Hamilton’s 1859 Pumping Station

Where: Hamilton, ON.

Engineer: Thomas Keefer

Date of construction: 1859

Hamilton’s 1859 Pumping Station: boiler house in foreground, engine house in background. (Source: CSCE)

Site Location: Lat.: 43° – 15’ – 23” N; Long.: 79° – 46’ – 21” W. (GPS: 43.2563944, -79.7725993) 900 Woodward Avenue, Hamilton, ON. From the Queen Elizabeth Way, take the Woodward Avenue/Nikola Boulevard exit, Exit 90, to Woodward Ave. The pumping station is on the left (the east side of Woodward Avenue) about 0.3 km south of the bridge over Nikola Tesla Boulevard, but one must continue past it and U-turn somewhere to approach it from the south.

Plaque Location: The plaque is located on an exterior wall outside secondary entrance door at the south end of the pumphouse. It is accessible when the Hamilton Museum of Steam and Technology is open: Tuesday to Sunday 12 Noon to 4:00pm.

Description: Proposed in 1853 and completed in 1859, Hamilton’s new pumping station provided clean water for citizens and also much needed water for factory processes and fire hydrants. Thomas Keefer was the engineer. Stone from local quarries was used for the architecturally impressive engine house and boiler house. Brick was used for the adjacent 45m tall chimney. In 1859, with wood as boiler fuel, the capacity was 15 million litres (3.3 million gal.) per day. In 1882, new coal-fired boilers were installed that increased the capacity to 23 million litres (more than 5 million gal.) per day. The station became a backup facility when a new electrical pumping station was installed in 1910, and its use ceased entirely in 1938.

Thomas C. Keefer (Source: Library and Archives Canada/MIKAN 342973)


Historic Significance: In 1859, the station was the first to pump water from Lake Ontario into the Barton Reservoir on Hamilton’s mountain to supply the municipal distribution network. John Gartshorem, whose foundry in Dundas primarily manufactured milling machinery, assembled the two pumping units. Thomas Coltrin Keefer (1821-1915) was the founding president of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers in 1887 and remained active in it, serving again as president in 1897. He was the first Canadian to become president, in 1888, of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Plaque detail. (Source: CSCE)


Plaque Wording: National Historic Civil Engineering Site. HAMILTON’S 1859 PUMPING STATION. Engineer - Thomas C. Keefer. Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. 1983.

Site Historique National de Génie Civil. STATION DE POMPAGE HAMILTON 1859. Thomas C. Keefer – Ingénieur société Canadienne de genie civil. 1983.

Plaque Unveiling Ceremony: The plaque unveiling ceremony was held on a Saturday in June, 1983.

CSCE Past President William Filer (left) and Xichun Zhao, Executive Director of the China Civil Engineering Society, at the plaque unveiling. (Source: CSCE)


Links to Online Documentation:
Hamilton Museum of Steam & Technology National Historic Site homepage.
Biography of Thomas Coltrin Keefer.