A wooden water main from the late 1800s has been discovered in Traverse City. The wooden water main reportedly runs all the way down Eighth Street and was used to pump water through the city.

Some of the nation’s first waterworks were installed in 1652. Distribution pipes at that time were made of wood, constructed from bored-out logs from hemlock and elm trees and attached together with pitch, tar, or iron hoops. While this basic distribution system did supply some of the area’s residents, it was mainly used for fire protection as homes during that time — constructed of wood and heated with fireplaces —were particularly prone to fire. Wooden pipes were not perfect for many reasons, including warping and sagging, insect infestation, rotting, taste issues, and splitting. Cities began installing cast iron pipes in the early 1800s as their availability increased.

This history of our water and sewer infrastructure spans far beyond Traverse City and the State of Michigan, but nevertheless, proud to see the early inventiveness of our builders!