Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
North Central States
Illinois Blue Island

Blue Island, Illinois

Blue Island was incorporated as a village in 1872 and as a city in 1901..

The village dug a well in 1877 and the following year installed a windmill, water tank, and a single fire hydrant.  Additional water pipes were installed in 1879.  The windmill was destroyed by a storm in 1881 and steam engines were installed to pump water into the tank.

The city abandoned its wells in 1915 and began purchasing water from the city of Chicago.

Water is supplied by the city of Chicago and distributed by the city of Blue Island.

1885 Blue Island, Engineering News, 13:28 (January 10, 1885)

1888 "Blue Island," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1890 "Blue Island," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Blue Island," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1897 "Blue Island," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1919 The Artesian Waters of Northeastern Illinois, by Carl B. Anderson,  Illinois State Geological Survey Bulletin No. 35
Pages 102-103:  Blue Island.  The municipal water supply of Blue Island had been obtained until August 1915, from 3 wells ranging in depth from 1,100 to 1,649 feet.  At the above time arrangements were made to buy lake water from Chicago and the deep well pumpage was discontinued.

1938 The first hundred years, 1835-1935: historical review of Blue Island, Illinois, by John Henry Volp
Pages 127-128:  Construct Waterworks
Now that the village had bought property for its own use the first step taken was to provide water for its citizens.
Trustees Lusson and Thoeming and Superintendent of Public Works Hinman and Clerk Diefenbach were appointed a committee to go to Chebanse, 111., to inspect a waterworks plant in operation there. This the committee did and returned enthusiastic for a similar plant to be constructed here.
There was a small frame building on the property purchased from Mr. Pochman and the board lost no time moving in, cancelling the lease it held with the Turners.
July 2, 1877, the special committee appointed to investigate the waterworks plant at Chebanse made its report to the board and recommended the sinking of a well, without delay, which would supply water for extinguishing fires and for household purposes. The well recommended was to be "at least six feet in diameter and of sufficient depth to furnish an ample supply for the village."
In accordance with this recommendation bids were received and the contract for digging the well was let to John Warnke of Washington Heights at $6.80 per lineal foot of depth. The  well was finished on August 10, 1877. It was 45 feet deep and contained 11 feet of good water. The cost, according to contract, was $306.00.
The first lot of bids for erecting a tower over the well ranged all the way from $1900 for the lowest to $2665 for the highest. All of these bids were rejected. A new lot of bids was then called for and John Toerpel was awarded the contract for $1650.00. The contract for tank, pump and windmill was awarded to L. Leach of Joliet for $1165.00. One fire hydrant was installed at the street line near the well. The plant was completed June 17, 1878.
Jacob Link was employed to oil the windmill "as often as it is necessary, he to be paid 25 cents for each oiling." Later Mr. Link's compensation was increased to $4.00 per month.
It was June 7, 1879, however, before the board took steps to lay water mains in the streets. On that date the board passed an ordinance providing for a cast iron water main six inches internal diameter to be laid in Vermont street beginning opposite the village well eastward to Western avenue, a distance of 554 feet, thence south in Western avenue a distance of 500 feet. One hydrant was placed at the intersection of Vermont street and Western avenue, another at Grove street. The cost and expense of the improvement was levied by special assessment against the property benefited. The contract for this improvement was let to McRitchie & Nichol at $1.05 per foot.
After about three years of operation the windmill was damaged beyond repair in a storm. In July, 1881, the windmill was taken down, and a power house was built fronting Vermont street and a steam engine installed. This equipment had a pumping capacity of 1200 barrels of water a day, although the average daily consumption was but 500 barrels.

1962 The Blue Island story : an historical review of the first one hundred and twenty-seven years of our city on the hill, Blue Island, Illinois
Pages 23f-25:  If all the demands of the citizens of the infant village were to be listed in order of their frequency, top priority would probably go to an adequate safe water supply. In 1877, after the village board had purchased the property where the present city hall is now located from Charles J. Pochman of Washington Heights, and after investigating the waterworks plant at Chebanse, Illinois, a decision was made to sink a well on the newly acquired lots. The excavation was forty-five feet deep, contained eleven and a half feet of "good" water, and cost the village $306.00. Following the sample seen at the Chebanse plant, a water tower and windmill were erected, to pump and store the water. The first water line was laid to a hydrant near the well, indicating that even at this early time the trustees regarded the need for fire protection almost as important as that for good drinking water. Additional water lines, however, came rather slowly. About two years later, the first one was a six inch cast iron pipe, laid east from the village property to Western Avenue and south from there to Grove Street, with fire hydrants placed al Western and Vermont and Western and Grove.
Had a violent storm not deatroyed the windmill in L881, it is doubtful that it could have continued to pump enough water for increasing demands, The trustees chose to replace the windmill with a power house and a steam engine, which furnished 1200 barrels of water a day, when the average daily consumption was but 500 barrels.
The biggest early impetus to an increase in water usage came in 1884, when the village hoard issued interest-bearing water bonds to be used to provide added water mains. The water tax of ten cents per front foot, along the streets or alleys where pipes were laid, also was a powerful stimulant, as the villagers figured that as long as they were going to have to pay the tax, they might as well use the water. By this time also the village had contracted with its first commercial users of water, the Busch and Brandt Brewery, which it charged $20.00 a month, with no limit put on usage.
Feeling that the water supplied by their rather shallow wells would not long be sufficient, the authorities next contracted for two artesian wells by 1895, which would provide for a great deal more fire protection through additional hydrants, as well as increase the supply of drinking water.


2017 Morris A. Pierce