaterWorks Museum of science and history; exhibits and programming explore  the scientific and engineering innovations of the pumping industry in Louisville, public health, and the architectural and historical significance of the building. 

The city of Louisville has been very supportive of the Water Works Museum project, which has been conceived and funded by the Louisville Water Company, the owners of the site. “Louisville Water’s history is Louisville’s history and it is rich with scientific and engineering innovation and architectural achievement,” said Louisville Water President & CEO Greg Heitzman in 2012, “This project is part of our longstanding commitment to preserve the infrastructure and stories about the people who have guided us to where we are today.”

Louisville WaterCo. 4
The renovated Louisville Water WaterWorks Museum opened to the public in 2014
(Source: louisville.com ) (Click to enlarge image)


Are there examples of successful restoration, rehabilitation and reuse of such industrial structures in your community?  What has worked?  What are the challenges?

Sources Consulted:

  1. Brody, David. Steelworkers in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.
  2. The Waterfront – Homestead Steel Works: http://www.cmu.edu/steinbrenner/brownfields/Case%20Studies/pdf/waterfront1.pdf
  3. The Battle of Homestead Foundation: http://www.battleofhomesteadfoundation.org/about.php
  4. Battle of Homestead Site NHL designation application: http://www.riversofsteel.com/_uploads/files/Summary%20of%20PH%20structures%20and%20BOH%20History.pdf
  5. Cincinnati Triple Steam: www.cincinnatitriplesteam.org
  6. Cincinnati City Website: www.cincinnati.com
  7. Louisville Water Dept: www.louisvilleky.gov
  8. Louisville City Website: www.louisville.com

Photo Credits:

  1. Building Cincinnati: www.buildingcincinnati.com
  2. MSA Architects: www.msaarch.com
  3. Louisville City Website: www.louisville.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *