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Reservoir Hill, fire protection and a flood

 

Photo courtesy John M. MotterThis flood in 1911 washed away the town’s first water plant along with the first electricity generating plant. Also destroyed was the main bridge connecting San Juan Street across the river, and several homes.

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
This flood in 1911 washed away the town’s first water plant along with the first electricity generating plant. Also destroyed was the main bridge connecting San Juan Street across the river, and several homes.

Between 1900 and 1910, Pagosa Springs was a booming, developing community.

Prosperity fueled by two large lumber companies provided jobs and propelled modernization.

The railroad came to town, literally.

Community water, electricity, telephone and even geothermal ventures were started. Private businesses joined in the newly-found wealth.

We read in a June 1902 newspaper that a franchise was granted to Gilbert Wilkes & Co. to furnish electric power and operate a pumping plant. The town had issued bonds amounting to $18,000 to fund the project. Land on top of Roubideaux Hill —  the name was changed to Reservoir Hill at that time — was purchased from Dr. Parrish to hold a water tank.

Furnishing utilities for the citizens of Pagosa Springs was a combined effort. The initial water plant was located at the east end of San Juan Street. A reservoir was dug immediately above the plant site on Reservoir Hill. An electricity generating equipment was installed in the water plant to pump water from a well dug on the south side of the river up the hill to the reservoir. From the reservoir, water was distributed throughout the community by means of gravity. Installation of the distribution lines required several years.

A brick building costing $2,000 housed the pump and electric works. The combined water and electrical system served the town until the facilities along the south bank of the San Juan River were washed out by the flood of October 1911. That was the worst recorded flood in the history of the San Juan region.

Following the flood, new water works were constructed between the river and San Juan Street. No longer used as a water plant, the building remains and houses San Juan Historical Society collections. A new electrical plant was constructed south of town on the river bank adjacent to Light Plant Road. Some electrical generating equipment remains in that building.

Meanwhile, back in 1902, the town installed arc street lamps. An addition added to the north end of Town Hall in 1903 housed a fire hosecart with a bell tower.

Hydrants were installed at the corner of First and Pagosa streets and the corner of San Juan and Pagosa streets.

The fire hosecart was a wagon-like affair that could be pulled by men or horses. When a fire occurred, the cart was wheeled to the nearest hydrant, the hose connected, then extended to douse the fire.

Responsible for the spate of activity in 1902 was a town board with barber A.J. Lewis as mayor and trustees Love, Ross, Freeman, Lacy and Sparks.

This story was posted on January 24, 2013.