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Digital Collections : Metropolitan Sewer District Collection

Metropolitan Sewer District Collection

About the Collection

Louisville’s Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) has its origins in the Commissioners of Sewerage. The first commissioners were formed in 1906 following voter approval of a $4 million bond to build new sewers. Between 1906 and 1913, the Commissioners of Sewerage oversaw the construction of 54 miles of sewer lines, including the first interceptor sewers in the city and the initial stages of a concrete channel for Beargrass Creek.

In 1918, Louisville voters approved a $2 million bond and a second Commissioners of Sewerage was created. It was under this commission that the photographs in the MSD collection were taken. Sewer projects were funded by federal public works programs and a series of bond issues. Projects during this time include the construction of the Southwestern Outfall, additional interceptor sewers to keep raw sewage from flowing into Beargrass Creek, relief sewer lines, additional construction of the concrete channel for Beargrass Creek, and Louisville’s first sewage pump station. The second Commissioners of Sewerage issued a final report in 1942 but did not fully complete their work until 1944. The Metropolitan Sewer District was created in 1946 following an ordinance passed by Louisville’s Board of Aldermen.

The Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) Collection consists of two collections held by the University of Louisville Photographic Archives:

Both collections record the construction of sewer lines, drainage work, and floodwall protection projects throughout Louisville in the early twentieth century through the beginning of World War II. While the scope of the collection was to document the city’s sewer expansion, the images also capture the city’s developing neighborhoods and changing geography, downtown and the Ohio River waterfront, the impact of the 1937 flood, and the inhabitants of the city, including the men who physically built the sewer lines.

The digital collection currently consists of the 1981.03 (nitrate negative) collection. Eventually the prints will be added to the site.

About the Cataloging

Titles were created from the captions provided with the original images when available. Dates were derived from this resource as well. The original captions may include spelling errors or misidentified locations that were left as-is in the titles but corrected in the digital record's Description field. Titles that were supplied by the cataloger are indicated in the Description.

Conditions of Use

The University of Louisville welcomes fair use of this website and its contents. If you wish to publish, broadcast, or publicly display these materials, please notify Archives and Special Collections. In addition, it is your responsibility to determine and satisfy copyright or other use restrictions, which may include paying fees for commercial use. For further information about permissions, use, and ordering reproductions, see Order Reproductions, or contact Archives and Special Collections, University of Louisville.

To cite an image from this collection, please use the appropriate format:

[Image Number], Metropolitan Sewer Collection, 1981.03, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.


[Image Number], Metropolitan Sewer Collection, 1983.12, Photographic Archives, University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky.

To cite the digital version, add its Reference URL (found by following the link in the header above the digital file).


Images were scanned by Alex Carter, Alexandra Clifton, and Hao Nguyen under the supervision of Amy Hanaford Purcell in 2011-2012 as 600 dpi TIFFs in 8-bit grayscale on an Epson Expression 10000XL- Photo Scanner. Additional images were scanned earlier under the supervision of Bill Carner for orders made through University of Louisville's Photographic Archives. Some cropping and rotating was done using Photoshop CS3. The TIFFs were converted into JPEGs of "best quality" and resized to 600 pixels on the long side using Irfanview 4.28.

Emily Symonds Stenberg researched and created metadata in accordance with the University of Louisville Digital Initiatives data dictionary (PDF).The HTML pages were designed by Terri L. Holtze. Dwayne K. Buttler, J.D., provided copyright advice.


Biemer, Martin E. 50 Years of Service. A History of the First Half-Century of the Louisville and Jefferson.

County Metropolitan Sewer District. Edited by H.J. Schardein, Jr. Louisville, KY: Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District, 1998. Call number: RA567.5.L88 B42 1998

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