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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Columbus (1952): The Water March for Columbus and The Gas Light Company Expands

We are highlighting several of local historian W.C. Woodall's Industrial Indexes over the course of this summer. If you aren't familiar with them, they are a wonderful collection of articles on local happenings, business advertisements, and images of new homes put together each year from 1912 until 1960. There are also issues dedicated to Phenix City and Fort Benning. You can find them in the Genealogy Room of the Columbus Public Library and the CSU Archives.

Last week's Spotlight talked about the significant population growth Columbus saw between 1930 and 1952. Today, is the reaction to that growth from a utility perspective. Expansion was desperately needed from our water and gas providers.

Historic preservation only flourishes because of your passion for the history of this town, its stories, and its people. If you have any questions or concerns, never hesitate to contact the HCF Office – 706-322-0756 or

Thank you for all you do for preservation in Columbus!

Source: The articles and images are from the 1952 Industrial Index.


Nothing is more expressive of the growth of Columbus and its metropolitan area than the increasing and insistent demand for water – more water – and the energetic efforts of the Columbus Water Works to meet the need adequately at the earliest possible moment. Laid out sections of water pipe on suburban streets and country roads, forerunner of pipe-laying, and more water service in the near future, are among the most familiar and welcome sights of the current year. Here is the sign that one encounters, first here and then there, as the construction crews push the various projects on to consummation:

CONSTRUCTION AHEAD More Water for Greater Columbus Please Be Patient

This scene on Cody Road, showing the lengths of water wipe deposited along the highway, preliminary to construction of another water line, has been duplicated many times this year on various streets and highways. This is part of the large expansion program of the Columbus Water Works. It all adds up to: "Here comes water!"

“We will never catch up with the demand,” said George R. Lowe, secretary of the Board of Water Commissioners and general manager of the Water Works – a position he has filled since 1940. This was said not in a spirit of pessimism, but factually. “There was a time,” said Mr. Lowe, “when we made a substantial enlargement of plant and distribution system, that we felt the situation would be taken care of for a while. But today when we try to plan ahead and meet anticipated needs, the increased demand always overtakes us.”

In 1947 – 1948, the Water Board expended a half-million dollars in plant improvements. In June 1952, the Water Board started on its most ambitious expansion program and this, it is hoped, will be finished by June 1, 1953. This provides for the enlargement of pumping facilities at the plant on the Chattahoochee River from 19 million gallons to 36 million gallons per day. The filter capacity is to be increased from 20 million gallons daily to 30 million gallons. On the two peak days of the past summer, the Columbus Water Works delivered 20 million gallons of water per day. The project now underway calls for laying of 36 miles of pipe, ranging from six to 36 inches. About half this pipe is now laid. The current expansion program will cost $2,250,000.

There is a very insistent demand for city water from suburban and country areas. Muscogee is largely an urban county now, as vast sections of what was formerly rural territory have been developed either through subdivisions or individual home building. In the course of time city water will be available all the way from the Harris County line on the north to the Chattahoochee County line on the south – and also for a long distance out from the city in the eastern part of the county. The Columbus Water Works as a municipal institution was founded in 1902. Various sources of water supply, including creeks in this vicinity and test artesian wells were investigated. Finally, the Water Board turned to the Chattahoochee, the river that flows by the city’s door, providing an ample supply of unusually soft water, of most palatable taste, and fine for industrial use because of the relatively low percentage of mineral content.

Water consumption in those days was but a small fraction of what it is now. When the thought of a municipal water system was under discussion (water supply originally came from a private corporation), the idea seemed to be that from one to two million gallons a day would meet the requirements. It was a proud day for Columbus when it reached 5,000,000 gallons a day mark in water consumption. After the improvements now underway are completed, the Columbus Water Works system will be worth $10,000,000. Jack M. Passailaigue is chairman of the Water Board, and other members are W.J. Wood, Paul K. McKenney, Sr., and J. Paul Calhoun, with Mayor B.F. Register a member ex-officio. The Water Works department moved into its new, modern office building at the northeast corner of Fifteenth Street and Thirteenth Avenue in April 1951.

Gas Light Company of Columbus in its fourth year of operation as an independent natural gas distributor again set a new record of accomplishments. In order to grow with Columbus and meet an ever-increasing demand for natural gas, a total of $655,000 was spent for new construction to serve new customers in 1951. This compares with $432,000 in 1950 and $389,000 in 1949. These large expenditures of money, which far exceeds any in the history of gas in Columbus, are reflected in the number of new customers served who previously did not have natural gas. A net increase of 2,600 customers was realized in 1951, and at the present time Gas Light Company of Columbus serves in excess of 23,400 residences, businesses, and industries in Columbus and Muscogee County.

More and more Columbus and Muscogee County citizens are availing themselves of the many residential, commercial, and industrial uses and advantages of gas. This is shown by the fact that the sale of natural gas in 1951 was 5,526,700,000 cubic feet as compared with 3,270,000,000 cubic feet in 1949, the company’s first year of operation under new ownership. The largest single project completed in 1951, and the one of most interest and benefit to the customers, was the establishment of a second delivery point for gas and tying this point into the Columbus system. This involved the establishment of a second delivery point on the Whitesville Road approximately five miles northeast of Columbus and the extension of six miles of 12” main from this location to Hamilton Avenue and 32nd Street where it tied into existing large mains. When this project was completed last November, it established two separate and independent sources of gas all the way from the gas fields. Although this company has never experienced an outage of gas, this second source eliminates for all practical purposed the possibility of an outage of gas for Columbus. In addition, this new source in the northeast section paves the way for rapid expansion in the north, east, and southeast sections of Columbus.

Among the larger subdivisions and areas receiving gas in 1951 for the first time were: Benning Hills, City View Heights, Torch Hill Heights, Lumpkin Terrace, Rosemont Annex, Sedgefield, Cusseta Road (10th to 12th Avenue area), 30th Avenue, and Victory Drive. Substantial additions were also made to Camellia Apartments, Custer Terrace, Bibb City, Carver Heights, Hilton Heights, and Wynnton Dell. To serve the new areas and provide for even further expansion, more than 23 miles of new mains were installed along city streets and county roads. There are now more than 225 miles of mains serving this fast-growing community with dependable natural gas. Looking into the future, Gas Light Company of Columbus plans an even greater expansion program for the year 1952. Service has now been established to practically all potential customers within the city limits. Major future extensions will be in the areas of Muscogee County adjacent to Columbus. Next Week: We will be highlighting the $6,000,000 investment of the Columbus Housing Authority in 1952 - Luther C. Wilson Homes (Veterans Parkway/North Highlands), Elizabeth F. Canty Homes (Cusseta Road), and Louis T. Chase Homes (City Village). Thank you all again for your continued interest in these emails and for your support of preservation! See you next week!

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