Northwest Corner of Laurel and Park Streets
Site of Municipal Water Works
In 1819, city officials contract with Abraham Blanding to construct the foundation for Columbia's earliest water service. Blanding's gravity-fed system involved a 12-horsepower English-made steam engine that pumped water from a natural spring on the land that later became Sidney Park into a reservoir at the top of Arsenal Hill. From there, a series of pipes led to fire hydrants, hotels, and public buildings within the central downtown. This facility remained in operation until shortly after 1855, when a new plant was erected closer to the Congaree River.
By 1855, city officials established a new waterworks closer to the Congaree River. Forty years later, a more modern complex was established beside Irwin (Riverfront) Park; however, this effort failed to produce potable water. In 1906, their efforts resulted in establishing the basis for today's main plant downtown. Depicted in this early 1940s postcard is one of the waterworks' treated water holding tanks in the foreground and its filter building, built in 1906 and enlarged in 1916 and 1941. Today, the waterworks is again situated by a public green space – Riverfront Park, which has helped establish the banks of the Congaree River as a destination for recreation and entertainment.