Then and Now: Holly Pump Station, A Project Foundation

Throughout our 125th anniversary year, our Then and Now series will share historical photos that connect to the work we still do today. We begin with the project that started it all.

The Holly Pump Station was designed in 1892 by Major John Hawley, who’d go on to found Freese and Nichols two years later. More than 125 years later, the Holly Pump Station has expanded and remains central to the water supply for City of Fort Worth.

Pictured are Freese and Nichols founder Major John Hawley and Simon Freese at the Holly Water Treatment Plant in 1914.

More history on the pump station

Accepting a position as engineer in the hydraulic department of McArthur Brothers Company of Chicago, a well-known construction firm, Hawley went to Fort Worth, Texas, in November 1891 to submit a proposal to build a new municipally owned and operated water system. The job would entail a pump house, boiler house, smoke stack, and other facilities for the city’s new water plant to be located on fifty acres on the east side of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River.

On December 22, 1891, the City of Fort Worth entered into a contract with the Holly Manufacturing Company of Lockport, New York, for two pumping engines, each with an 8 million gallons per day (MGD) pumping capacity. The Holly pumps were the most modern pumping machinery of their day.

With 26-year-old John Hawley as construction manager, the new Holly Pump Station was completed in 1892. The heavy masonry structure had a massive stone-walled basement to house the pair of two-story, steam-driven Holly pumps of the vertical triple-expansion type. Steam to drive the pumps came from four 120-horsepower horizontal firetube boilers, 66 inches by 18 feet long, housed in an adjacent building crowned with a high brick smokestack.

Built under Hawley’s supervision, the heavy masonry pump house with its thick stonewalled basement was solidly designed and constructed. Through decades of plant expansion, the Holly Pump Station has remained in use as a main high-service pump station for Fort Worth.

Modern Updates

The North Holly Water Treatment Plant has been in operation since 1912; Freese and Nichols designed the South Holly plant in 1956. In 1995, the firm designed improvements at both plants to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act, including replacement of chlorine and ammonia feed facilities, and installation of emergency gas scrubbers. Upgrades in 2002 included new rapid mix and filters, enhanced flocculation and sedimentation facilities, and backwash clarification facilities; all were accommodated without needing more space. The new 80-MGD filtration complex was designed with an innovative flat flume – only the second in the nation – which simplified construction and reduced costs.