December 30, 1912: Water service restored to Duluth after broken waterline cuts off service

On this day in Duluth in 1912, water service was restored to the Zenith City after a broken waterline at Fortieth Avenue East cut off the flow of water from the Lakewood Pump House two days earlier. That left the 10-inch water line along London Road to supply water, and its pressure wasn’t sufficient to get to homes up the hill. Officials didn’t want anyone to panic, as Duluth had at least three days’ supply in place beyond the break, but not a single Duluth iron fabricator had the right size cast to replace the 42-inch pipe. A day after the break, the entire eastern portion of the city from Twelfth Avenue East to Lester Park, from Superior Street to “the crest of the hill” was entirely cut off. Reservoirs were monitored so that they had enough water to fight fires, and factories and businesses were allowed enough water to keep operating, but residents had to fend for themselves. Many of those without water gathered it straight from Lake Superior or gathered snow and allowed it to melt. More water was supplied by Duluth’s water and light department by water wagons, usually used to sprinkle Duluth’s unpaved streets to keep down the dust. The effort to fix the pipe was hampered by how well it had been installed in the first place—the twelve-ton section that needed to be replaced was encased in concrete, and only a few men could access the pipe at a time. By December 31 there was water for everyone to shower and bath before attending New year’s Eve festivities. The Lakewood Pumphouse, built in the 1890s to help prevent the spread of typhoid fever in Duluth, still supplies the city with much of its drinking water, and you can read its entire history here.

A sketch of the proposed Lakewood Pump House made in 1896. (Image: Duluth Public Library| Click to enlarge)