Why did the Eighth Avenue Reservoir collapse in 1912? What is buried under the Greenway behind the new Sounds’ stadium? And who were the “night soil scavengers”?
In this episode of Nashville Retrospect Conversations, host Allen Forkum talks with Ron Taylor about the early history of the city’s efforts to provide clean, abundant water to its citizens, and to deal with sewage waste, once a source of regular cholera epidemics.
Taylor, who is the program director for Clean Water Nashville at Metro Water Services, discusses the challenges faced by early Nashvillians, who initially relied on springs for water and on creeks to carry away waste. Waterworks were eventually built to capture water from the Cumberland River, but it wasn’t until the late 1880s, after the city’s most devastating cholera outbreak in 1873, that open sewage was routed into underground pipe lines. In the video, we share numerous photos and illustrations of how both systems evolved to one that we take for granted today. Highlights include the 1912 collapse of the Eighth Avenue Reservoir, construction of the George Reyer Pumping Station and Lick Branch Sewer, and vintage maps of historic springs, creeks, and waterworks facilities.
For more information, visit Clean Water Nashville and Metro’s “History of Nashville’s Water Services.”
For more on this topic in The Nashville Retrospect:
• “Attorney starts campaign for historic sulphur spring” (1982), The Nashville Retrospect, December 2018 issue
• “Freeland’s Station” by Paul Clements, mention of sulphur spring, The Nashville Retrospect, September 2010 issue
• “Massive Walls of City Reservoir Crumble Without Warning” (1912), The Nashville Retrospect, November 2009
• “When the City of Nashville Owned Slaves” by Bill Carey, The Nashville Retrospect, August 2018 issue
• “Slavery, Runaways, Fancy Girls | African-American Genealogy,” Nashville Retrospect Podcast, Episode 11
• “Corporation Jim” (1869), about Jim Butcher, possibly a man formerly enslaved by city, The Nashville Retrospect, December 2019 issue
• “The Stricken City” is a four-part series about the 1873 cholera epidemic written in 1955, The Nashville Retrospect, June 2020 issue, July 2020 issue, August 2020 issue, and September 2020 issue
• “City Plans To Deodorize River” (1958), The Nashville Retrospect, October 2019 issue
• “The Deficient Water Supply” (1879), The Nashville Retrospect, June 2019 issue
• “Centennial Park Land” by Paul Clements, mention of Cockrill Spring, The Nashville Retrospect, May 2010 issue
• “Cholera, as it Appeared in Nashville, in 1849, 1850, 1854 and 1866” (1866) by W.K. Bowling, M.D. (download book pdf) National Library of Medicine
• “Cholera epidemic map of Nashville, Tennessee, 1873” National Library of Medicine
Video production: Sonua Bohannon of Plum Writing & Marketing
Theme song: “Campfire Song“ by Chris Haugen (YouTube Audio Library)
Image sources: Google Maps, Library of Congress, Metro Archives, Metro Historical Commission, Metro Water Services, Nashville Public Library, National Library of Medicine, Newspapers.com, The Hermitage, and Tennessee State Library and Archives