Pumping Stations and the 21st Century

The Calf Pasture Pumping Station is a prime example of industrial innovation and engineering and  stands today as an architectural and historical landmark on Columbia Point. Unused for over forty years, the empty but impressive structure begs the question, what comes next? 

Restoring and reusing such a pumping station is a daunting task, but there are successful models undertaken at similar structures elsewhere in the United States, with a variety of interesting results. How have other communities restored, preserved,  and reused such impressive reminders of the history of public health and technological innovation?   What can these models teach us about the possibilities for the future of the Calf Pasture Pumping Station, and the challenges we might encounter with their preservation?   

Pumping Station No. 1
Homestead, Pennsylvania

Homestead P.S.
The Homestead Steelworks Pump House at the time of the battle of Homestead, 1892.
(Source: The Illustrated American July 23, 1892). (Click to enlarge image)

Some pumping stations have a surprising history. In Homestead Pennsylvania, “Pumping Station No. 1” is the last remaining structure of Homestead Steel Works. Purchased by Andrew Carnegie and incorporated into Carnegie Steel Company in 1883, Homestead Steel Works was one of Carnegie’s largest producers of steel. In 1892, Homestead’s Pumping Station No. 1 was the site of a violent clash between workers striking for better pay and working conditions, and Pinkerton agents hired by Carnegie Steel to break the strike.  One of the strikers was killed inside the pumping station by a Pinkerton bullet.  

Homestead Steel Works closed  in 1986, and within the next few years, most  of the structures on the site were dismantled. In 1988, the site was sold to the Park Corporation which began to clean and prepare the building for restoration and new construction. There were several environmental issues to overcome, especially soil contamination from lubricants and asbestos.  Structurally, the pumping station on the Homestead grounds was sound the land and building were filled with slag, a byproduct of manufacturing steel.  The original ground floor of the pumping station, as well as the river landing that the workers and Pinkertons disembarked from during the 1892 conflict, both remained beneath the infill. 

Ultimately, the preservation of Pumping Station No. 1 resulted from the actions of two groups with interests in preserving the site–Continental Real Estate, and the Battle of Homestead Foundation (BHF), a group of local citizens, historians and educators. In the 1990s, Continental Real Estate purchased the building, and BHF implemented interpretive and educational programming at the site.  

Today Pumping Station No. 1 is owned by the Steel Industry Heritage Corporation, which is dedicated to preserving the memory of the pivotal Homestead Strike through educational programming. Part of the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, the Homestead pump house provides space to support community events dedicated to education and the arts. These include a  “Heritage Market” and  a “Bike Friendly Eco-Center,” with specially designed amenities for cyclists traveling the bike paths that run along the edge of the river, encouraging them to take a rest and explore its valuable history.

Sunday Heritage Market at Homestead Pump House
Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area Newsleter, Dec. 2010. (Click to enlarge image)


Eden Park Pump House
Cincinnati, Ohio

The Eden Park Station No. 7 , 2008
(Source: Creative Commons, Greg Hume)

The Eden Park Pump  House in Cincinnati, Ohio,  was designed by well-known architect Samuel Hannaford in 1889; it sits in the historic Eden Park, originally on the banks of a large man-made reservoir. The pumping station ceased pumping operations in 1908; in 1939 it was repurposed as a central radio communications center for the city’s fire and police departments. It remained in use as a communication center until the mid-1980s when it was then used for storage and eventually fell into disrepair. In 2012 a former city employee, Jack Martin, leased the property from the city with the proposed plan to restore it and give it new life as a microbrewery.

The “Brewery X” project showcases the struggles in renovating a 19th century pumping station and working with the local community to establish a new, business use for the property. Jack Martin, a retired architect was attracted to the Eden Park Pump House for the site of his brewery partly because of Cincinnati’s history and legacy of beer making. The city approved Martin’s initial plans for interior and exterior restoration and reconstruction , but the project has been delayed by the multiple and varied challenges posed by investors, community,  zoning and architectural boards, and the Cincinnati City Council.  As of April 2015, priced at an estimated $3.5 million, had yet to be completed.

A design rendering for the renovated interior of the Eden Park Pump House.
(Source: building-cincinnati.com and MSA Architects)

Louisville Water Company Pumping Station No. 1

Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Water Co. 1860
Louisville Water Company Pumping Station, 1860
(Source: louisville.com ) (Click to enlarge image)

 The successful renovation of the Louisville Water Company’s Pumping Station No. 1 preserves a significant architectural landmark and Louisville historical resource.  Architects Theodore Scowden and Charles Hermany designed this water pumping station, which operated from 1860-1912.  This Classical Revival structure resembles a two-story temple, with wings on both sides.   The pumping station was nominated to the National Historic Register in 1971.  Renovations began that same year, and continued until 2013.  Finally restored to its original condition, exterior and interior renovations have cost around $2.3 million.  

The Louisville Water Company’s Pumping Station No. 1 now houses a WaterWorks Museum of science and history; exhibits and programming explore  the scientific and engineering innovations of the pumping industry in Louisville, public health, and the architectural and historical significance of the building. 

The city of Louisville has been very supportive of the Water Works Museum project, which has been conceived and funded by the Louisville Water Company, the owners of the site. “Louisville Water’s history is Louisville’s history and it is rich with scientific and engineering innovation and architectural achievement,” said Louisville Water President & CEO Greg Heitzman in 2012, “This project is part of our longstanding commitment to preserve the infrastructure and stories about the people who have guided us to where we are today.”

Louisville WaterCo. 4
The renovated Louisville Water WaterWorks Museum opened to the public in 2014
(Source: louisville.com ) (Click to enlarge image)


Are there examples of successful restoration, rehabilitation and reuse of such industrial structures in your community?  What has worked?  What are the challenges?

Sources Consulted:

  1. Brody, David. Steelworkers in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960.
  2. The Waterfront – Homestead Steel Works: http://www.cmu.edu/steinbrenner/brownfields/Case%20Studies/pdf/waterfront1.pdf
  3. The Battle of Homestead Foundation: http://www.battleofhomesteadfoundation.org/about.php
  4. Battle of Homestead Site NHL designation application: http://www.riversofsteel.com/_uploads/files/Summary%20of%20PH%20structures%20and%20BOH%20History.pdf
  5. Cincinnati Triple Steam: www.cincinnatitriplesteam.org
  6. Cincinnati City Website: www.cincinnati.com
  7. Louisville Water Dept: www.louisvilleky.gov
  8. Louisville City Website: www.louisville.com

Photo Credits:

  1. Building Cincinnati: www.buildingcincinnati.com
  2. MSA Architects: www.msaarch.com
  3. Louisville City Website: www.louisville.com

History of the Calf Pasture Peninsula

An aerial view of Columbia Point, 2007. (Click to enlarge image)

Before 1879, the Boston peninsula today known as Columbia Point, consisted of fourteen acres of marshy land. During the 19th century Dorchester residents used this land for grazing cattle, and was thus known by residents as simply the “Calf Pasture.”  The Puritans first landed nearby at the place known as Mattaponnock, today’s Savin Hill.

In the 1879s, city leaders and commissioners chose the Calf Pasture for the site of the pumping station that was vital to the new sewerage system.  Why here?  The peninsula  was distant from the more heavily populated areas of Boston, and the city could acquire it at a low cost.  It was also close to the water and Moon Island, south of the city in Quincy, where the sewage would be released.    

In 1879, the city initiated several land making projects on the peninsula, to prepare the area for the construction of the new sewage pumping station that would be the centerpiece of Boston’s Main Drainage Works sewerage system. The system was completed in 1884, when the Calf Pasture Pumping Station began working continuously to remove waste away from Boston.

In 1884, the Main Drainage Pumping Station and its several outbuildings were the only structures on the peninsula. The castle-like structure of the Pumping Station stood out on the marshy lands of Calf Pasture; it was accessible only by “Mile Road,” today known as Mount Vernon Street. During the 1880s, landmaking accommodated the construction of several Bay State Gas Company gas tanks just south of the Calf Pasture.

In the 20th century, more land resulted from filling in the flats at the end of the Calf Pasture and along the coast between Calf Pasture and Savin Hill for the construction of “Old Colony Boulevard,” now William T. Morrissey Boulevard, which  opened to automobile traffic in 1928.

In 1942, a military camp was built on the peninsula. During the Second World War, Camp McKay housed Italian prisoners of war. After the war, the camp’s barracks were  repurposed as public housing, known as the “Columbia Village housing project”.  

Boston College High School  relocated from the South End to Dorchester in 1950. In 1958, the Boston Globe relocated its operations to Morrissey Boulevard, just across the street from the Boston College High School, at the edge of Columbia Point. The barracks-turned-public housing were demolished soon after to make way for a shopping center and the Calf Pasture thus became known as Columbia Point.

The peninsula saw even further changes in the last quarter of the 20th century.  In 1974, the pumping station (by then unused), had another new neighbor when University of Massachusetts Boston officially opened its doors to students on their new campus at Columbia Point. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was established in 1979, and the Massachusetts State Archives opened in 1985. In the late 1980s, developers transformed the Columbia Point housing project into the Harbor Point community.  By 1990, Calf Pasture was a vastly different place than when the pumping station was built. Certainly entirely different from when the Puritans first landed nearby the place known as Mattaponnock, the peninsula’s modern day neighbor, Savin Hill.


  1. Clark, Eliot C. Main Drainage Works of the City of Boston. Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1885.
  2. Roessner, Jane. A Decent Place to Live: From Columbia Point to Harbor Point: A Community History. Boston: Northeastern UP, 2000.
  3. Taylor, Earl. “Calf Pasture Pumping Station.” Dorchester Atheneum. Dorchester Historical Society, 30 May 2005. Web. 06 March 2013.
  4. “Urban Transformations: Columbia Point – Harbor Point Boston.” <http://004e136.netsolhost.com/images/7HP.pdf>.

Photo Credits:

  1. Boston Redevelopment Authority; www.bostonredevelopmentauthority.org
  2. Map hosted by Google Maps. Please click on the image to be directed to the map.

Calf Pasture Pumping Station & Columbia Point Timeline

This image links to a timeline hosted by Preceden. (Click to enlarge image and see full timeline)

Calf Pasture Pumping Station Timeline


  • A study initiated in Boston to research pollution and water contamination causing health issues including cholera, typhoid and dysentery — This study leads to the construction of the Boston Main Drainage System (BMDS)


  • Construction of the BMDS –included 25 miles of intercepting sewers, Calf Pasture pumping station in Dorchester, Dorchester Bay Tunnel, and outfall pipe at Moon Island in Boston Harbor


  • Landfilling and construction for pumping station begin on the Calf Pasture peninsula – overseen by George Albert Clough
  • Facilities built for coal ships to dock at the end of the original Calf Pasture peninsula; dock dredged, stone seawalls constructed, wharf built in front of one seawall; long pier built out to protect sewer running out from pumping station
  • Tornado causes $1,000 worth of damage to construction site (1)


  • Calf Pasture Pumping Station built


  • Calf Pasture Pumping Station officially begins pumping on New Years Day


  • Metropolitan Sewerage System (MSS) formed – to address parts of Boston lying outside of the service area of BMDS


  • Filling in area of Calf Pasture peninsula – created the land which is now home to: Columbus Park; Day Boulevard; Morrissey Boulevard


  • Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) created to oversee the MSS (now Department of Conservation and Recreation); the Boston Main Drainage System still owned by the city


  • Leavitt and Worthington pumps in Calf Pasture Pumping Station dismantled and removed (due to a crack in one of them) — system changed from steam to electric power


  • Coal room roof collapses, section is demolished because it is no longer needed (no coal was being stored anymore due to the switch to electricity).


  • Columbia Point housing project built as one of nation’s first public housing projects — first tenants move in in 1954


  • Nut Island Wastewater Treatment Plant opened in Quincy, MA


  • Deer Island Treatment Plant opens in Boston Harbor
  • Calf Pasture Pumping Station closes with the opening of the Deer Island facility – CPPS is maintained as a backup for the Deer Island Plant during wet weather



  • “The Pumphouse: A Proposal to Recycle the Calf Pasture Pumping Station at Columbia Point as a Community/University Center” is published


  • Ownership and operating responsibility for sewer system transferred from the City of Boston to the Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC)



  • possession, control and operation of MDC Water and Sewage Divisions granted to Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA)


  • Massachusetts Archive building constructed on Columbia Point
  • Construction of the new Harbor Point Complex, to replace the dilapidated Columbia Point housing projects, begins — Harbor Point Complex will be a mixed-income community; is now the home of many UMass Boston students


  • Calf Pasture Pumping Station building receives National Register designation


  • Dorchester residents create a tourism brochure to educate visitors of interesting local spots, includes the Calf Pasture Pumping Station


  • Historic Boston Inc. tells the Boston Globe that they are preparing a “reuse feasibility study” on the building


  • UMass Boston “officially” acquires Calf Pasture pumping station – in exchange for $2.1 million in scholarships for Boston Public School students
  • Obsolete electrical transformers were removed from the building, new fencing installed, and debris, trees, and shrubs taken out
Sources Consulted:

1. Clark, Eliot C. Main Drainage Works of the City of Boston. Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1885.

2.  Kennison, Karl R. “Sewage Works Development in the Massachusetts Metropolitan District.” Sewage and Industrial Wastes 22.4 (1950): 477-89. JSTOR. Web. 06 Mar. 2013.

3.  Marwell, Stuart. Calf Pasture Pumping Station. N.p.: n.p.

4.  National Register of Historic Places, Calf Pasture Pumping Station Complex.

5.  Roessner, Jane. A Decent Place to Live: From Columbia Point to Harbor Point: A Community History. Boston: Northeastern UP, 2000.

6.  Taylor, Earl. “Calf Pasture Pumping Station.” Dorchester Atheneum.


1. “Sudden Destruction: A Terrible Tornado Along the Whole Atlantic Coast.” The Washington Post, 08/20/1879.

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