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Waterworks

Excerpt from Building A College: An Architectural History of Berea College[1]

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Waterworks, 1904-1905

Plans provided by R. D. Kimball Company, Boston, MA

Engineer:  Mr. Gilman

Contractors: Gleaves and Company, Lynchburg, VA

Opening  Dedication: October 21-22, 1904

In the later years of the nineteenth century and periodically in the early twentieth century, Berea was gravely short of water. Money to build the Waterworks was given by Dr. Daniel K. Pearsons in 1901, who also gave the funds to construct Pearsons Hall. Addison Ballard ( College Trustee 1896-1906), instrumental in obtaining the funds from Dr. Pearsons for the waterworks, broke ground at the ten springs in the college forest on October 22, 1904, four months after Phelps Stokes Chapel was begun and during the year of the catastrophic Kentucky House Bill 25. Fourteen inch and ten inch pipes were laid for three and one half miles to take this water from the reservoirs to the campus and community. The Prudential Committee voted that since the water supply was paid for by Dr. Pearsons' gift, and that the water was for College consumption  and fire suppression, and if it were to be made available and used by the public,  the water would  have  to  be sold (PAR, June 7, 1905; July 3, 1911).

Town's people were invited to the dedication ceremonies which took place at the Tabernacle. The printed  dedication announcement read: "Bring basket lunches and cups, the College will provide coffee" ( Berea Citizen, October 20, 1904; October 27, 1904). During  Commencement, June 7, 1905, Mrs. William Eleazar Barton of Oak Park, IL, standing in for Dr. Pearsons, "officially started the water flowing on the College campus" by turning  on a fire hydrant in front of Lincoln  Hall ( Berea Citizen, June 8, 1905, 1). Water shot thirty feet into the air amazing the skeptics who questioned "how Berea College could get water to flow up Prospect Hill" (Virginia Ferrill Piland). At the same time Berea was getting a clean safe water supply, construction of another much larger water project, the Panama Canal, was begun by President Teddy Roosevelt.

In the early nineteen twenties, two additional reservoirs and dams were constructed in Pigg Hollow in a watershed  of 1,400  acres.  One of  these, the Kales Dam held 10,000,000 gallons of water; the College and town used 150,000 gallons a day (PCM,  May 10, 1920; PAR, 1921; W. J. Hutchins letter, May, 1921). These new reservoirs provided additional water and fire protection. One dam was donated by Mrs. William R (Alice G.) Kales of Detroit (Kales Lake- Pigg Hollow Lake #1; BTM, October 21, 1920) and the other by Harry Munger and his sister (auxiliary dam, B Lake on Ballard's Branch whose total cost   was about $50,000). President William Hutchins wrote Mrs. Kales: ''With your new reservoir, we shall be able to handle almost any fire peril to which we might be subjected, [and it] . . . will save our students and the people of Berea from the terrible water famines which have been the curse of the place"  (W. J. Hutchins to Kales, May 11,  1921).

An original springhouse was built over a clear and pure spring in 1878, and after renovating, cleaning and sealing it anew with a large stone, the College Trustees and President Hutchins named it at a dedication ceremony, April 9, 1928, in honor of President Henry Fairchild. This spring was located below Bare (Bear) Knob where Fairchild had earlier planted a peach orchard and had built a lookout tower (Berea Citizen, April 12, 1928,  1).

Because of the drought conditions in the region, Kales dam was enlarged and raised eleven more feet to create a rock and crib dam  that would now contain 27,000,000 gallons of water (1928); eight-inch mains were laid by the  Heat and Power Department from the reservoir to Big Hill Road (April, 19, 1928, 1). The dam and its ice-proof pump house were dedicated  on Christmas day 1931. The pumps in the new power house now sent the water to water towers in town and from there it was in turn sold by meter to individual customers (PCM, July 3, 1911; July 30,1928; September 4, 1931). As a condition of purchasing water, when customers were hooked up, their home had to have a back-up  cistern during drought conditions and if water were wasted the College would disconnect the pipe and the home owner would  also be fined  (BTM, March 25, 1919). In 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority was established to build dams that would aid in flood control and provide inexpensive hydro­ electrical power.
 
A new dam was constructed and completed in December, 1939 ( Berea Citizen, November 13, 1939, 1) and still another new dam impounding forty million gallons was built below the Kales dam in 1946 (BTM, March 15, 1940; April 26, 1946). A fourth dam and reservoir with a capacity of 152,000,000  gallons of water was completed in Big Cow Bell Hollow during the winter of 1955 at a cost of $250,000. Water first came over the spillway of this new dam during March, 1956. Improvement of all the original pipe lines and the construction of a new filtration plant were approved by the Trustees in 1956 (BTM, November 18,  1955; April  20,  1956; September 10, 1958). Watershed for these impounded lakes amounted to about thirteen hundred acres. To aid in the distribution of water to the campus and town, a water tower holding 150,000 gallons was built behind Seabury Gymnasium and beside Williams Building in 1925 (correspondence from Gray and Lawrence, February 14, 1925; PAR, 1926). This tower was taken down and disassembled in 1990. All filtered and purified wat1;r was chlorinated and went into homes by gravity feed ( Berea Citizen, December 31, 1931, 1 & 3; May  21, 1970).
 
Owsley Fork Dam, built in the Red Creek watershed area, was begun in 1974 and was dedicated, May 6, 1976. It was the largest dam and impoundment built by the College (who provided all the local costs for the project).Various U. S. and Soil Conservation Service  agencies  in southern  Madison  County  assisted with the project. This new reservoir would supply an additional 2.8 million gallons of water a day and had a water surface area of 203 acres ( Berea Citizen, April 22, 1976, l; May 6, 1976; May 13, 1976).

 

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[1] Citation: Boyce, Robert Piper. Building A College: An Architectural History of Berea College. Self-published. Berea, Ky: Berea College Printing Services, 2006, p149-150.


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Works Cited

Boyce, Robert Piper. Building A College: An Architectural History of Berea College. Self-published. Berea, Ky: Berea College Printing Services, 2006, p 149-1150.

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