Citizen’s Water Co. Riverside Pumping House at 1201 Waterway Boulevard – Photo by Ryan Hamlett
Looking north from West 10th Street by the IUPUI/Eskenazi Health campus, a lonesome, grand municipal building peers back from the other side of Fall Creek. What was once the crown jewel of the Indianapolis Water Company is now as forgotten as the dynamic man behind its construction.
The construction of the Riverside Pumping Station (completed in 1900) was overseen by then Indianapolis Water Co. president Thomas Armstrong Morris. Thomas, one of three boys of Indianapolis pioneers Rachel and former Indiana State Auditor Morris Morris (no, that’s not a typo), had relocated to new state capitol in the 1820’s. In 1830, young Morris entered West Point Military Academy where he would study engineering and graduate fourth in his class in 1834, and serve as an officer in the 1st U.S. Artillery stationed in Virginia and Florida. Morris retired from the military after two years and served as Indiana’s State Engineer, overseeing the extension of the National Road (U.S. 40) into Illinois, and the construction of the Central Canal, Madison and Indianapolis Railroad and the Union Depot.
As the Civil War broke out, Indiana Governor Oliver Morton tapped Morris to serve as Quartermaster General of Indiana’s troops, a post he held until being appointed Brigadier General of the Indiana State Militia. He led what was known as the “Indiana Brigade” into western Virginia where he fought with fellow railroader, Major General George McClellan. Gen. Morris was the overall Union commander at the June 1st, 1861, Battle of Philippi, in what is now West Virginia, in what is considered the first organized battle of the Civil War. His and the Indiana Brigade’s fourteen months of fighting helped to secure western Virginia for the Union.
In the fall of 1862, Morris declined a promotion of Major General and resigned from the military a second time to return to the railroad industry. In 1877, he oversaw the construction of the Indiana Statehouse prior to serving as the first president of the Indianapolis Water Company, founded in 1881 to identify sources of water for the city beyond wells beneath Washington Street. Via the Riverside Pumping Station and sand filtration beds at the White River Station up the canal, Indianapolis was one of the first major cities to treat its drinking water.
The Riverside Pumping Station remains in use to this day, now a part of the Citizens Energy infrastructure. General Morris died in 1904 and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery, which he, of course, had a hand in developing.