NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — While Nashvillians drive by a 51 million gallon rock reservoir in Edgehill daily and pay it no mind, it once was a focal point for the city.
In 1889 the 8th Avenue reservoir was built on Kirkpatrick’s Hill.
“There had been a Union Army Fort when the Union Army occupied Nashville,” said Dr. Carole Bucy, Nashville historian.
Today it’s one of the 39 reservoirs across Davidson county, but when it was in construction, it was the city’s only water source and remains the largest.
“Nashville was very proud of its water system,” said Bucy.
The structure is 603ft. across with walls 22ft. wide at the base. Again, it has the capacity to hold 51 million gallons of water.
“There had been rumors for years it was leaking in various spots,” Bucy said.
Pictures from the 1900s show the areas in question.
“This was the time when we had machine politics in Nashville,” Bucy explained. “Politics played a part as to why the reservoir had not been repaired earlier.”
On November 5, 1912, the reservoir’s wall collapsed on the southeast side, sending around 25 million gallons of water crashing down.
“Imagine this in the middle of the night with no warning, no rain, no storm, no wind.” Bucy continued, “Suddenly water is gushing through your house and your house is literally being washed away.”
Residents were stunned.
“Property damage over there in that area of Nashville was incredibly extreme all the way to the Cumberland River,” Bucy said.
Despite the force, no one died. The news of what happened spread quickly.
“People were going over there with their cameras and their photographer and having their pictures made,” said Bucy.
The reservoir was repaired and the land immediately south of where it was established was turned into a park in 1914.
Today the reservoir is inspected frequently and is used for storage of treated water – up to 21 million gallons at a time.
That water is then pumped into homes and used by firefighters in areas known as “City Low.”