On a prominent hill visible from much of downtown Nashville, a stone reservoir with a capacity of 51 million gallons peeks above the surrounding tree-filled park. Completed in 1889, currently only used at half capacity but still the largest such serving Nashville. Many passersby see it daily yet few are aware that it was the site of a major disaster.
Just after midnight on the 5th of November, 1912, the ground under the base of the reservoir’s 22-foot thick wall gave way. The breached wall released millions of gallons down the hillside knocking several homes right off their foundations and damaging dozens more. Reportedly some people were floated out of their homes while still in their beds. Amazingly, the only fatalities recorded were a few chickens.
The 175-foot wide repair is still noticeable 100 years later, due to the lighter color stones used in 1912. Below ground, the clay that eroded was replaced with concrete. Still serving thirsty Nashvillians today, the reservoir has been modernized in several ways and its foundation is well monitored so there is little risk of any new catastrophe.
Know Before You Go
Hilly old Reservoir Park is open to the public but for safety reasons the reservoir is fenced off. The repaired section is better noticed from the surrounding elevations, passengers on Interstate 65 have a particularly good view.