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Mount Tabor Reservoirs Historic Restoration Projects

In this historical black and white photo, construction workers climb and pose on the rebar supports at Mount Tabor Reservoir.
We’re repairing and rebuilding features of the historic Mount Tabor reservoirs. This work began in November 2017 and continues today.
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In 1894, the City of Portland built two open-air reservoirs at Mount Tabor Park. By 1911, two more open-air reservoirs were constructed due to Portland’s rapidly growing eastside population. Reservoirs on the slopes of Mount Tabor formed a major part of Portland’s water system for more than a hundred years, storing much of the city’s drinking water.

In 2015, Mount Tabor’s original uncovered reservoirs were disconnected from the drinking water system to comply with state and federal drinking water regulations. Since the Mount Tabor reservoirs are no longer connected to the water system, the cost for maintenance and repairs must come out of the City’s general fund rather than the funds the Water Bureau collects from ratepayers. In response to the disconnection, City Council passed Resolution 37146, dedicating $4 million to preservation and calling on the Water Bureau and the Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association to work together on priorities.

Related reports:

Historic picture of Mount Tabor Reservoir 1 taken in 1894 during its construction.
Historic photo of Reservoir 1 being constructed, taken in 1894

Projects up next (2024-25)

We started repairing and rebuilding historic features in November 2017. Projects are ongoing today. See below for details about what we’ve done so far and what’s next.

Interpretive sign program

As part of the reservoirs’ disconnection from Portland’s drinking water supply, the Water Bureau agreed to create interpretive displays honoring Mount Tabor’s important role in the city’s water system. The Water Bureau is working with Portlanders, as well as with the Native American Community Advisory Council, to design interpretive displays that will tell the story of these historic reservoirs.

Light fixture restoration on Reservoir 5 

The 100-year-old light fixtures that were once part of the fences around the reservoirs are being restored. This project should be finished in 2024.  

Historic picture of Mount Tabor Reservoir 5 taken in 1910 during its construction.
Historic photo of Reservoir 5 being constructed, taken in 1910

Previous preservation work

2024: Reservoir 6 refilled

After finding evidence of voids beneath the concrete of Reservoir 6 in 2021, the Water Bureau performed a full ground-penetrating radar (GPR) analysis to identify necessary repairs. In 2022, the extent of the voids was determined, and planning began to repair the reservoir in a cost-effective manner. The Water Bureau started construction on Reservoir 6 in winter 2023–2024. Construction is expected to conclude in spring 2024. Once the concrete rests the appropriate amount of time, the reservoir will be refilled. 

2023: Gatehouse repairs

Repairs were made to wooden components of the windows and doors on Gatehouses 1 and 5.

2022: Structural repairs

The Water Bureau performed a full GPR analysis to identify necessary repairs after finding evidence of voids beneath the concrete of Reservoir 6. Reservoir 1 was surveyed using the same technology and repairs were made as necessary. Because Reservoir 1 is smaller, repairs were much less extensive than those needed at Reservoir 6.  

Areas of Reservoir 5’s liner were repaired. This liner lowers the likelihood of voids forming by preventing water from seeping through the concrete and eroding the ground underneath.

2021: Roofing repairs

Carlson Roofing repaired the roofs of structures at all three reservoirs.

2020: Historic fencing restoration

In the summer of 2020, the Water Bureau hired a skilled blacksmith, Berkley Tack, to repair the historic ironwork fencing around Reservoirs 5 and 6. The blacksmith restored the wrought iron fencing, tapered tower light posts, and decorative scroll work. 

Blacksmith brings back a Rose City classic at Mt. Tabor Reservoirs

2019: Structural repairs 

To protect the structural integrity of Reservoir 1, the existing reservoir surface was cleaned, failed concrete was replaced, and voids were filled using concrete.

Concrete repairs were made to parapet walls at Reservoirs 5 and 6 and to Reservoir 5’s hypochlorite building.

2018: Concrete, roof, and fencing restoration

Concrete restoration work was performed on the basin and walls of Reservoirs 1 and 6. The weir building near Reservoir 1 was re-roofed. Concrete work on Gatehouse 5 was completed. The dam face fencing and the stairs near Reservoir 5 were restored.

Historic picture of Mount Tabor Reservoir 5 taken in 1911 during its construction.
Historic photo of Reservoir 5 being constructed, taken in 1911