The Waterworks

In 1890, the town of Penetanguishene inaugurated a system of waterworks, and to pay for these public works projects, passed a By-law to raise $20,000. This was at the time an expensive venture but Penetanguishene was a prosperous town which had it's own port which meant prosperity. Unfortunately, the demise of the once-booming lumbering business dealt a severe blow not only to Pentanguishene but also to many other similar ports on Georgian Bay such as Victoria Harbour, Collingwood, and nearby Midland.

Even with this major business winding down, the Town did move forward and population steadily increased from 2,391 in 1901 to 4,811 in 1938 - this due mainly to the many new cruiseships plying Georgian Bay as well as well-to-do families from the Toronto vacationing in the area. The Oak Ridge Asylum for the Insane, formerly the boys reformatory and prior to that the naval base, also provided jobs for the local residents.

As a result of this steady growth, the Town had further developed infrastructure and services to meet the public needs. The Penetanguishene volunteer Fire Department earned many accolades following the years after the Great War and of course fire hydrants were now being installed in the entire downtown core. By the early 1920's, the Town required an increased capacity not only for the fire department but also to provide drinking water.

To this end, a new waterworks building was constructed just west of the downtown core. The large well pumps required to fill the water tower were very far from being automatic so the Town had to man the waterworks 24 hours a day.

A small room with a cot and wood stove was constructed in the south-west corner of the waterworks building where staff would keep warm during long winter nights. The staffer would, by an alarm clock, turn on the pumps anticipating normal demand or receive instructions by telephone from fire department to increase supply.

Today, the Heritage Committee is evaluating the structure for designation but it may already be too late and too expensive to save this public building. The foundation has slowly been settling into the ground (light clay and peat), and the structure requires quite a lot of work. Most of the original windows have been smashed out by local a$$-clown vandals.