On the weekends, one may drive along Sloat Boulevard and see dozens of families gathering on the green near Central Pump Station for soccer games. They may not realize that just to their side is an important water facility for the City.
Built in 1912, Central Pump Station, located on Sloat Boulevard in San Francisco, is vital to the SFPUC’s ability to serve water to the surrounding neighborhoods. Because of San Francisco’s many hills, water must be pumped uphill using a mechanical pumping system to fill reservoirs at higher elevations. Serving water from a higher elevation than the tap creates water pressure at the tap. Central Pump Station pumps water up to the Stanford Heights Reservoir and, during emergencies, pumps water up to the Sutro Reservoir. The pump station was updated and seismically retrofit in 2004 through 2006.
In many ways, this important, functional water facility building is also a unique, beautiful water temple. The original classical building and facade were designed by architect Willis Jefferson Polk and features corner fountains with green monster fish and Neptune’s trident (also used in Polk’s design of the Sunol Water Temple). On the roof of the station are colorful sculptures depicting goddesses of the harvest, eagles, a bison, and an Old Testament high priest with an urn for a body.
A prominent inscription is chiseled across the building’s façade stating, “But the Land Whither Ye Go to Possess It, Is a Land of Hills and Valleys, and Drinketh Water of the Rain of Heaven,” by Deuteronomy 11:11. Immediately over the entrance door is an inscription from Proverbs 5:16 stating, “Let Thy Fountains Be Dispersed Abroad and Rivers of Waters in the Streets.”
Polk’s beautiful design reminds us of the ‘higher’ purpose of delivering water to our customers every day.