Renovation work underway on Eighth Avenue Reservoir

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – If you’ve walked 8th Avenue South recently, you’ve probably seen it: a massive stone structure on top of a hill surrounded by lots of construction equipment.

So what’s going on?

“This is our old town reservoir built in the late 1880s,” said David Ewing, a Nashville historian.

The 8th Avenue Reservoir was one of the earliest forms of water filtration in Nashville.

“The African-American labor built this and they kind of hauled the stone up the hill,” Ewing said.

When construction was complete, the 51 million gallon reservoir was essentially split in two. Half to pump water from the Cumberland River, a filter in the middle, and the other half the reservoir was used to house the purified water that flowed into heaps and eventually into homes.

“It was a very sophisticated system even back then,” Ewing said.

In the early 1900s, the city began using chemicals to purify drinking water.

The tank functioned perfectly until 1912.

“The reservoir burst, sending millions and millions of gallons of water pouring into this [hill,]’ said Ewing.

Remarkably, no one died, but it basically wiped an entire neighborhood off the map.

“Gushing water that swept not only you and your family from their beds, then the house, from the foundations. There was a person who had to save his wife whose bed was literally floating,” he said .

Believe it or not, the water tank is still in use today, only as a purified water storage facility. According to Metro Water, the 133-year-old structure is undergoing a major renovation project. Construction crews are installing a new reservoir in the reservoir design to keep the water moving while it is stored, so it does not stagnate.

The project could take years, but the historian says it’s worth the wait.

“It really is a beautiful building and a beautiful structure,” Ewing said.

If you would like to take a virtual tour of the renovation project, Click here.

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