Jacob Lawrence and Gwendolyn Knight Hiram M. Chittenden Patsy Collins Gordon Hirabayashi Home William Boeing
Search Encyclopedia
Advanced Search
Featured Essay
Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search
7100 HistoryLink.org essays now available      
Donation system not supported by Safari     Donate Subscribe


Cyberpedias Cyberpedias
Timeline Essays Timeline Essays
People's Histories People's Histories

Selected Collections
Cities & Towns Cities & Towns
County Thumbnails Counties
Biographies Biographies
Interactive Cybertours Interactive Cybertours
Slide Shows Slideshows
Public Ports Public Ports
Audio & Video Audio & Video

Research Shortcuts

Map Searches
Alphabetical Search
Timeline Date Search
Topic Search


Book of the Fortnight
Audio/Video Enhanced
History Bookshelf
Klondike Gold Rush Database
Duvall Newspaper Index
Wellington Scrapbook

More History

Washington FAQs
Washington Milestones
Honor Rolls
Columbia Basin
Walla Walla
Roads & Rails

Cyberpedia Library

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Landsburg Headworks

HistoryLink.org Essay 2482 : Printer-Friendly Format

Utilizing the Cedar River as Seattle’s watershed was the work of City Engineer R. H. Thomson (1856-1949). In 1899, the City called for bids to create headworks, later named Landsburg, upstream from the town of Maple Valley. This lower gateway to the watershed included a diversion dam, an intake canal, a settling basin, a gatehouse, a horse stable, and a dwelling for the gatekeeper. The contract, won by the Pacific Bridge Company of Portland, Oregon, also called for 28.4 miles of pipeline leading to the Volunteer Park reservoir in Seattle.


The diversion dam was built as a timber crib with concrete abutments, over a foundation of cross sills fixed in the river bottom. The crib was filled with gravel and boulders. The intake canal was redesigned from original plans into a single 54-inch wood stave pipe extending along the south bank of the river to the settling basin.

The 22 x 44 foot settling basin was built of concrete and twisted steel rods. Sluice gates were installed to catch debris and to moderate the flow. A gatehouse was built over the settling basin for use in operation. From the basin, a pipeline ran 13.5 miles to Renton. From Renton, a slightly narrower pipeline carried the water to Seattle.

The dwelling for the gatekeeper was built west of the gatehouse, along with the horse stable. The house was 24 x 42 feet in dimension, and included indoor plumbing -- a luxury worthy of a water department worker at the time. The first gatekeeper at the site was George Landsburg, hence the name of the headworks.

Water Use Grows with Seattle

As the population of Seattle grew, a second pipeline became necessary, which Thomson had already considered during the 1899 construction of the headworks. In 1908, Pipeline Number Two was constructed parallel to the original. In 1911, a flood wiped out part of both pipelines, at a point where they crossed a bridge over the Cedar River. Similar smaller breaks over the next few years exposed the inefficiency of wooden stave pipes.

In 1922, construction began on Pipeline Number Three, made out of riveted steel. At the same time, Lake Youngs, located west of Landsburg, was converted into an additional impounding basin. A concrete aqueduct was built to connect Landsburg and Lake Youngs. This work was completed in 1930.

Updates were made to the now 30-year-old system, so a new screen house was built at Landsburg. Water entering the new water works passed through six trash racks, then through six motorized sluice gates. Finally it was filtered through six mesh screens. From there it followed the aqueduct to Lake Youngs.

A large water tank was built at the same time as the screen house for a pressurized system used to clean the screens. The screens would be lifted out and sprayed, then rotated back into position to provide even wear on both sides. Debris removed by the high-pressure spray would be hauled out.

Sunday in the Park

By this time, the Seattle Water Department was very proud of its modern water system. Tours were often given of the Landsburg site, so the grounds were re-landscaped. Flowers and trees were planted, and railings were built at the water’s edge.

From Renton, green and white signs marked “W. D. Route” (Water Department Route) led motorists to Landsburg. Upon arrival, they could tour the facilities, and then enjoy a leisurely lunch under the trees. A large open area was ideal for croquet, bocce ball, or just plain lolling in the sun.

River Rock

By 1935, the original wooden crib dam was showing its age. It was replaced with a concrete dam. At the same time, further landscaping was done to the site, including the construction of two river rock restrooms, a river rock retaining wall, and a river rock pathway. River rock was used extensively at Landsburg during this period, giving the place a rustic look that remains to this day.

Few exterior changes have been made at the Landsburg buildings in the latter part of the twentieth century. Equipment upgrades and slight remodels were made over the years, but almost all of the buildings remain intact. In the 1980s, a garage, a generator building, a compressor building, and fluoride tanks were added to the site. In the 1990s, a fish hatchery was built along the south bank of the river.

Florence K. Lentz, Landsburg Headworks (National Register Nomination, 1998); Mary McWilliams, Seattle Water Department History 1854-1954 (City of Seattle: Dogwood Press, 1955), 53-66, 69-70,72-78; R. H. Thomson, That Man Thomson (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1950), 78-79.

< Browse to Previous Essay | Browse to Next Essay >

Related Topics: Environment | Infrastructure | Technology | Washington Rivers |

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both HistoryLink.org and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

Major Support for HistoryLink.org Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You

This essay made possible by:
Rivers-in-Time Project:
King County
Seattle Public Utilties
Seattle City Light

Landsburg intake under construction, 1899
Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives

Landsburg, 1928
Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives

Concrete pipe at Landsburg, 1930
Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives

Landsburg, diversion dam looking south, 1990s
Courtesy Seattle Public Utilites

Landsburg, diversion dam, forebay, and screen house, 1990s
Courtesy Seattle Public Utilities

Home About Us Contact Us Education Bookstore Tourism Advanced Search

HistoryLink.org is the first online encyclopedia of local and state history created expressly for the Internet. (SM)
HistoryLink.org is a free public and educational resource produced by History Ink, a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt corporation.
Contact us by phone at 206.447.8140, by mail at Historylink, 1411 4th Ave. Suite 803, Seattle WA 98101 or email admin@historylink.org