Largest Hand-Dug Water Well in USA
Here at waterseekers, we are interested in documenting some of the great water wells of all time, and this one in Kansas, is certainly worth a visit if Kansas is on your travel itinerary.
The Big Well is a large historic water well in Greensburg, Kansas, United States. It was built in 1887 at a cost of $45,000 to provide water for the Santa Fe and Rock Island railroads, and it served as the municipal water supply until 1932.
It is billed as the world’s largest hand-dug well, at 109 feet (33 m) deep and 32 feet (9.8 m) in diameter.
The Well of Joseph in the Cairo Citadel at 280 feet (85 m) deep and the Pozzo di S. Patrizio (St. Patrick’s Well) built in 1527 in Orvieto, Italy, at 61 metres (200 ft) deep by 13 metres (43 ft) wide are both actually larger.
It was designated a National Museum in 1972; in 1973 it was awarded anAmerican Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association. Under the name of “Greensburg Well,” it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) since 1972.
Visitors entered the well for a small fee, descending an illuminated stairway to the bottom of the well.
Masterpiece of Engineering
Construction of the well is a masterpiece of pioneer engineering. Workers were engaged at sun-up and paid at sun-down, fifty cents to a dollar a day. Crews of 12 to 15 farmers, cowboys, and transients worked using shovels, picks, half barrels, pulleys and ropes. The stone used for the well casing was brought in wagons from the Medicine River 12 miles south of Greensburg, over roads that were little better than cattle trails. Dirt from the well was hauled away by the same wagons which had slatted beds. By opening the slats and dumping the dirt in low spots, streets and roads to the quarry were leveled.
A wide shaft was cribbed and braced every 12 feet with rough two by twelve inch planks that reached from wall to wall in a wagon wheel type support as the digging progressed. This was done for safety of the workers as they shoveled soil into barrels and hoisted the barrels to the surface. The braces were sawed off after the stones were fitted around them. When the desired depth was achieved, numerous lengths of perforated pipe were driven horizontally at the bottom of the wall into the water bearing gravel. This served to increase the flow of water into the well basin.
When the well was completed in 1888, it was 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter. The well was covered and opened as a historic attraction in 1937.
In 1972, the United States Government designated the Big Well as a National Museum and in February of 1974 it was awarded as an American Water Landmark by the American Water Works Association.
Over three million visitors from every state in the nation and many foreign countries have descended the metal stairway into the cavern of the World’s Largest Hand-Dug Well.On January 29, 2008 the Big Well was named one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas awarded by Governor Kathleen Sebelius.
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