This is a reprint of a “From the Local History Room” column that first appeared in March 2015 before the launch of this weblog.
Early history of Pekin’s water works
By Jared Olar
Running water piped into our homes is something we take for granted today, but it’s something that Pekin residents have only been able to enjoy for 128 years.
The construction of Pekin’s water works was one of the major community improvement projects of the 1880s, the same decade that saw the founding of Mineral Springs Park and the building of Pekin’s original plank bridge over the Illinois River. The decision to install a public water works system was made in the administration of Mayor J. L. Smith, and the system was completed under Mayor A. R. Warren.
Here is the account of the construction and characteristics of the water works as told in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” pages 945-946:
“The Water Works system in the City of Pekin was completed early in the year 1887, under a franchise granted in May of the previous year, to Charles A. Lamb and Henry S. Raymond.
“The system, as originally projected, called for 8 ½ miles of cast-iron mains and 100 fire-hydrants. Since then the street mains have been added to from year to year and, in 1904, the Company controlled 16 miles of cast-iron mains from four to sixteen inches in diameter, with 159 fire hydrants and 12 miles of galvanized iron street-mains of from one to two inches in diameter.
“The pumping machinery consists of two compound-duplex pumps, of the George F. Blake pattern, with a daily capacity of three million gallons. The pumps take water from a system of driven wells sunk to a depth of 127 feet, which furnish a bountiful supply of clear and pure water at all times. The water is raised to a stand-pipe 137 feet high, having a capacity of 127,000 gallons, which furnishes a domestic pressure of sixty pounds. In case of fire, pumping is direct into the mains, when a fire pressure of 120 pounds is maintained.
“Water is furnished to nearly 1,500 customers, a population of approximately 7,000 people, being nearly eight-tenths of the population within the corporate limits of the City. This is a very large percentage for a city of the size of Pekin, and the fact would tend to show that the local water supply is quite satisfactory in quality as well as quantity.”
The Water Works pumps and water tower were located at the southwest corner of Capitol and Court streets, where the water company is still located today.