Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Rock Island, Illinois

Rock Island was incorporated as a city in 1849.

The city built a Holly water works system that began service in July, 1872 with a steam-driven gang pump and two rotary pumps.  A new plant was built in 1881 with a Holly Quadruplex engine.

Water is provided by the city of Rock Island.

1872 "Trial of Water Works," The Morning Gazette (Davenport, Iowa), July 10, 1872, Page 4.
A Great Day in Rock Island.  Formal and Severe Test of Holly System. Description of Machinery

1883 Rock Island, Engineering News, 10:121 (March 17, 1883)

1886 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois. April 1886

1888 Three cities: Davenport, Rock Island, and Moline, by Benjamin Franklin Tillinghast
Page 95:  Rock Island Water-Works.  The original Holly system of water-works was first used in 1871, but the following decade showed that the works, to keep pace with the city's growth, must be enlarged. In 1881 the present works were built, and to their construction and relocation Hon. P. L. Cable contributed $25,00U.0(). A twenty-four-inch inlet-pipe, 2,200 feet in length, takes the water in its purity from the channel of the Mississippi river, and conveys it, for sanitary uses, to a settling-basin, from which it is pumped. In case of fire the water is pumped directly from the river. The works have two Holly pumps, with a capacity of 3,000,000 gallons every twenty-four hours. There are seventeen miles of water-mains, and over 1,000 consumers.

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

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

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

1892 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois. January 1892

1896 "Jewell Filters in Rock Island," Engineering News 35:354 (May 28, 1896)

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

1898 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois. October 1898

1906 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois.

1914 "Rock Island Water Works and Filter Plant," Fire and Water Engineering 55(6):86 (February 11, 1914)

1914 Historical encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Rock Island County, Volume I.
Pages 664-665:  Rock Island Waterworks.  Perhaps no city of its size in the state has a better system for securing a pure supply of water than Rock Island. Not only is the system a good one, but it has been installed with an idea of making it self-supporting, and the revenue from it constitutes a very important item in the city's budget.
The first steps towards the establishment of this system were taken August 14, 1871, when the city council passed an ordinance authorizing the building of a pumping station and the installing of water mains.  Money for this purpose was raised by the issuance of bonds to the amount of $75,000. In 1878, it was found that the supply was inadequate to meet the demands of the rapidly increasing municipality.  Additions were made, and new appliances installed, among other things, a mechanical filter which was donated by the Hon. Ben T. Cable as a memorial to his father, P. L. Cable, but the fault lay in the construction of the system. Those who were experts on the question had long argued that the bluffs were the logical location for gravity filters and reservoirs, and their influence and advice resulted in the purchase of what is known as Reservoir Park, in 1897, for $27,600. In the following year, excavation was begun, and the work was completed in 1899. Unfortunately there were some imperfections, so that the six basins had to be practically relined. However, the completed work is perfect, and the water supplied is pure and sweet, while the amount is adequate for all uses, including flushing sewers and watering the parks.
The system draws the water direct from the river, filters it, and then passes it through the mains by force of gravity. There is a stand pipe on Thirtieth street, and an electric pumping station was installed near the reservoir. The total cost has been in the neighborhood of $200,000, but it is estimated that this is the best investment the city ever made, for not only have the people water free from the impure properties so injurious iu every way. but Rock Island is able to offer unsurpassed opportunities to its factory owners, and others looking for a suitable location for their industrial plants. There are about five thousand private consumers, 250 fire hydrants, and the average daily eonsumption is 3,000,000 gallons, while the operating capacity is 16,000,000 gallons daily. The park surrounding the reservoir is one of the features of Rock Island. The city keeps it in magnificent condition, and the view from it is very beautiful.
The present Snow pump, with a capacity of 8,000,000 gallons daily, was purchased by the city in 1907. which, together with other improvements necessitated by its installment, cost $45,000.  New boilers were bought at a further cost of $4,000.  On January 18, 1909, the council passed a resolution in favor of a new filtration plant, which was finally built at a cost of $70,000, it having a dally capacity of 6,000,000 gallons. This plant was accepted by in May, 1911, and the test showed that it more than came up to the specifications.  An Allls-Chalmers centrifugal pump of 1,500,000 gallons capacity, driven by electricity, was installed at the reservoir pumping station in 1909 to supply water to the standpipe on Thirtieth street, but was moved to the new filtration house in 1910 and is now ln service there.  In 1911 two new boilers were Installed, and a new centrifugal pump was bought for the purpose of boosting the level of the water in the suction well and lessening the lift of the Snow pump which is excessive at times of low water in the river. Jonas Barr is commissioner and acting superintendent of the waterworks, having served through 1912 and 1913.

1936 Municipal Waterworks, Sixty-Fifth Anniversary, 1871-1936.  Rock Island, Illinois | also here |

1950 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois. May 1950

1957 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Rock Island, Rock Island County, Illinois.


2019 Morris A. Pierce