A Rich History.
Today, the cluster of buildings once known as the Ohio Falls Car and Locomotive Company is known as Water Tower Square and is home to dozens of businesses. Although the "Car Works," as the company was commonly called, was originally in a little village known as Ohio Falls, the buildings that once made up the proud railroad car manufacturing company are now part of both Jeffersonville and Clarksville.
The Ohio Falls Car and Locomotive Company was founded on June 1, 1864, one year before the start of the Civil War. Passenger cars began to be built in 1872 along with the freight cars that had been the mainstay of the business for the thirty years of its existence. After that time, both types of cars were built for both steam and electric railroads.
Unfortunately, the company suffered a serious setback when fire destroyed nearly the entire complex later that same year. With the help of insurance money, the company was able to rebuild. The new brick "fireproof" buildings were built at a distance from one another and had slate tile roofs to discourage the spread of fire even further.
Each building was built for a specific use. The 400 Building, for example, was passenger car finishing. The buildings that AIG now calls home were originally the plant's wood working mill and sheet metal facility. Each building was built by a separate foreman, lending to their unique architecture. Given their age, the buildings were built to allow a maximum amount of natural light and ventilation. Electricity was sparse and air-conditioning was decades away, so the tall ceilings, skylights, and windows served as natural ventilation and a terrific light source.
In 1899 the company's name was changed to the American Car and Foundry Company after merging with 12 other rail car manufacturing companies. The company prospered through the early twentieth century, bolstered by World War I, and was a component of the Dow Jones Industrial average. During the war, the company manufactured a variety of military items including helmets, wagons, baking pans, tables, tent poles, and cots. However, with the decline of the rail industry, orders decreased and the company never regained its former prominence. In 1933 the Car Works closed, a victim of the nationwide Great Depression and the country's growing reliance on automobile transportation.
During the following years, the site was put to use for a variety of purposes. The US Government used it for storage during World War II. Then Bridge City (a discount store), then Rambler City (a car dealership owned by Walt Bales), and finally a warehouse for the Falls City Transfer & Storage Company. The Hoehn family became involved with the property in the early seventies, and has transformed it into an office complex and business park.
The American Car and Foundry facility is a major landmark of the area and was one of the region's largest employers in its prime. After many years of various uses and some inactivity, the historic "Car Works" is once again a vital part of the community. Today, tenants at Water Tower Square employ over 600 people. With dozens of tenants in various businesses and in various sizes, the diverse workforce contributes mightily to the Louisville area economy.