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Renovation work underway on the historic Eighth Avenue Reservoir

8th Avenue Reservoir
Posted at 4:36 PM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 09:53:15-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — If you've driven down Eighth Avenue S. recently, you've probably seen it: a massive stone structure at the top of a hill with lots of construction equipment surrounding it.

So what's going on?

"This is our old city reservoir built in the late 1880s," said David Ewing, a Nashville historian.

The Eighth Avenue Reservoir was one of the earliest forms of water filtration in Nashville.

"African American labor built this and they kind of haul the stone up the hill," said Ewing.

When construction was complete, the 51 million gallon tank was essentially split in two. Half to pump in water from the Cumberland River, a filter in the middle, and the other half of the tank was used to house the purified water that flowed into piles and eventually into homes.

"It was a very sophisticated system for even back then," said Ewing.

In the early 1900s, the city started using chemicals to purify the drinking water.

The reservoir worked perfectly until 1912.

"The reservoir burst, sending millions and millions of gallons of water streaming down this [hill,]" said Ewing.

Remarkably, nobody died, but it essentially wiped an entire neighborhood off the map.

"Gushing water that swept not only you and your family off their bed and then the house, off the foundation. There was one person who had to save their wife whose bed was literally floating away," he said.

Believe it or not, the water reservoir is still in use today, only as a purified water storage facility. According to Metro Water, the 133-year-old structure is undergoing a major renovation project. Construction crews are installing a new tank in tank design to keep the water churning while it's stored, so it doesn't stagnate.

The project could take years to complete, but the historian says it's worth the wait.

"It’s really a beautiful building and a beautiful structure," said Ewing.

If you'd like to take a virtual tour of the renovation project, click here.