Spring Avenue living up to its name

Keeping the spring under Spring Avenue ... Photo above shows the excavated area that reveals part of the underground freshwater spring that has bubbled to the surface in recent years at the intersection of Spring Avenue and First Avenue SW in Waukon. City of Waukon crews and officials have been working to devise a way for the spring water (which can be seen trickling from the far right corner of the excavated area and pooling below) to be diverted through a screened intake into the adjacent storm sewer pipe (shown cut open near the bottom center of the above photo) instead of bubbling its way to the surface and creating puddles in the nearby city streets. Standard photo by Joe Moses.

Photo often referenced regarding Spring Avenue ... Historic reference to the beginning of Spring Avenue has often been made to this photo above taken in 1862, which is actually looking westward up Main Street in Waukon. The Spring Avenue reference is often made due to the images of the cattle in the left foreground of the photo drinking from an open spring at what has been determined to be the beginning of modern day Spring Avenue at its intersection with Main Street. The photo is often referred to as having been printed in the 1913 publication “Past and Present of Allamakee County, 1913” by Ellery M. Hancock. The caption beneath the photo in that 1913 book of history reads: “LOOKING WEST ON MAIN STREET, WAUKON, FUNERAL OF JOHN J. STILLMAN, FIRST BATTLE VICTIM, FEBRUARY, 1862. Shows Presbyterian church with spire, 1858; and just this side the two-story building built in 1853, the second frame building in town; and opposite, to the extreme right, the first frame house built by Shattuck in 1853 (with two chimneys). To the left, one of the big open springs, surrounded by cattle. (From a rare old print).” Photo submitted by Carolyn Clark.

by Lissa Blake

Spring Avenue in Waukon has been living up to its namesake recently as underground water has been bubbling to the surface in recent years that have featured heavy rainfall.

The area where the spring has been causing the most significant issue, within the initial block of First Avenue SW just off its intersection with Spring Avenue, has been cordoned off with barricades for the past couple weeks while City crews and other professionals have assessed the situation and worked on a solution to the problem.

According to City Engineer Lyle TeKippe of Fehr-Graham Engineering, West Union, the City has been struggling with the spot in question since the floods of 2013 that ravaged the downtown Waukon area.

“There’s obviously a spring that runs under the road there. The spring has always been there, but the drainage route that kept that spring from surfacing changed in 2013,” said TeKippe.

TeKippe said City crews have examined the problem and have come up with a solution to divert the water from the underground spring directly into an intake feeding the storm sewer that runs right by the area where the spring has been surfacing.

“We’ve ordered a precast intake bottom which will be covered with a screen. We’ll have to dig the hole a little bigger to take out some additional pipe, and the whole area will be covered with blacktop and a manhole cover,” explained TeKippe.

TeKippe said both the screen and intake are on order and should arrive soon.

“We’ll be stopping over to work with (City of Waukon Water Superintendent) Bob Campbell on the project, but it should be finished by the middle of July,” he said. “We’re confident this fix should divert the stream directly into the storm sewer intake and keep the water from coming to the surface.”

In 2005, Waukon native Joan Leschensky Grosshuesch, who has since passed away in June 2015, contributed a series of articles to The Standard entitled “That’s The Way It Was...” in reflection of growing up in Waukon. She was the daughter of Emil and Clarice Dillenberg Leschensky. Her May 2005 submission mentioned Spring Avenue as follows:

“For a long time I wondered how Spring Avenue in Waukon got its name. I had asked some of my contemporaries if they knew the reason for the name and the best answer that I got was that it carried the water from a spring that originated in the block east of the grade school.

However, I think I have a clue about Spring Avenue. A very early picture in the Allamakee County History book by Ellery Hancock (historical photo accompanying this article provided by local historian Carolyn Clark of rural Waukon) shows an unpaved downtown Waukon.

Several cattle are drinking from a spring right at the head of Spring Avenue.

I seem to have a vague recollection of my mother saying there used to be a watering trough for horses located there at one time. That would have made sense because the spring could have provided the water for the trough. This oblong basin-shaped fixture lay discarded in the weeds of the old hitching yard when I was a child.”

Carolyn Clark also supplied the following additional newspaper clippings in reference to Spring Avenue:

• July 2, 1896 issue of The Graphic (Postville newspaper) under “Waukon Notes”:
“A large drinking fountain for horses has been put in at the head of Spring Avenue and several smaller ones are scattered over the business part of town. Both the stand pipe and mains leak somewhat and will have to be repaired before they are accepted by the council. Work on the pump house is well underway.”
• July 15, 1942 issue of The Postville Herald had an article “Vanishing Rubber” discussing how if the war continues there might not be enough rubber to make car tires:
“Well, if this country does have to return to horse and buggy days, it will do it - if it can get the horses and  buggies. We will have to replace the town watering trough on Spring Avenue at Main Street, put up some hitch racks and all-night parking sheds similar to those used here years ago.”

Clark also shared that another news clipping stated that “In 1941, the horse watering trough was donated to the cemetery to be used as a birdbath or planter,” She noted that information was reported in early July papers so probably happened May or June of that year. That watering trough is, indeed, still in use to hold flowers near the entrance to Oakland Cemetery in Waukon from its Rossville Road/Highways 9 and 76 access point. An engraved sign next to the trough reads “HORSE WATERING TANK SPRING AVENUE.”

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