The best view of the Screen Tower building is from the Ohio River, where countless boaters and others on cruises see it as a sign holder showing the crest of the 1937 Flood; the worst in Louisville’s history. Standing for a century just offshore in the Ohio River, the Screen Tower is the smallest, yet important building at Louisville Water’s River Pumping Station. The Screen Tower serves two primary purposes: it is the intake point for water drawn from the Ohio River and it prevents debris from being drawn from the river into the pumps. While the machinery inside the tower has been updated, the exterior is relatively unchanged since its construction in 1912.
When the original pumping station (1860) and Pumping Station No. 2 (1894) were built, each had its own intake crib and screen well. The use of a single intake point and screen tower for both pumping stations was first discussed in 1909. Theodore Leisen, who became chief engineer after the death of Charles Hermany, proposed building “a stone or concrete” intake crib that would “serve also as a screen chamber and would also be accessible at all stages of the river.” He wanted to make sure it could accommodate the two current stations and have room to accommodate a “connection to a third pumping station at some future time.” The contract to build the tower was awarded in 1910 at the cost of $69,800. The tower was completed and put into operation in 1913.
The original configuration had two 48-inch influent pipes from the river and four 48-inch pipes leading to the pumping stations. The four rectangular screens were situated in the base of the tower to catch the debris as it came in from the river. When the screens needed to be cleaned, they could be raised by motor-driven hoists up to the cleaning floor. These screens were replaced by two self-cleaning, traveling screens in 1936. The new screens were like a conveyor belt, making a continuous loop from the inlet pipes to the motor house at the top of the tower. Two more traveling screens were added in 1939 after two new vertical centrifugal pumps were installed in Station No. 2. The screens were renovated in 1963 as part of a larger project to increase the capacity of the intake pipes. This project saw the old four 48-inch pipes replaced by two 84-inch pipes to better meet current water demands, as well as future demand increases.
Link to Screen Tower digital image collection on Flickr.