The PumpHouse Riverside Restaurant and Bar is constructed on a site that has a colorful history. Title to the property passed from Republic of Texas (the deed was signed by none other than Sam Houston) to the Township of Victoria in the mid 1800’s. Title remained in the City’s name until March 17, 2010 when ownership passed to the current owners.
The best source we have found for the history of the PumpHouse is printed in Vignettes of Old Victoria, by Sidney R. Weisinger. It appears that the original old boiler house was frame construction, built in 1884. This building was destroyed by fire – arson was suspected but no arrests were made. The earliest photo we have is credited to 1909.
The original brick building (now the bar area of the restaurant) was built of brick cooked on the site. Water for the township was pumped from the river, untreated, to the standpipe that stood on DeLeon Plaza (present site of the gazebo) and then out to the citizens of Victoria.
The use of river water was discontinued about 1908 when artesian wells were drilled on the site. The large underground storage tank had a wooden roof. The source of fuel in these early years was “Beaumont” oil, hauled from the freight yards at Commercial and Wheeler in a small tank wagon.
In 1926 and 1936, new buildings were constructed on each side of the small brick building. Two boilers, a large pump and a steam engine to run the pumps were added. Mr. Noonie Fox and Gus Hoffman ran the Pump House, riding to work in a buggy, working 12 hour days, 7 days a week. Both of these engineers served for 40 years or more at the Pump House.
In addition to their official duties, providing water service to Victoria, according to Weisinger, "These engineers raised several generations of Victoria boys who spent much time around the river and the pump house. These men acted as unofficial lifeguards. There came a time that the ladies went along the banks of the river near the plant. This caused the city council to ban naked swimming at the pump house, and another chore was added to the long list of jobs at the station. The engineers were ordered to see that the boys wore bathing suits."
"There have been many changes down on the end of Stayton Street. All of the old steam boilers have been removed and sent to the scrap pile. The large steam pumps from the old pit are gone, the pit filled in and concreted over to make a level floor. Gone is the steam engine with the big, belt wheels ….the men at the plant are no longer called engineers, but are operators. All of these changes were bound to come with changing times and conditions."
In 2010, after having received bids of $250,000 to demolish the buildings and fill the old water storage tank, the Victoria City Council found a couple to save this part of Victoria’s history. Louise and Dennis Patillo were the high (and only!) bidders when the property was offered for sale. A major restoration effort was begun, resulting in the rebirth of this historic property as a popular restaurant/bar, offering unparalleled vistas of the Guadalupe River.