The Filson Historical Society Digital Projects

Louisville’s Coast Guard

The only inland Life Saving Station in the United States opened in Louisville in November 1881 as Station #10. Described as a two-story floating building that docked at the foot of Third Street, lobbying for this station began several years earlier due to dangerous conditions on the Ohio River at the Falls of the Ohio. The Louisville Courier-Journal regularly reported on the assistance given to Louisville’s river-going community by this station, whether by assisting with floating issues near the Falls, rescuing those who met with accidents on the water, or recovering bodies of those who met their demise on the river. 

The placement of a station in Louisville was authorized by an Act of Congress on March 2, 1881. Three local men - William Devan, Jr., John Tully, and John Gillooly, known as the “Heroes of the Falls” - already functioned unofficially in this capacity, saving many lives. Devan and Gillooly accepted positions with the Life Saving Station, with Deven serving as keeper until his death in 1911, and Gillooly continuing until his retirement in 1916. From 1881 to 1913, the station saved 6,000 lives and 400 boats, and assisted the population of Louisville during floods. The original wooden-hulled station was replaced in 1902 with another, and in 1929 with a steel hulled boat. Life Saving Station #10 was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1972 and renamed the Mayor Andrew Broaddus. It serves today as the wharf boat and ticket office for the Belle of Louisville and is a National Historic Landmark.