City of Saginaw, Michigan

A Monument to Usefulness and Beauty

Excerpts from "the Saginaw Water Works"

Dominating the Rust Park landscape, the magnificent Saginaw Water Works serves the community well. Since 1929, it has produced a pure, cold, and abundant water supply. It purifies and pumps water to the City of Saginaw and many surrounding Townships, Cities, and Villages.

This page briefly describes the art and architecture of the building. Aside from its beauty, the Water Works has become known for its operation, research, and maintenance. The treatment and pumping facilities are operated 24 hours a day by professional, certified personnel, whose dedication to sound principles of public health, safety, and convenience is their hallmark of character. Both the exterior and interior of the building, as well as its equipment, reflect the continuous, careful maintenance that preserves its usefulness and architectural integrity.

Art at the Water Treatment PlanT


"THE TREATY" was painted by WILLIAM JOHN VON SCHIPMANN, who is a first generation American artist, being the only child of German immigrant parents. He was born May 19, 1906, near Garrison, North Dakota. Von Schipmann's early schooling was received in Saskatchewan, Canada. Coming to Saginaw in 1919, he graduated from Saginaw High School in 1926. He married Virginia (Buddy) Von Sennet in Chicago in 1929. They had five children-Jacqueline, Ardath, Ethel, William II, and Leslee. Von Schipmanu's interest in history, art, and geography are all strikingly evident in "THE TREATY." Completing his studies at the Art Institnte of Chicago in 1930, at the depth of the great depression, Von Schipmann worked at various businesses in Saginaw, finding time for free lance art work and the operation of his private art school. In 1965, he started to work for the City of Saginaw, where his artistic talents contributed substantially to community development. He retired from this employment in 1976 to devote full time to leisure and to his interest in historical art. His first major work in retirement was his oil painting, "THE TREATY." He donated it to the City at its Council Meeting, September 27, 1976, the 157th anniversary of the signing of the treaty at Saginaw. The painting was especially created for permanent exhibition in the Foyer of the Rust Park Water Works. Von Schipmann is a remarkable American artist who possesses the ability to give his paintings a common touch and an historical accuracy that pleases every viewer.

Von Schipmann gave this historical background for his painting:

"The scene depicted in the painting 'THE TREATY' is as near historically correct as accounts of the event have been written by the late Fred Dustin, Saginaw's best known historian.
The Indians' home was an oval wigwam. It was shaped like a large beaver house. Its frame was made by tieing small trees together. Tlte frame was covered with mats made of reeds tied to the frame work. Tlte roof was covered with birch bark, or elm bark.

The influence of the white trader will be noted in the clothing and cookware. The Indians had at this time items such as calico shirts, dresses, and blankets for which they traded furs. The fringed shirts and leggings were made of deer hides, although other animal skins were also used. The free edges of these clothes were left long and then cut into narrow strips. This was not for ornament. Tlte fringe prevented the skin from puckering and wrink1ing when it became wet. White hunters werc quick to copy this idea. In warm weather, the men went without shirts, and sometimes without leggings, using only a breechcloth held up by a thong or an 0rnamented belt around the waist. The use of feathers was not common among the Chippewas, except for a badge of honor. Eagle feathers were used to designate what the Indian had accomplished. One feather meant that the young male had become a warrior. Two feathers designated a warrior who had scalped an enemy. If he had taken a prisoner, five feathers were used in a design as a head decoration. The Indian had learned the secret of making pottery for cooking, and was skillful in turning out vessels for water containers, and he tempered others for use over fire.

The white man came to Michigan in 1701 and established Fort Ponchartrain, which later became Detroit. It was to be another 114 years before the first white man settled permanently at what now is Saginaw, 0nly 90 miles north. In 1807 the treaty with the Ottawas was signed in Detroit and the name 'Saginaw' (Saguina, Land of the Sauks) first appeared. With this treaty, the Ottawas, Potawatamis, Wyandots, and Chippewas (all tribes living in Michigan) ceded a great section of southeast Michigan to the white man.

Louis Campau, the nephew of a Detroit merchant, was in his middle twenties when his uncle sent him- to Saginaw in 1815 as a furtrader. Campau came to Saginaw in a sailing vessel. He built a log trading house at a high point of the river bank near what is now Hamilton and Clinton Streets. Fur trading was a big business in those days. The f'urs purchased from the Indians were sent to market in the east, and to Europe. Campau was firmly established by 1819, and well-liked by the Indians because of his fair dealings with them. By this time, land-hungry citizens were pressuring the Federal Government to take over all lands remaining to the Indians in Michigan.

General Lewis Cass, one of the heros of the War of 1812, was Governor of Michigan Territory at that time and also served as Superintendent of Indian affairs for the Federal Government. At the age of thirty-six, and highly regarded by the Government, he was comissioned to negotiate with the Indians at Saginaw, to acquire for the United States the Indian land. The Indians were to be moved west beyond the Mississippi.

Gneral Cass asked Campau to prepare for the great powwow with the Indians.. Runners were sent out to notify the tribes of the meeting. The time for the talks was set for the middle of September,1819. General Cass sent a company of infantry under his brother, Captain Charles L. Cass, to Saginaw by boat, as a military guard. The General himself went to Saginaw over the Indian trail, arriving on September 10th. Campau had prepared the meeting place. The council house included a platform of.flattened logs elevated a foot above the ground and covered with pine boughs. Logs were placed in the treaty house to provide seating for the Indian leaders. The ends and sides were open to allow observation by the Indians and interested persons present. Cass used an interpreter. Chief Ogemaw, who lived at what is now Midland, spoke for the Indians. He told Cass the Indians would not move away. The picture shows [Kish-Kaw-Ko (The Crow, an Indian leader, who lived at what is now called Crow Island) strenuously objecting to the treaty terms. After several failures, the Indians Signed the treaty when being told they could stay in Michigan to hunt for their livelihood. On September 27, 1819, the treaty was signed by General Cass and 114 chiefs.

The fort shown in the picture was built after the Signing of the treaty to protect the settlers, when the Indians became angry because the settlers did not want them crossing their land. The Fort was located at what is now Court and Hamilton.

The flag in the picture shows 20 stars and 13 alternating red and white stripes. It was first flown on April 13, 1818. This flag was the first of our modern American flag with 13 stripes for the 13 colonies, and as many stars as there were states.

The uniforms of the soldiers at that time were not always exactly the same color. The blue dye used for the cloth was difficult to obtain, resulting in many shades of blue to almost grey. The soldiers with white trousers are officers."


"The Approach of Winter" is the work of Saginaw Artist Harker W. Jackson. The oil painting on masonite was completed in 1929. The artist's sensitive appreciation of local history gave his painting life and fidelity. The painting is the second of two paintings Mr. Jackson created especially for the Foyer of the stately new Gothic Water Works building in Rust Park. The first painting was accidentally broken while being fitted into its niche, and Mr. Jackson painted the second to replace it. Although unnamed by the artist, the painting has been called "The Approach of Winter" because of the foreboding winter storm clouds of a cold, late fall afternoon.

Regarding the subject matter of the painting, the Big-Wheel log carrier had large diameter wheels to allow it to be pulled more easily along the forest trails to log storage areas, from where the logs were later transported by wagon or sled to river rollways or to railroads. The forest trails had to be kept very smooth to prevent the tongue of the Big-Wheel from whipping, causing injury to oxen, horses, or men. On downward slopes, a lumberjack would stand on the rear of the log, causing it to drag on the ground for a braking effect. Oxen were the common beast-of-burden in the earliest lumbering days, when trees were felled by hand-ax, and logs were cut to length with two-man cross-cut saws. Jackson's forest scene is typical of the Michigan forests that supplied logs for the lumber mills of Saginaw.

Harker W. Jackson was born in Nottawasaga Township, Ontario, Canada, January 14, 1874. The following year, he came to the United States with his parents. He attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture, achieving outstanding success in competitive design. Subsequently, he was employed by prominent architects in Saginaw, Detroit, Chicago, and New York City. He married Marion Elizabeth Cleves in Binghamton, New York in 1900. They had four sons- Paul, Seth, Wendell and Thomas. Harker Jackson returned to Saginaw to join his father in the manufacturing of cork pine sash and doors for domestic and export sales. He retained his interest in historical art as expressed in many other paintings, and in the remodeling of an old farm house at the corner of Brockway and Elm Streets. This outstanding landmark features four towering wooden, fluted Corinthian columns which earlier graced the portico of Dr. Florentine's private Hospital for Women, which stood at 507 South Washington Avenue.

Mr. Jackson's joy at watching the construction of Saginaw's magnificent Gothic Water Works building from 1926 to 1929, inspired his valuable contribution of his painting to the City. Harker W. Jackson died December 10, 1945. Mr. Jackson's other contributions to the City included service as a member of the Board of Education, for which he obtained information in Europe for the establishment of Arthur Hill Trade School, the forerunner of the Averill Career Opportunity Center. He and his wife were also instrumental in organizing free kindergartens, which are now a part of the public school system.


"THE LODGE" is Von Schipmann's representation of the epic poem EVANGELINE, in which Henry Wadsworth Longfellow immortalized the Saginaw River. The poignant love story of Evangeline Bellefontaine and Gabriel Lajeunesse relates the traditional story of the tragic fate of the Acadian village of Grand-Pre and the origin of the Louisiana Cajuns. As depicted by Von Schipmann, Gabriel's "lodge by the banks of the Saginaw River" is envisioned to have been situated on the east bank, opposite the mouth of the Tittabawassee, where a smaller stream (now Lull drain) also converges with the Saginaw River. This location provided the Coureurs-des-Bois easy access for the Indians from the north from whom they purchased furs. Ancient remains of cabins and old artifacts have been found on this location, which is now part of Wickes Park. The old East Saginaw Water Works was just south of Lull drain, where the Naval Reserve Armory now stands. The old Water Works site was previously used by Indians for encampments for trading and meeting. The Rust Park Water Works is situated about a mile downstream from the encampment site.

"THIS is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks, Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight, Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic, Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms. Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest...This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts that beneath it Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman? Scattered like dust and leaves...Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pre. ..Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman's devotion, List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;...Thus to the Gaspereau's mouth moved on that mournful procession...Wives were torn from husbands, and mothers, too late, saw their children left on the land, Extending their arms with wildest entreaties...So unto separate ships were (they) carried, ... From the cold lakes of the north to sultry southern savannas,...But Evangeline's heart was sustained by a vision, that ...beckoned her on Far to the north and east, it is said, in the Michigan forests, Gabriel had his lodge by the banks of the Saginaw River...When over weary ways, by long and perilous marches, She had attained at length the depths of the Michigan Forests, Found she the hunter's lodge deserted and fallen to ruin!...Maidens the evening fire repeat Evangeline's story. While from its rocky caverns the deep-voiced neighboring ocean speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest."

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Architecture of the Water Treatment PlanT

The architect and the engineers who designed the Saginaw Water Works combined their extraordinary talents to erect a facility which is not only beautiful and functional, but versatile in accommodating various methods of treatment. Victor A Matteson of Chicago, was the architect. He was a member of the American Institute of Architects, and the American Water Works Association. Mr. Matteson had accumulated twenty years of experience in designing water plants before he undertook the task for Saginaw. The engineers were the firm of Hoad, Decker, Shoecraft, and Drury. Mr. Matteson's love of beauty was well known. In 1926 he stated-

"The matter of good and bad design . . . is a question of knowledge, ability, and opportunity on the part of the designer, and knowledge on the part of the critic ... Indirectly, it is economic to give the public beautiful, as well as useful things, especially when one considers that of all the money expended on a complete water system, only about twenty-five percent of the total is applied to works above ground and visible."

The exterior of the Saginaw Water Works is designed as an adaptation of Gothic architecture to modern requirements. In designing the plant, the architect gave careful consideration to the site. Most of the pleasing architectural effect is secured by a careful study of mass and proportion, light and shade, and color. The large central tower, which encloses a steel water tank, dominates the group of interconnected structures. Some interesting detail and stone carvings dealing with the history of the site are apparent on the tower, and along the north and east faces of the building. An extension of the Filter Gallery was completed in 1968, duplicating as near as possible, the original structure.

Entering through the Lobby, the Filter Room is apparent to the east, and the Pumping Station balcony to the west. The Filter Room is a lofty gallery lighted by windows above massive aches which separate the gallery from the huge filters on either side. The ceiling of this gallery is designed to give the effect of stained paneled wood, with wooden beams, but actually is fireproof like all the rest of the building. The massive filter operating tables are made of Italian green serpentine marble, topped with polished black marble from Belgium. Small stainless steel consoles hold the instruments and controls. The Pumping Station is a large well-lighted room occupying the entire west side of the front of the building. It is surrounded by an interior balcony which is accessible through a large archway connecting it to the Lobby. The interior of the building was designed in the Gothic style to harmonize with the exterior in both direct and subtle ways. The high arches and ceiling render a spaciousness. The door hardware, chandeliers, and decorative designs in the plaster, as well as the "spider web" reinforcements and arched construction of various steel, roof support beams, are examples of the sensitivity the architect had for his total design.
Interior furnishings include a fountain and pool in the Filter Gallery. Statuary includes "Morning Prayer," by an unknown 18th century French sculptor, and "Peter Pan," which is contemporary. Both of these statues are lead copies of the originals, and embrace the spirit of the Water Works function and design.

The building was completed in 1929, and since that time, has supplied Saginaw with potable water for homes and industry. So pleased was the architect with his work, that two years after designing the structure he used the major features for the Fort Wayne, Indiana, Water Plant; and still later, designed Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Water Plant along similar lines.