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Three Rivers Filtration Plant - 1933
By Randy Harter
Fort Wayne Reader
In the mid-1800’s, Fort Wayne’s water supply for both drinking and firefighting came from being pumped from the Wabash & Erie Canal (1843-1874), ponds, creeks, cisterns or wells. By the mid-1870’s it had been determined that a single reliable water source was needed for the growing city, and so our first major water works project was planned.
This resulted in the construction of the 5 million-gallon, brick-lined hill at Reservoir Park (now Ivan Lebamoff Reservoir Park) that was built in 1880 at a cost of $250,000. Sitting on a 13.1 acre parcel of land, the wood capped reservoir had water pumped to it from 37 wells located throughout various sections of Fort Wayne.
By the 1920’s the well-fed reservoir was reaching the point where it would soon be unable to supply our burgeoning city’s needs. In 1930, during the administration of Mayor William Hosey, plans were developed for the new modern Three Rivers Filtration Plant. Groundbreaking took place in 1931, and the completed “water factory” shown in this image taken from the top of Lincoln Tower was dedicated in December of 1933. Construction of the Collegiate Gothic style limestone building had come at a good time for Fort Wayne as we, along with the rest of the county, were in the throes of the Depression. However, this was not a WPA project, but rather locally funded with $2.5 million in bonds.
In conjunction with the filtration plant, the St. Joe River Dam was built near today’s Coliseum Blvd. Located adjacent to the dam is the pumping station that feeds water through two 42” pipes that run alongside Parnell Avenue and the St. Joe River to a submerged crossover and then to the filtration plant. The plant today has a 20 million gallon underground reservoir, which is backed up by the water stored behind the St. Joe River Dam (1933), the Cedarville Dam (1979), and the 1.8 billion gallon Hurshtown Reservoir that was built near Grabill in 1969. (Image courtesy Craig Leonard)
A tip of the hat for the use of research by Mary Jane Slaton, Don Orban and Creager Smith, City of Fort Wayne.
Randy Harter is a Fort Wayne historian, author of three books on local history, and the history/architecture guide for FortWayneFoodTours.com