University Bay Pump House

Photo by William Cronon.

This little metal building on University Bay Drive occupies the same location as the pump house first built here in 1914, when the University tiled and drained the marshland west of University Bay to use the land for agriculture.

The pumps in this building thus played a pivotal role in destroying the extensive marshes that once covered much of this land from here almost all the way west to the other side of the recreational fields where the other end of University Bay Drives follows the margin of Shorewood Hills.

Ironically, though, that is not all that should be said about the history of this little building. In 1972, its pumps were used for an entirely new and opposite purpose: to manage water levels in the newly restored Class of 1918 Marsh to insure the success of the wetland restoration then underway.

The very pump building that had once destroyed the marsh was now being used to restore it.

In 2000, the UW Plumbing shop replaced the pump in this building to do a better job of handling floodwaters after heavy rains caused Lake Mendota to overflow its shores. While the Lakeshore Path has been raised to help deter future flooding, the pump has been retained both to protect nearby buildings and utilities, and also to help with continuing management of the Class of 1918 Marsh.