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Pittsburg Water Works
Northeast Corner of Seventh & Pine

 
 
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City Water Works
- postmarked 1906
City Water Works
- postmarked 1912
City Water Works
- no postmark (dated 22 Aug 1913)
City Water Works
- no postmark (c1907-1914)
City Water Works
- no postmark (c1915-1930)
         
 

Not long after Pittsburg was founded in 1876, S. H. Lanyon, H. C. Willard, J. R. Lindburg and A. J. George, early businessmen of the town, discussed that the city needed a water system. It was decided to drill a well on the land on the northeast corner of  7th and Pine. While drilling for the water, a vein of coal four feet thick was found at about 1200 feet stopping work on the water system for a several years.
In 1885, A. H. McCormick from Parsons approached the men to purchase the property and finish the waterworks. He was given a franchise on 29 February 1885 to complete the drilling and furnish water to the city. In order to provide adequate water pressure in the mains both day and night, a tall brick water tower was built over the opening with a large round metal tank on top. During the day water would be pumped into the tank and it would create the pressure needed to continue water service during the night when the pumps were shut off.
To help generate some excitement about the new improvements at the waterworks, McCormick put out the word that on a certain day and time, a Mr. Gander would leap from the top of the water tower. People from all over came at the appointed time to see a man jump. A small group of men including McCormick entered the door of the tower and proceeded to climb the stairs exiting at the top on the platform that circled the tower. McCormick shouted, ladies and gentlemen, as I promised you, Mr. Gander will now leap from the top of this tower, with that he threw his arms outward releasing a small white duck, named Mr. Gander, who proceeded to slowly flap it’s wings landing safely on the ground, much to the amusement of everyone there.
In the late 1880’s, McCormick sold the waterworks to Franklin Playter and Associates. These new owners, who named themselves The Pittsburg Water Supply Co., purchased the remaining north quarter of the block in the spring of 1887 and built a 1.5 million gallon reservoir and another tower.  According to the Girard Press on 18 June 1887, they were building “a large underground reservoir” that was being dug under contract of John Kilholland and when finished it would be 125 feet deep with the reservoir being 30 x 30 feet. The water from the well would flow in the reservoir then be pumped to the tower by compressed air, allowing it to be filled in three hours instead of the twenty-four as it had been before and would allow the waterworks to supply a million gallons  of water to supply the city and its residents.
When the waterworks was sold to The Pittsburg Water Supply Company, the city had asked that a provision be included that would allow the city  the option to purchase the plant and equipment at the end of five years if they wanted too. In October 1904, the city decided to act on the option and took steps to purchase the waterworks. The city had the system appraised at $175,822, but the water company wouldn’t accept that valuation and they had their own appraisal done and the valuation was set at $294,100, a price the city thought too high. A few years later, the company offered to sell to the city for $360,000. Again, the city declined, and had its citizen’s vote on 12 July 1910 for issuing $300,000 in bonds to build their own water system. The vote was 1707 in favor to 868 opposed. The Pittsburg Water Co., realizing that the city was serious about building their own waterworks, offered the city their plant plus inventory for $225,000. The city accepted and a vote was put forth to the citizens on the purchase, which passed two to one. But bond buyers in Pittsburg, refused to purchase the bonds because they didn’t think it was right for the city to force a company out of business so it could operate a similar business of its own. To resolve the matter, six Pittsburg citizens borrowed money from some banks in St. Louis, MO at 5% interest. So the city was in the business of water.
In the early 1940’s, the pumps were switched from compressed air to coal as fuel and steam as the power. A more modern water treatment plant was  built a half-mile south of Fourth and Free Kings Highway opening on 17 February 1975. It is a lime softening plant with a capacity of producing 5.2 million gallons, taking water from four 1000-foot deep wells that pump ground water from the Ozarks Aquifer. The site also contains 3 water towers and a large underground storage reservoir that can hold about 2 million gallons of treated water.

 
 
 
"The above photograph ws taken by F. C. Nichols on July 23, 1904, a few hours after the 60,000 gallon water tank fell from its supporting brick tower. At the time the tank fell, W. J. Lapworth and family were asleep in ther home directly at the foot of the tower. The ceiling of the bedroom was pushed in to a point of eight inches above the bed. The house began to fill rapidly with water. Mr. Lapworth feared all would be drowned. He told Mr. Lapworth and the children to remail quiet while he crawled out of through a hole for help. A few minutes later, the members of the family were assisted out of the debris and water. The children were sleeping "ball-fashion," and the end of their bed was crushed. The falling water had sufficient force to break through the roof and push out the walls. Howard Opie, who had been fireman at the plant only three days, barely escaped with his life and was badly scalded. Mr. Lapworth was also injured, but less severly. The total damage amounted to $6,000. Fear was felt that the reservoir had broken and families hurriedly donned their clothes to flee the supposed flood. Guests at the Hotel Stilwell were among the first to arrive on the scene. The crash damaged the boiler room of the waterworks; and also the roof of the Hotel Stilwell kitchen, pushing the floor to the basement. The tank struck electric wires and cables and left the city in darkness with broken poles and tangled wires." - "Do You Remember," 1974, Pittsburg Daily Headlight
 
 
 

Update August 2013

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