By Jay Ferguson, Louisville Water Museum Education Specialist
Construction Inspector Tony Gathof was on the Frankfort Avenue Main Replacement job site when he found something unexpected.
The original Frankfort Avenue main was the third supply line into the city in 1877, and Gathof was on the watch for foundry marks on the 36-inch cast iron pipe, but out of a bucket of excavated dirt came something maybe even more interesting — a horseshoe.
With the help of Frank Lessiter, editor of American Farrier’s Journal, and Steve Kraus, Head of Farrier Services at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the shoe was identified as a light hind shoe with an extended heel for a driving horse hitched to a wagon or carriage. The extended heel shortens the horse’s stride and helps prevent it from clipping its front shoes.
The photo shown at right was taken as the original Frankfort Avenue pipe was being laid. This photo shows a horse and light carriage on the scene, barely visible in the background at the end of the pipe trench. There is no way of knowing if the shoe came from this horse, but it is a possibility.
Louisville Water’s 1877 Annual Report lists all the expenses for laying the 36-inch main, including $11.78 for shoeing horses.
Unexpected finds such as the horseshoe add a bit more knowledge to Louisville Water’s history, giving us more detailed information on the life and times of our predecessors. In another 145 years, who knows what our successors might find buried along with the pipe we’re installing now.