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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Burst Reservoir

Burst Reservoir

GRHC - January 13th, 2010 at 10:00am

Grand Rapids Historical Commission and the Community Media Center present the local history radio project, "Glance at the Past". This is the story of the reservoir break and the heroic newsboy who saved the day.



An alert newsboy saved the lives of approximately one hundred people while making his early morning rounds, just two days before the 4th of July in 1900. As Bert Botsford passed the city reservoir near the current Belknap Park, he noticed a small stream of water barely six inches wide trickling out of the eastern wall. Realizing that the sides of the reservoir would probably give way, he abandoned his papers and ran from house to house rousing people from their beds. Residents grabbed their children and fled into the early morning still wearing their nightclothes.

Soon a three-foot hole appeared in the cement wall of the reservoir. With a great roar that was heard all over the hill six million gallons of water poured out in a flood thirty feet wide and ten feet deep. The torrent gathered speed as it plunged down the steep hill of Newberry Street. When it reached the bottom, at Lafayette Ave., it tore out the Grand Trunk railroad tracks. Newberry Street, itself, was dug up to a depth of thirty feet exposing the water mains; trees and telephone poles were torn out of the ground; porches disappeared from homes and houses left their foundations.

An area three blocks long and two blocks wide was swept away. Most of the homes, each worth about $1000, belonged to those who worked in the factories below the hill and were of modest construction, but they were a total loss to families who could ill afford to lose everything. Loss of property was estimated at $100,000. Amazingly, not a single life was lost because of the heroic efforts of a quick-thinking newsboy.


Full Details

TitleBurst Reservoir
KeywordsGlance at the Past, disaster, reservoir, radio, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission
Pubdate StringJanuary 13th, 2010 at 10:00am

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