Thursday, March 10, 2016

Chicago's Early Water Supply (1869 Water Tower)


A lot more photos of the Chicago Avenue Pumping Station

20190914 9263
Sometimes a grab shot is the best shot. I took this while walking along Michigan Avenue on my way to a tour of the pump station. I learned later that get such a clear view across the pedestrian and bus traffic of Michigan Avenue is rather rare. And the tower just happened to be between skyscrappers.

3D Satellite
I saved the view because as skyscrapers get built around the water supply complex, it is harder to get a 3D view.

Before the surrounding skyscrapers:
Photo from HABS ILL,16-CHIG,42--1 from il0097

Neil Gale posted
Chicago's first water system
Update of Update: this indicates that the first pumping station started in 1842, not 1854. The use of wooden pipes as the street water mains is a reminder of how expensive iron was in 1842 in the Midwest.

I found this reference while researching some other pump stations. It shows that the shoreline used to be a lot closer to the pumping station than it is now.

Neil Gale posted
The History of the Chicago Water Tower - One of Six Surviving Structures of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
GREAT photographs! Lots of great pictures and a bonus... A large map of the Chicago Fire burnt district and the original 1909 Chicago street renaming & renumbering documents in pdf.

Update: The water supply system that we see today was the "New Water Works" that went online in 1867. The first pumping station started operation in February, 1854, and was built 1.5 miles south of the urban area to avoid the sewage flowing into the lake from the Chicago River. This water supply would deliver small fish to the households! Note the "New Water Works" still did not have any treatment facilities. Also, a 6-mile tunnel was later built parallel to the original 2-mile tunnel. (Chicagology)

I forgot to mention that the water tower was a standpipe. Note there is no tank on top for storage. The standpipe absorbs the surges of water created by a pump driven by a crank on a flywheel. The speed of the pump's plunger is sinusoidal rather than constant. The standpipe allows the flow into the mains to be at a constant rate.

The standpipe was 3' wide and stood 138' tall. The octagonal tower rises 154' above the ground level. [InspiredImperfection]

Linda Connelly posted
Chicago Water Tower, 1890.
Gary Elkhorn 9 years after the fire.
Curtis Carter Look at how narrow Michigan Ave was back then, compared to East Tower Ct.

Chicagology: 1867, Artist: Louis Kurz
We have already seen how Chicago built intake cribs further out in Lake Michigan to try to avoid the City's sewage being dumped into the lake by the Chicago River. Recently I have come across some pictures of the pumping station and water tower that moved the water from the intake crib to the city.
Mike Tuggle posted
Looking south on Michigan Avenue
from the Palmolive Building in 1929.

Much more information on the first water crib, tunnel, pumping station, and the water tower including some pictures of the original steam driven pumps.

The pumping station was upgraded from steam to electricity.

Alison Kay commented

Fabio Sorano shared William Charles Hartenstein Jr.'s photo
1868 - Chicago Water Tower and Pumping Station. This is an amazing photo of Pre - Water Tower fire area on Michigan Ave.
John Boda Nice - it was Pine Street at the time and ran along the shore line of the Lake. Go there now and see how much more real estate has been added from Michigan Avenue. It always amazes me.
[Some of the comments on the photo provide quite a bit of information about the 1871 fire.]
Sharon Avendano shared Jack Spatafora's post
There is often very little that endures from age to age...behold one of the grand exceptions here in our Chicago ~ the original Water stood here on North Michigan Avenue [called Pine back then] BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER the Great Fire of the speaks to us Traditionalists of the fact that in the continuing vortex of Change, Constancy still exits...a small lesson for the restless young

A darker exposure:
Raymond Kunst posted
Looking east on Chicago Ave. towards Michigan Ave. 1868. A few years before the Great Fire.
Raymond Kunst shared

These buildings, like the Joliet Prison, where made with stone cut from the Lemont, IL, quarries. The Water Tower and Pumping Station still stand. They are famous for being some of the very few buildings that survived the 1871 fire. William Koclanis posted a couple of pictures taken "from the 6th. floor Starbucks at Water Tower."

Pumping Station
Water Tower on the right

Mike Tuggle posted
Looking north on Michigan Avenue from Chicago Avenue in the 1940s.
Kal Elorte posted

Mike Tuggle posted
Looking north on Michigan Avenue toward Chicago Avenue in 1967. The unfinished John Hancock Center can be seen ahead.
Raymond Kunst posted
The Water Tower, View South along Michigan Avenue; Chicago Daily News, Photograph, 1929
[I doubt if those black buildings started with that color. I wonder if the stone of the water tower is able to release the coal soot during the hard driving rains of a Chicago thunderstorm.]
Richard Pitchford posted
Jonas Dovydenas, Iron Worker, c.1969, Chicago. This is the Hancock Building under construction, as you can see Michigan Ave and the Water Tower below.
[Too bad he wasn't working on a beam a little further to the left so that we could see all of the pumping station. :-)]
Shela Kirby
1950's Aerial looking north from Water Tower to Drake Hotel 
By Curt Teich
Klaus-dieter Ihnenfeld Drake Hotel hiding behind Palmolive Building
Gene Schuldt posted
[Chicago's first pumping station is in the right foreground.]
Wes Wetherell: The Palmolive Building… My dad’s office in the mid 40’s though the mid 60’s (33rd floor and more). “Warren Wetherell and Associates.” On a clear night, the rotating beacon would light up our living room on Rt 53 in Glen Ellyn! Dad took pictures from the Beacon (and he talked Mom into going up there with him!)
I grew up in Illinois posted
Looking north from Water Tower to Drake Hotel. (1950s)

Curtis Carter comment on above posting
]In this 1924 photo the Drake is clearly visible. Also note how vew cars on what has become the Magnificent Mile.]
Sheila Kirby posted
Michigan Ave. In 1943.
Richard Pitchford posted
On March 25, 1867, Chicagoans gathered to celebrate the laying of the Water Tower’s cornerstone and the structure’s dedication. It would be one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.
[A reminder that during a period before movies Stereoscopes were very popular.]
Jeff Nichols posted
Water Tower, undated. University of Kentucky.
Anthony Ward Sr Based upon the fact that in the backgroung is a Brick building and that the trees seem immature I would guess between 1880 and 1900 after the Fire and before the invention of the Automobile.
Sheila Kirby shared
Michigan Ave 1920s 
By Dan Phillips
Candace Bennett Pre--Hancock and Water Tower Place!
Raymond Kunst posted
Looking north on N. Michigan Ave from Chicago Ave, 1921, Chicago.
Susan Mattes Still lots of residential housing. Hard to imagine considering how the area looks today.
In 1976, you could look East all the way to the lake.

Jeff Davies posted
View of the Chicago Water Tower and Palmolive building at the intersection of Chicago and Meridan Avenues.
Photo courtesy of The Smithsonian.

Zachary Taylor Davis - Chicago Architect posted
“Tower Town” c. 1950. Shaw, Metz & Dolio’s new building for Bonwit Teller (I. Magnin in 1971) can be seen in the background with its original windows.
[Looking north with the ?/Playboy/Palmolive Building in the background.]

Don Andrade posted
I found this rare picture of the Water Tower under construction.
Don Andrade Probably Alexander Hesler, who took a lot of early Chicago photos.Chet Lunsford I believe this was taken during the cornerstone laying ceremony.Chet Lunsford 1869, two years before the fire.Chet Lunsford The camera is askew from the cardinal directions. I'm guessing the camera is looking sw.
Lucy Esparza This picture is from March 25 1867 by photographer John Carbutt. The caption states "March 25, 1867, during the laying of the Water Tower cornerstone at the culmination of the parade." But I don't know what parade.That explains the huge crowd. (Source: )
Ken Damrau posted
The Water Tower. 1929.

Historic Chicago posted
Downtown Chicago (1924)
Tom Wells Can that possibly be the beach so wide at North Ave?
This might have been normal before all the groins were built up on the north shore that have stopped sand migration southward.
Since then beach at North Ave has been replenished with trucked-in sand.
Don't know how often, but obviously not enough to maintain what was there.
Michael Scott Linde Tom Wells
I believe it’s a partially frozen lake
Tom Wells Michael Scott Linde
That makes sense.
Hard to believe the beach was ever so wide, but ice, yeah.
Jaber A Bazzaz No lakeshore drive

150th Celebration

A posting from the Library of Illinois History Journal (I thought it was Lemont, not Joliet, limestone that was used to build the tower and pumping station.) Thanks to Chicago being built on a swamp, it sounds like the foundation is as massive as the tower itself: "The foundation of the Water Tower consists of 168 piles filled with concrete and capped with 12-inch oak timbers. Massive stones laid in cement complete the base up to six feet below the grade."

Marty Swartz posted quite a bit of history of the water supply, and its waste.
Marty's source: Municipal Journal. 1918. “100,000 Tons of Coal Wasted by Chicago
Municipal source: The water works system of the city of Chicago; report prepared by the Chicago bureau of public efficiency (FMI (For My Information) .pdf file is stored on disk drive)
Some other interesting results with the keywords "waterworks system chicago bureau public efficiency".

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