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PARMA RESERVOIR

The PARMA RESERVOIR. An uncommon structure in PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio, on the westside of Cleveland is the 1933-37 Parma Reservoir. A 326 x 306-ft. earth-covered concrete tank, technically referred to as a basin, with a Gothic-style facade resembling a 14th-century English castle hold the 23-million gallon reservoir.

In the early part of the 20th century, Parma residents experienced water shortages. The detailed 1920s plans for the "Parma Reservoir Park" included a reservoir surrounded by a large casually landscaped park with picnic areas, a lake, and horse trails, but the Depression caused the city to scale back plans and only one of two basins and the pump house were completed.

G. W. Hamilin was the engineer of the concrete basin, according to 1933 blueprints. The basin resembles a concrete tank with double walls. An inner concrete wall is not attached directly to an outer brick wall, thus creating an air space. This was done, it was said, to allow water drainage. There is a 3-in. weephole at the bottom of the brick wall at each of the four corners. The inner wall is 34-ft. high and varies from 2-ft. thick at the top to 4-ft. 6-in. thick at the base.

The most outwardly striking aspect of the reservoir is the Gothic-style architectural features designed by Herman Kregelius, city architect. Crenellated stone towers and battlements give the reservoir a fortress-like appearance, but there are details that speak to its water supply function, including stone carvings in the shapes of fish above the tower entrance doors. The architectural symmetry of the reservoir was based on plans that a second basin was to have been built at the first basin's southwest corner. Since the second basin was never built, the reservoir appears architecturally unbalancved from a distance.

The contractor for the Parma Reservoir was the HUNKIN-CONKEY CONSTRUCTION CO., but like many Depression-era public works projects, labor was provided by the WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION (WPA) as a New Deal unemployment relief measure. There was some labor trouble during the constructions of the outer wall in 1936. Pay checks were late, workers complained of cold weather, and government property was destroyed during a riot. On Jan. 26, 1936, the rioters lost their jobs and sheriff's deputies were assigned to protect the remaining workers.

Since 1994, the Parma Reservoir has been known as The Parma Heights Water Facility for The City of Cleveland.

Kenneth J. Lavelle


Lavelle, Kenneth J., "A Brief History of the Parma Reservoir," Society for Industrial Archeology Newsletter 29(1) Spring 2000.