“A million-gallon water-storage tank erected at Newport News, Va, to
replace an old tank which had been condemned”. 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
Warwick Boulevard, completed in 1936. It is still in use as of July 2017.
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
evidence exists of the original work.”
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.”
- United States Public Works Administration, America
Builds: The Record of the PWA, US Government Printing Office
(1939), Chapter XIII, “Water is Life”, p.168.
Works Administration Dockets 1934-1939 p.119 (line 25, docket number
W1003, completed May 12, 1936).
- Correspondence, Water Resources Coordinator, Newport News Waterworks, 25
- “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 ).
- Grant, Walter S. Jr., and Mary W. West, City of Newport News Virginia,
Department of Public Utilities, Peninsula Water Supply Hexaemeron
1889-1980 (via ). 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).