Andrew Chau has a great post on the McTavish Reservoir today at urban-ism:
many people don’t realize that the large grassy field above the mcgill campus hides enormous tanks of water that feed into the city’s water systems. the curious castle-like structure that seems so out of place, the strange manhole covers that litter the fields, and the artificial flatness of the site are hints of what lies beyond. the cavernous spaces below are from another world: the underground grottoes of the stockholm metro, the troglodyte dwellings in matmata, the sahara.
where people now play a game of soccer or frisbee, or lie down with a book to read on the grass, there once was an open-air water tank encircled by an idyllic carriage-path. the medieval castle looked appropriate to the scenery, and the picturesque view overlooked the developing city.
this is leagues away from what the site is like now. the 13.5 million gallon open air reservoir has been covered over by a concrete slab, and a layer of soil and grass have been planted atop in order to sanitize the infrastructure. the castle-like structure now houses the pumps, and the carriage-way is a jogging track. the underground tanks are still the primary holding tank and distribution point for the city, but are now unbeknownst to most residents nearby.
Here’s a bit of historical background on the reservoir. It was built between 1853 and 1856, with natural rock used to hold the water. It was 24 feet deep and held 13.5 million gallons of water. In 1862, it was enlarged to hold 16 million gallons, and then enlarged again in 1877 to hold 37 million gallons.
The castle-like pumphouse was completed in 1932; its six pumps, now fully automated, suck water out of the St. Lawrence River through a series of aqueducts. In 1957, the reservoir was covered. No changes have been made to it since then.
What I want to know is why the reservoir was covered. Anyone?
Photos by Andrew Chau; map courtesy McGill University