After our unexpected and tedious aquatic encounter last week at “The Digs,” you might think we would never want to write about water again.
You would be wrong.
We stumbled across a folder in the archive labeled “Water tanks & towers,” which contains about a century of Pittsburgh water storage history.
Not interesting on its face, perhaps, but the variations do tell a few stories.
There was, for example, the Public Works Administration storage tank in the Lincoln Avenue District — near Bellevue — that The Pittsburgh Press featured in 1940. The newspaper decided to check in that year on PWA projects in Pennsylvania, which totaled $309 million — $61.6 of which were in Allegheny County.
That shiny tank, which looks something like a kitchen flour container, cost $3 million to build in the 1930s.
A similar-looking tank was built in West Mifflin on Session Street. The view captured by an uncredited newspaper photographer is not dissimilar to one seen today in Google Street View. It would give residents there, The Pittsburgh Press wrote, “stronger pressure and a steadier flow from their taps.” Such infrastructure improvements were key to that era’s postwar growth.
And in addition to the tumbling sequence of a Westinghouse tower tank that was just 11 years old at the time of its demise, another picture that ran in The Press was perhaps most striking.
In the 1960s, a Pittsburgh-based industrial design firm created the water tower of the future. It looks straight out of “The Jetsons.”
Take an elevator up above the water and enjoy the view, those tiny people would seem to be saying.
For some reason, the idea never caught on.