Horizontal Wheel - Shiawassee River - Holly,MI
N 42° 47.172 W 083° 37.565
17T E 285205 N 4740417
Quick Description: Historic Holly Waterworks building with a horizontal water wheel.
Location: Michigan, United States
Date Posted: 10/9/2009 5:50:04 PM
Waymark Code: WM7DHN
Historic Holly Waterworks building with a horizontal water wheel.
This building in now surrounded by WaterWorks Park along the Shiawassee River where many kayakers and canoeists launch their boats.
The building houses a "Leffel Turbine" horizontal waterwheel. I am not sure of the date it was installed. The one in the building is not the original. I think it dates to 1910 or so. Brad Rebar had information from Leffel saying when the waterwheel was shipped. The site originally had 7 waterwheels. The basement of the waterworks building appears to be part of what was originally a sluice that got converted to a basement with the current waterworks building constructed on top. The wood part of the waterworks building predates the brick part and is visible in the old photos of the Holly Milling Company building. The waterworks turbine powered the waterworks and the old Holly Milling Company. The line shaft in the building originally went out the wall of the existing brick building and over to the mill. In the basement of the Waterworks building is the original pump. It is a Dean Works, Worthington pump designed to pump high pressure water into a ship's boiler. The Dean Works is long gone and no records of the shipment to Holly exist. The pump is in need of repair. Water leaking back through the valve from the main froze in the pump, cracking the manifold and popping the head bolts. The damage is repairable. This building was active pumping water till the 1980's. Along with the waterwheel driven pump, there is an electric pump that appears to be in good repair still.
The Holly waterworks was the first public waterworks in Oakland county, dating to 1869. Many of the original wood water mains are still in use. It was constructed in response to fires that swept through the town previously. Originally, water was piped to houses with a spigot that merely ran all the time. There was no charge for the water. Over the years, Holly installed more pumping capacity, added a chlorination unit and started charging for water. On the same site, north of the Holly Milling Company, Holly built the Holly Electric Company. It eventually sold the rights to distribute power throughout the Village to Consumers Power and then tore down the Electric generating plant. The generating plant ran with a steam boiler and not off the waterwheel.
The site is originally the site of Stiffs Mill. The foundations of which are south of the building behind the split rail fence. Stiffs Mill was a lumber mill. When the Milling Company was built, the lumber mill turned to making barrel staves. Across broad street was the building where the barrels were constructed. These were used to produce barrels for shipping flour from the Holly Milling Company. In the time of the Milling Company, flour was shipped in barrels instead of sacks. These assured that the flour would stay dry and free from rat or mouse attack. The barrels could be moved by barrel truck easier than flour sacks, which had to be carried. The warehouse for the milling company was directly across Broad Street from the Mill. Holly Velvet Flour was shipped as far as Russia and noted for it's quality. A railroad siding passed next to the warehouse, past the mill and to a trestle over the Shiawassee river. The spur stopped over the river and was built there to aide in moving railroad cars. Wood pilings are still visible in the river bottom. The spur had a switch added and a second spur was used to bring coal to the power plant.
The Holly Milling Company Burned down in December of 1910. Insurance records show that the building was equipped with fully automatic milling equipment that ran 24 hours per day and which could run unattended. The cause of the fire was never determined. The loss was so great that the owners decided not to rebuild.
Current Status: Ruin
Current Use: The building merely houses the water wheel
Provide a picture of your visit.