Newport News Virginia New Deal Projects - Photo #24 - 60th Street Elevated Water Tank

Photo: [1]
“A million-gallon water-storage tank erected at Newport News, Va, to replace an old tank which had been condemned”[1]. This is one of several water tanks built in the Newport News area by the New Deal in the 1930s. The one shown here is the 60th Street Elevated Tank on Warwick Boulevard, completed in 1936. It is still in use as of July 2017[3].

The Newport News Water Resources Coordinator says, “Our system was expanded considerably in the 1930s and 1940s through PWA- and FWA-funded projects. These included a significant number of water mains; a dam, intake, and pumping station on the Chickahominy River; employee housing, and two 6-MGD [million gallon per day] water treatment plants. Unfortunately, most of these facilities are underground, have been demolished and replaced, or have been significantly overhauled/​rehabilitated, so little photographic evidence exists of the original work.”[3]

Summary of New Deal contributions to Newport News Waterworks

“Elevated storage was increased by 2 million gallons by the construction of two one million gallon steel elevated tanks, one at 60th Street in Newport News in 1934, and the other in Phoebus in 1936. These two projects as well as the conversion of the Lee Hall Plant to the use of electric power and the 16" main on 50th Street and Washington Avenue were PWA projects financed by 25% to 45% federal grants and 4%, 25 year, serial, revenue bonds accepted by the Public Works Administration.
“Primary additions to the Distribution System were a 12" main on Mallory Avenue in Hampton from Wine Street to Poor House Road, and the extension of an 8" pipe from Buckroe through Foxhill and the construction of an elevated tank at Foxhill. The later was financed by a 45% PWA grant.
“After considering a number of sources, it was finally decided to develop a supply on the Chickahominy River which had an average flow of 15 MGD, at Walker's, by the construction of a low salt water exclusion dam. The Federal Works Agency commissioned Newsom Aldrich, Consulting Engineers, to plan and supervise the project. The project consisted of a dam, intake, pumping station with six 6 MGD series pairs of centrifugal pumps, delivering 18 MGD at 300 foot head, 87,500 I.f. of 34" reinforced concrete pipe, 87,000 I.f. of 39" reinforced concrete It was constructed by FWA. pipe to the 30" cast iron raw water main to Harwood's Mill, and three dwellings for the operators of the pumping station at Walker's.
(Approximately c. 1941)  “Newsom & Aldrich, Consulting Engineers, were engaged to design a 6 MGD treatment plant to be located on the Harwood's Mill Reservoir on U.S. Route 17 together with the transmission mains required to deliver the treated water. The plant consisted of an intake, aerator, flocculator, two sedimentation basins, four 1.5 MGD filters, chemical feeders, wash water pump, three raw water pumps 14.0 MGD total capacity and three high lift pumps 13.0 MGD total capacity. Also included in this project, placed in operation on September 30, 1942, was 42,600 I.f. - 3011, 24,000 l.f. - 2011, 15,300 I.f. - 16" and 6,000 l.f. - 12" cast iron pipe. The total cost of the project was slightly over one million dollars of which 80% was an FWA grant.
As Contract No. 4, under the Chickahominy project (see above) , was an PWA authorization for a 6 MGD treatment plant, pumps, motors, etc., a 3 MO underground storage tank, and three dwellings for operators located adjacent to the existing Lee Hall Plant. This plant was a mirror copy of the Harwood's Mill Plant and was completed and placed in service early in 1943.
In addition to the large mains installed in conjunction with the Harwood's Mill Plant others were required. Since the 18" and 24" transmission mains from Lee Hall to Newport News were considered inadequate to carry the increased production of the Lee Hall Plant, a 100% PWA grant was obtained to install 25,000 l.f. - 2711, 25,000 l.f. 24" and 22,800 l.f. - 341 reinforced concrete main from the Lee Hall Plants by way of Jefferson Avenue to Todds Lane, a distance of about 14 miles. The total cost of this project was over six hundred thousand dollars, and it was completed in 1943.
Other improvements and extensions of the distribution system were made during this period, notable among which were the following: Under a 100% FWA grant a 12" cast iron pipe on Jefferson Avenue from Todds Lane to 58th Street in 1943; under a PWA grant in the Wythe District of Elizabeth City County, 16,700 l.f. of 1611, 2,500 l.f. of 12", and 2,400 l.f. of 16" cast iron pipe in 1944.
In summary, the period through World War II (1936-1947) was characterized by the same forward looking, business like administration of the preceding decade. Under the stimulus of the great activity on the Peninsula brought about by World War II, great strides were made in the development of the entire Waterworks Plant. A supplementary source of raw water capable of providing 18 MGD was developed. Treatment facilities of 12 MGD rated capacity together with high service pumping capacity were completed. The transmission mains and Distribution System were greatly augmented. Most of this work was completed at minimum cost to the Commission through Federal Works Agency grants of funds for construction.”[5]
  1. United States Public Works Administration, America Builds: The Record of the PWA, US Government Printing Office (1939), Chapter XIII, “Water is Life”, p.168.
  2. Public Works Administration Dockets 1934-1939 p.119 (line 25, docket number W1003, completed May 12, 1936).
  3. Correspondence, Water Resources Coordinator, Newport News Waterworks, 25 July 2017.
  4. A Million Gallons up HERE Helps Save $12,000 annually at Newport News”, The American City magazine, exact issue and date unknown but probably from 1936, when the tower was completed (via [3]).
  5. Grant, Walter S. Jr., and Mary W. West, City of Newport News Virginia, Department of Public Utilities, Peninsula Water Supply Hexaemeron 1889-1980 (via [3]). Walter Schuyler Grant Jr. retired in 1981 as director of waterworks after 30 years with the city of Newport News; Mr. Grant graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1933 with a B.S. degree in civil engineering, after which he worked on the Skyline Drive project. He was an Army veteran of World War II and retired in 1971 as a colonel in the Army Reserves (obituary).