The Overholser Dam was built in 1917 and 1918 to impound water from the North Canadian River west of Oklahoma City.
By 1910 the City's population was at 32,000, a growing meatpacking industry was in place, and the City had been newly designated as the state capital.
From the Land Run forward, Oklahoma City had depended on raw water from the North Canadian and a handful of water wells. But it was now clear to City leaders that wells would not produce enough water to satisfy the needs of future growth.
A rail spur was run out to the dam site to
carry construction materials.
In 1913, the United States Reclamation Service (now the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation) recommended a dam and reservoir be built upriver from the City. USRS Director F.H. Newell visited the City and pointed out to civic leaders that Denver and Dallas had both recently begun projects to build reservoirs.
In 1916, under the leadership of Mayor Ed Overholser, citizens voted $1.5 million in bonds – about $26 million in today's dollars – to build the dam and reservoir at a location that was then eight miles west of town.
July, 1917: A foreman (circled)
supervises construction of huge
wooden forms into which concrete
will be poured.
The dam is 62 feet high and 1,258 feet long. It was built by the Ambursen Construction Company of New York in a style developed by engineer Niles Ambursen, using concrete buttresses to support a slab of concrete that holds back the water.
Today, Lake Overholser is a 'backup' reservoir, tapped during the summer to meet the increased seasonal demand.
The dam was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.