Saturday, January 25, 2020

When Lewisburg Had Standpipes - The Lewisburg Water Works

Looking East, down Market Street towards the river, the old Water Towers, or  'water stand pipes' can be seen standing.   A pump house pumped river water up into the pipes, and the force of gravity created 'running water' for the town.

The Lewisburg Waterworks Company was formed in 1883, three years after Milton's Great Fire of 1880.  In the map of Lewisburg  in 1884, shown above, you can see there was just one tower.  It had been completed in December of 1883.  The second tower was not added until 1897.

In 2019, Looking west.
The round stone foundations at the southwest corner of Soldier’s Memorial Park were the bases of cylindrical water towers, which were torn town in 1923.
  The Miltonian newspaper, reporting on plans to tear down the towers, wrote:

 "Two of Lewisburg's landmarks are to be razed, and in their passing will go the means by which Bucknell University students for many years have risked their lives to achieve great victories in inter-class rivalry".  The tradition, for years, was to climb the towers and paint your class numbers on the towers - preferably painting over top the numbers of your sophomore or freshman class rivals.

A Closer look at the water towers, and the toll house, in 1905.  The toll keepers house blocked the end of Market Street . It was was moved to the end of North Water Street, across from Wolfe Field, around 1907, when the iron bridge was built.  (The Lewisburg covered bridge was located where the train bridge is today - see the 1884 map earlier in this post )

The view from the canal on the east side of the river 

A water works had been discussed for years in Lewisburg, but it was the great fire in Milton in 1880 that spurred the discussion forward. In 1883 a company was organized and incorporated with a capital stock of $32,000.  Almost every person in town, with any money to spare, contributed towards the stock. The original works, completed in December of 1883, consisted of two compound duplex pumps of 40 horsepower each, and one tower.

The pumps were housed in a small brick pump house.  The water was taken from the river and pumped into a stand pipe (tower)  for distribution. The standpipe was 30 feet high, 12 feet in diameter, and could hold 110,000 gallons of water.

Five miles of pipes and forty five hydrants ran though the town.

In January of 1884, less than a month after the waterworks were completed, oil was sucked into the tower and distributed through the town.  An oil pipe had broken on the Milton side of the river, with 700 barrels of oil flooding the train track and prevented the passing of trains for nearly a day.  A portion of the oil made its way into the river, where it was sucked up in the Lewisburg waterworks and distributed throughout the town.

The Tower Was Empty When Needed For A Fire in 1884
Although the waterworks construction was perhaps spurred on by Milton's fire, it was not actually a great help when there was a fire in Lewisburg in 1884, because the tower was nearly empty. The Sunbury Daily News reported that a bucket brigade was called in, and that Sunbury would be better to follow Milton's example and construct a "reservoir on a neighboring hill.  Then you will always have sufficient pressure to fight the fire fiend when necessary."
The Sunbury Daily News
September 5 1884

View From the Cupola in the Union County Courthouse
Note the covered bridge in the background, along with the water towers.

A Second Stand Pipe, Or Tower, was added in 1898
The Lewisburg Journal
February 19 1897

Originally there was only one water tower, or standpipe, but in 1898, a second one was added, at a cost of $6,000.  The capacity of the second tower was 110,000 gallons, and with two standing pipes a uniform pressure would allow for enough water to be supplied for two days. This would allow for the town to be supplied with water even if the pump house was flooded during high waters.


The Water Towers Were Removed in 1923
The Miltonian
February 15 1923

The Oil Spill of  January 1884:
The Lewisburg Chronicle
January 24, 1884

The Water Works Were Completed in December of 1883
The Northumberland County Democrat
December 7 1883

MANY thanks to Paul Matrey, who has shared so much knowledge of  Lewisburg on facebook posts, including the fact that the towers were known as "standpipes".  That term helped me to track down much more information on the towers.
Read more about the Lewisburg Covered Bridge here:


1 comment:

  1. Heather I'm the current owner of 100 Market shown in the first photo. Would you estimate that photo @ turn of the century? I have discovered connections between the Halfpenny family (100 market and Lewisburg Woolen Mills owners) and my grandmother and found a great photo of the giant woolen rolls produced there. Would that be of interest? Last- Mark Halpenny purchased both 100 Market from the Hayes family who built it and the flour mill he converted to wool production from a group that included the eldest surviving Hayes son.


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