Harboring the Shreveport Water Works Museum is the McNeill Street Pumping Station which has a rare significance of being both a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and a National Historic Landmark.
Built in 1887, the McNeill Street Water Treatment Plant was known as Shreveport’s original water works. It was Louisiana’s second water works established in the state and one of the post-Civil War South’s first. As with several other utilities of the municipal that are developed over this era, the water works started as a private franchise that operated and constructed water distribution and treatment and collection facilities for the sewer.
Shreveport Water Works Company’s franchise, as it was initially known, continued for three decades and through four separate owners prior to the City of Shreveport imposed the water system’s sale to the city. The ground was later recognized as the McNeill Street Water Treatment Plant on account of the site’s location at the border of McNeill Street on downtown’s north area and to differentiate the site from another water works built in 1931 at Cross Lake.
The water works of Shreveport were built beneath a franchise arrangement of the Company of New York and Samuel R. Bullock. After almost a century of disputes, improvements, foreclosures, upgrades, and change of franchise proprietorship, the water works of Shreveport ended the private ownership era in 1917 as it embarked on more decades of assistance to the community of Shreveport under the ownership of the city.
In 1980, the McNeill Street Water Pumping and Purification Station’s historic portions were eventually abandoned and retired by the city. These areas contain antique equipment and structures which include steam-powered pumping engines and some of the United States’ earliest installed equipment for water treatment filtration.
The McNeill Street Plant, since the site’s retirement, has been recognized numerous times for its technological and historic values. In 1980, the Historic American Engineering Record and the Historic American Building Survey recorded and surveyed the grounds and equipment, archiving the data in the U.S. Library of Congress. Smithsonian Institution’s museum curators investigated and visited the facility and evaluated parts of the site’s pumping machinery to possibly be the last surviving sample of its type. This evaluation is particularly significant since the machinery is still operable and still in its original area of installation.
The U.S. National Park Service designated the water plant as a National Historic Landmark in 1983, and thus far one of northwest Louisiana and Shreveport’s only two National Historic Landmark. The old water works transformed as the Shreveport Water Works Museum that functioned under the museum program of the Secretary of State until 2017. The site was then returned to the City of Shreveport which has pledged with the Preservation Society to pursue the Shreveport Water Works Museum’s operation at the expense of the Society.
The Red River Valley Railroad Historical Society partners with the Shreveport Water Works Museum to present north Louisiana’s ancient railroad artifacts as exhibits in one of the site’s auxiliary buildings. Opened in 2013, the structure of the railroad museum provided a glimpse into the historic usage of steam for transportation which complements the main building’s massive stationary steam pumping engines. The museum’s large railroad materials collection includes baggage car, motor car, caboose, dining car, a diesel switch engine, coach, and steam locomotive 1140. Visitors’ favorite display is the running HO-scale model railroad of the railroad museum.
Shreveport Water Works Museum conducts presentations, fundraising efforts, and work sessions. Group, self-guided, and guided tours are also offered to publicize and promote the historic site, recruit volunteers, usher restoration efforts, and particularly utilize the Shreveport Water Works Museum. The museum also sells items like souvenir drink coasters, custom canvas tote bags, shirts, and books.