March 22 is World Water Day!
Since 1993, World Water Day has been used to celebrate water and raise awareness of the billions of people around the world without access to safe water.
Here at Springfield Armory National Historic Site, we are highlighting how water was an integral part of Armory operations since it was first established.
When the armory was established in 1794, it required a significant power source. By the year 1798, two buildings were completed along the mill river, about one mile south of the hill shops. These were known as the water shops.
The water shops were able to harness the reliable flow of the Mill River to turn metal water wheels which powered machines like trip hammers, polishing discs, and grindstones. As time went on and new technologies were invented, the operations at the water shops were updated. The water shops consolidated from three locations to just one to improve efficiency, and they were able to incorporate steam power and eventually electrical power.
The water shops shut down all operation with the closing of the armory in 1968, and the buildings have been converted to a privately owned site. However, visitors are still welcome to view the exterior of the old water shops, which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Though the water shops are no longer actively used to produce firearms for the U.S. Army, the Mill River continues its never-ending flow through Springfield, reminding us of the many ways in which water affects our lives.