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West Ashley Flashback

The History of Our Water (part 3 of 4)

The page from the St. Andrew’s Parish Exchange Club’s “Celebration of Progress” brochure showing the laying of the water main under the Ashley River. (Permission to reproduce the page courtesy of the National Exchange Club)The page from the St. Andrew’s Parish Exchange Club’s “Celebration of Progress” brochure showing the laying of the water main under the Ashley River. (Permission to reproduce the page courtesy of the National Exchange Club)

February 12, 2018
By Donna Jacobs | Contributing Writer

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States was now totally committed to World War II. Employment of skilled workers at the Charleston Naval Yard was a huge issue. Thousands of potential workers would come to the area seeking the economic opportunities afforded not only primarily at the Yard but the secondary markets of infrastructure and support. Housing and development of neighborhoods was critical.  For St. Andrew’s Parish, this meant a sustainable water supply.

On December 31, 1941 the headline in The Charleston Evening Post read: “Water Project Wins Approval”. Congressman L. Mendel Rivers was happy to report the news that the federal works agency had approved the $100,00 project to his district. He stated that: “More than 56 percent of the school children in the area are children of defense workers.”

“Extension of Water Lines in St. Andrew’s Parish” was the title of the section under “Water Works” in the 1941 edition of The Year Book Charleston S.C. One long paragraph detailed the engineering and legal work that had been accomplished. An application was made and the permit was granted from the United States Engineer Office for crossing the Ashley River just north of the bridge. There was also mention of the funding for this project. An application was prepared for submission to the federal government to grant funding, but there appeared to be a conflict of interest with the engineer – referred to only as “me” in the paragraph. All the information was turned over to John McCrady, the city engineer selected to serve as the Engineer for this project by the St. Andrew’s Commission. The second one sentence paragraph in this report stated:” At the close of the year no action had been taken in the matter of grant by the government.”

1942 was another matter for progress. Charleston Constructors submitted the low bid of $105,917.96 for the construction. This figure was in line with the estimate by the engineers and it was felt that approval would be granted once all the necessary paperwork had been filed. Logistical details began getting in the way of the project. Federal priorities were naturally constantly shifting due to World War II. It was determined that a new 24-inch main would be needed at the Hanahan Pumping Station in order to accommodate not only the expansion of the Charleston Navy Yard but also the new main to St. Andrew’s Parish. By August of 1942, the Atlanta office of the Federal Works agency granted their approval of the $139,000 engineering contract for the St. Andrew’s Parish water main project. Then a snag, the War Production Board, responsible for the production and allocation of raw materials during World War II, denied the request for the higher priority rating needed in order for this project to receive these raw materials. World War II heavily influenced the inability to acquire the supplies necessary to not only build the water main but also housing. “Despite word received yesterday that the War Production Board has denied a request for higher priority rating to obtain material for the St. Andrew’s parish waterline project, Mayor Henry W. Lockwood said today ‘we are going to keep on fighting to complete the extension.’ was the opening line in the “To Keep After Water Project” that ran in the Oct. 21, 1942 issue of The Charleston Evening Post.  The political leaders were not daunted.

The 1942 update in The Year Book Charleston S.C. under the subtitle of “St. Andrew’s Public Service District” was brief but underscored the level of progress. Conferences were held between the Federal Works Agency, the St. Andrew’s Commission, and the city of Charleston’s Commission, the result being plans, specifications, and call for bids for the extension of the water main. A contract was awarded to the Charleston Constructors with an estimated cost of $139,000. The plan included a 12-inch main under the river and an 8-inch connection to the city mains at Chinquapin and Cannon Streets. “The national government through the Federal Works Agency are to purchase approximately $26,000.00 General Obligation Bonds of the District and $63,000 Income Bonds, and make the District a grant of the balance of approximately $50,000.00.” But even though funding seemed to be in order, “due to difficulties in getting priorities and vital materials” the work would not start in 1942.  The update ended with the quandary that the contractual relationship between the various governmental entities still needed to be ironed out. The city felt this financial obligation might well fall into their court.

This is the third out of four of a series of installments on how water was brought to St. Andrew’s Parish. Do you have any water stories? Contact Donna at westashleybook@gmail.com


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