Saturday, December 13, 2014

History of The Pump House Art Gallery

It sits on the South Eastern side of Yoctangee Park in historical Chillicothe, Ohio. The Pump House Art Gallery.

I have mentioned it plenty of times before, and even did an interview with the founder, and world renowned artist, Ted W. Fickisen.

But today, I wanted to share with you the history of The Pump House Art Gallery in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Even in 1882 the people of Chillicothe enjoyed this part of the city. Citizens came to Yoctangee Park in their horse-drawn carriages and had picnics. The park was becoming an integral part of the city's cultural life. When it was deemed necessary to build a pumping station for the city of Chillicothe, it was decided to be built in Yoctangee Park, and it was also decided that the building be both, functional and an architectural addition to the park.

The Pump House and Water Works, built in 1882 by the Chillicothe Gas, Light and Water Works once housed large, powerful, brass pumps used to fight fires that periodically destroyed parts of the city during Chillicothe's early history.

Engaged through a deep well (25 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep), located next to the pump house, the water was pumped from the Teays Aquifer beneath Yoctangee Park and propelled through 16 feet cast iron pipes to a reservoir located on Carlisle Hill. When needed, the water was released through the pipes back down the hill to 100 fire hydrants placed throughout the city. The spring from the ancient Teays that fed the aquifer was so powerful that the engines could pump over six thousand gallons of water per minute. Today, these same cast iron water pipes still carry water through the city.

As the city grew, inside water taps became the norm and The Pumping Station was deemed insufficient for the growing population. For a number of years the building was used by the city service department. Road equipment was stored in the building, as was salt for use on icy roads. By the mid 1970's, the building was in a state of disrepair. At this point, the city government felt that the building should be torn down. In their eyes, it had out served its purpose.

Preservationists and the Jaycees of Chillicothe pleaded with the city to keep the building and not destroy it, citing its historical value to the community as a primary reason to leave it standing, and to restore it. The Jaycees even used the building as a haunted house during this time in an attempt to raise money for restoration costs.

In 1984, the building was condemned.

Then, a group of artists, led by Mr. Ted William Fickisen, preservationists, and local attorney, Jim Barrington, formed a coalition to restore and preserve the building. The old pump house was leased to a board of trustees in 1986 as a historic center for the arts. Then came the daunting task of turning an old pump house into an art gallery. The roof was so rotted that major portions had to be rebuilt. The limestone foundation had crumbled. All the windows and doors were bricked in and nailed shut. There was no permanent floor and no electricity or water.

 This founding group, along with other interested residents, established a Board of Trustees and they raised the $160,000.00 dollars needed for the restoration part of the project. A philanthropist and builder, Wilbur Poole, took on the incredible task of restoring the building as it is today. Coursework had to be replaced, bricks repaired, floors poured, electricity and water installed, and the walls rebuilt. Slowly, but surely, the rooms were transformed into a place where exhibits could be hung and viewed.

THE PUMP HOUSE is a fine example of Victorian Gothic architecture. The building features a large central tower colorfully patterned with glazed ceramic tiles, eight Palladian windows, common-bond brick work on the interior that has piano key dentil design around the windows. The two cathedral galleries are ornately paneled in vaulted, dark, tongue and groove oak construction, similar to the treatment on a ship's interior.

In November 1979, the Pump House was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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