Historic Manistee, The Victorian Port City
For nearly a hundred years a small building stood across the River which looked like a Dutch windmill without a vane. The building was not a windmill at all, but instead the entrance to a utility tunnel which runs under the River. Today the location is marked by the concrete structure at the end of the driveway.
When the new waterworks was built in Manistee in 1881, a single large pipe was laid in a trench under the River to provide water for the people living on the north side. As the City developed and expanded this pipe became inadequate and about 1910 it was decided to replace it with a concrete tunnel which could house lines for a number of utilities.
As planned the tunnel was to have an entrance shaft on each side and was to measure about four and a half feet square under the River. It was to have 12 inches of solid concrete on the sides, top, and bottom. The United States [Army] Corps of Engineers specified the top of the tunnel had to be at least 24 feet below the river surface, but when completed the tunnel was actually 27 feet below the water surface.
The tunnel was built early in 1911 by David West using air pressure to keep the water out of the construction which was especially difficult because it was dug through a layer of solid clay that had to be "shaved" away with knives. On May 31, 1911, the two ends
of the tunnel were connected. Within another week the tunnel was completed and turned over to the city.
Over the years all utilities have installed their lines or pipes in the tunnel. As originally planned, the tube was to be pumped dry whenever anyone wanted to work in it. In recent years however it has been found easier to hire divers to work in the tunnel without dewatering it. The concrete tunnel is now approaching a century of service and is still in use serving the need for which it was designed.
C.E. REDFERN, loaded with pulp wood, is passing directly over the tunnel with the "Dutch windmill" behind the foremast.
For more on the history of Manistee, visit the Museum at 425 River Street.