Long before the arrival of the first westward explorers in what is now Roanoke, the waters of Crystal Spring contributed to the area’s water supply and industry. It began when Scots-Irish immigrants settled in the region in the mid-1700s, and the Evans family harnessed the waters to power a grist mill. Crystal Spring has played an important part in Roanoke’s history ever since.
In 1889 the Roanoke Water Company, which then owned the Crystal Spring, merged with the Roanoke Gas Company – a public utility that had gas and water mains that reached every business and residence in town. By this time, the spring was pumping out 5 million gallons of water a day.
In 1905, Roanoke Gas and Water purchased a new pump from the Snow Steam Pump Works in Buffalo, NY. The pump was a mechanical marvel of the day, operated by steam powered by coal-fired boilers. You can watch a video of the process used then in the pump house, restored in the 1970s by the Roanoke Valley Bicentennial Commission and the Historical Society of Western Virginia.
The pump house is open noon-4 on Saturday, 1-4 on Sunday. Admission is free. The Pump Station is beside Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital at 2012 South Jefferson Street, Roanoke, VA 24014 (On the corner of Jefferson Street and McClanahan Street). It’s a good opportunity to see the impressive construction with soaring cranes of Carilion’s expansion.