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Brandywine Pumping Station and Waterworks

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1905–1906, Theodore A. Leisen. 1907–1909 additions. 1932–1934 Office Building, G. Morris Whiteside. Southeast of Market Street Bridge
  • Brandywine Pumping Station and Waterworks (Courtesy of the Delaware Historical Society)
  • Brandywine Pumping Station and Waterworks (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)
  • (Photograph by Matthew Aungst)

Grain mills operated on this riverbank as early as 1671. In 1827, the city installed a water-powered pump below the bridge to feed a reservoir at today's Rodney Square (WL29), supplying citizens with a reliable drinking supply. A steam pump was added in 1861 and several buildings were constructed, including City Mill Pumping Station in 1872, now demolished. A huge increase in city population led to the construction of the current station, in the Roman Revival style popular for civic structures after the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago of 1893, and with a grand Palladian motif defining the central block's facade. Its walls are brick with Brandywine granite trim; the steel-reinforced interior is spanned by concrete floors. It was designed to house two Holly steam engines, manufactured in Buffalo, New York, that each weighed 500 tons and could pump twelve million gallons per day. They operated until 1968, when replaced by electric motors. One was removed in 1976; the other, preserved, is now among just sixteen in the United States. Tunnels in the basement, used for sand filtration of the water, remain from the building's predecessors. The waterworks still takes its supply from the millrace (rebuilt). The pumping station and subsequent buildings are said to stand on the venerable foundations of the colonial mills themselves, but, if so, this is not apparent from outside. The Public Works Administration–funded office next door (slated for demolition) has a colorful Art Deco relief inside, above a revolving front door. Brandywine Pumping Station received a new roof and windows in a major restoration (2002–2003, MGZA).

Writing Credits

W. Barksdale Maynard


What's Nearby


W. Barksdale Maynard, "Brandywine Pumping Station and Waterworks", [Wilmington, Delaware], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Delaware

Buildings of Delaware, W. Barksdale Maynard. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, 118-119.

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