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What is an Early 1900s Pump House?

Updated: Jul 2, 2022

Water is a crucial element of farming - whether you owned a farm in the early 1900s or today. With technological advances, getting water from one part of the farm to another has become an effort that is done without much thought. In the early 1900s, the feat of bringing water across acres of land was not simple or thoughtless, and pump houses were vital in making water distribution possible.

The Purpose of an Early 1900s Pump House

Farmers draw their water from a well, which is dug into the ground, tapping into the groundwater of the aquifer. This water is then brought out of the ground, and through the well using a pump. From here the water is distributed to the various parts of the farm to irrigate crops and water the animals. The pump house was the structure built to protect the mechanized process from the elements of the region. Most pump houses are built to match the exterior of the home and are usually located within close proximity to the main house.

Pump House Construction

The location of an early 1900s pump house was not chosen randomly. The area for the pump house had to have excellent drainage, and the preferable location was on higher ground. Contrary to what you might think, the pump house itself should be located offset the actual well - the purpose of this is to make for easy maintenance of the well and to avoid problems associated with the wells that naturally release methane, carbon dioxide, or other dangerous gasses. These gases contained within a structure, like a pump house, could create deadly situations. To accommodate the well and the pump house, an additional fixture would be attached to allow for the transfer of the water into the pump house and beyond.

Pump House Insulation

One thing that farmers had to take into consideration when building a pump house was the climate of the area. The metallic mechanisms within the pump house were vulnerable to the elements, especially the cold. In order to ensure the pump house would not freeze up during the winter months, the pump house had to be insulated properly. In addition to the insulation, proper ventilation was necessary to keep the pump house was not only safe from extreme temperatures but also humid conditions.

Pump House Flooring

Contamination of the water supply was a serious threat during the early 1900s. Before pump houses, pits were dug, which increased the likelihood of tainted water. Pump houses were built with a concrete slab floor of at least 6 inches thick over a compacted gravel base. To ensure maximum water and electrical safety, the flooring was created to eliminate the pooling of the water, with a slant to a centralized drain within the flooring.

The Pump House at Shoenberg Farms

Like many farms of the time, Shoenberg Farms was also equipped with a pump house. Part of the historical renovation project will include renovations to the pump house to make it a functional duo with the milk house. Once fully restored, the milk and pump house combo will serve as an Honorary Couple’s Suite that can be rented on the Shoenberg Farms’ grounds. The area will be complete with a lounge area and staging area for event preparation. As much as the pump house was a vital part of distributing water across the grounds at Shoenberg Farms, the renovated pump house will serve the community in a historical, yet functional capacity for years to come. Learn more about the entire Shoenberg Farms Restoration Project here.

Pictured below is the old Shoenberg Farms Pump House water tank originally installed inside the Pump House in 1911. The tank was removed as the Pump House was restored in 2018.

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