Sitting on the bank of the Chicago River adjoining Ronan Park is a handsome building that could easily be mistaken for the park’s field house. The graceful art deco structure appears quite elegant and inviting, particularly when viewed from the nearby Lawrence Avenue bridge.
A walk around to the other side of the building reveals its true purpose—it is a sewage pumping station. It was built by the Sanitary District of Chicago in 1929 to meet the increasing need for water in the neighboring Lincoln Square and Albany Park communities.
Currently, the station is used to pump raw sewage northward to the North Side Water Reclamation Plant, which is located at Howard Street. All sewage from the area bounded by Lake Michigan, Fullerton Avenue, Clark Street, and Howard Street drains through the Lawrence sewer to this facility. During heavy thunderstorms, extra pumps are deployed to pump excess sewage and water to the river through the arches.
The graceful interior of the facility comes as a bit of a surprise, given its humble function. The beautiful architectural detail is still very well preserved, though it’s unlikely that many people get the opportunity to see and appreciate it.