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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.

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General Thomas Armstrong Morris (1811-1904) – Photo:  findagrave.com

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.

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The Riverside Pumping Station, circled in  red, sits across Fall Creek from Riley Children’s Hospital and a very empty, pre-IUPUI City Hospital Park. – from the 1941 Baist Atlas of Indianapolis

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.

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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.

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Detail of the roof of the Riverside Pumping Station – Photo by Ryan Hamlett

6 responses to “Riverside Pumping Station”

  1. Noel Fliss says:

    Wonderful article. I’ve always wondered about the pumphouse.

    One minor note, George McClellan–staunch Lincoln supporter? He, as a Democrat, supported Douglas in 1860 as was a known critic and opponent of Lincoln, who after Lincoln relieved him of his command, ran as the Democratic candidate against Lincoln in 1864.

  2. Ryan Hamlett says:

    Apologies. Sarcasm and history, at least in a written form, don’t exactly gel, especially where there is no basis to expect its inclusion. I have a love of Civil War history and McClellan most certainly loathed President Lincoln. However, that’s probably not well enough known to warrant a joke or expect the casual reader to be in on it. I’ll switch it out. And thank you!

  3. Edwin Quantrall says:

    Who was the building’s architect? I ask because when I lived in Albany, NY, I went to a private school that would sometimes take students (including myself) to a “Public Bath” (a fancy name for a municipal swimming pool) that looked virtually the same as the pump-house. (Though probably a bit larger since it housed *two* pools; one for regular swimming, and an Olympic-sized pool for training and exercise.)

  4. Anonymous says:

    3

  5. Rick Jones says:

    I worked at Riverside pumping station and Fall creek pumping station as the youngest Oiler Operator ever hired from 1972 until 1977. My dad (Lloyd Jones) was a Oiler Operator there also. Would love to hear from any past employees who are still living and share some great stories.

  6. Leah says:

    Why in the world would you say Riverside is forgotten, and then finish off your article pointing out that the pump station remains in use to this day? Riverside supplies water to the downtown and central area of Indianapolis. It has been in continuous use for 120 years. This building is integral to the operation of the water distribution system and as I sit here listening to pump #2 I am enjoying the peace and and beauty of this building. You may have forgotten about Riverside, but those of us fortunate enough to be on the inside appreciate what we have every day.

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