The island of Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands. It is famous for its active volcano, Mount Teide, which is considered the third-largest in the world.
But here there is also a place that combines a sense of abandonment and breathtaking views: it is the Elevador de aguas de Gordejuela, better known as Casa Hamilton, a pumping station where hydraulic pumps once transported the abundant waters of the Gordejuela springs to hills and banana plantations, located in the extraordinary area by Los Realejos.
This set of ruins, which are definitely part of the industrial archeology of the Spanish volcanic islands, offer the tourist or the modern urban explorers a spectacular view overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
But El Elevador is not just a mass of human settlements, but by virtue of its past use it remains one of the things to see in the Canaries.
Casa Hamilton was built to meet the irrigation needs of the banana plantations that have long excelled in the Orotava valley.
In fact, since the last century, the lack of water of the banana plantations of Tenerife, famous all over the world, began to become a very serious problem for the farmers of the hills, and a solution was thought to transport the water of the Ocean in the hinterland of the island.
Thus was born Casa Hamilton, which takes its name from the English company Hamilton which years earlier had assumed the monopoly of water in the Canary Islands and, in 1902, had embarked on the incredible project of the Elevador.
British engineers identified the ideal location for the new water supply system in the northern part of the island on the coast of Los Realejos at the mouth of the Barranco de Palo Blanco gorge.
At the time, it was considered impossible to erect such a large station at such an extreme point, so a military engineer, don Jose Galvan Callagher, was chosen as the project manager.
Casa Hamilton was inaugurated in 1903 and consisted of two distinct buildings, one above and the other below the cliff. The upper building was connected by a road to transport the coal needed to power the steam pump. A large reservoir was built nearby which could hold up to 12,000 cubic meters of water. Given the grandeur of the structure, Casa Hamilton became the tallest building in Tenerife but also the most expensive: a million Spanish pesetas were invested, a staggering figure even today.
This pumping station was also the site of the first steam engine to be installed in Tenerife since the engine was needed to power the pumps.
Using the power of the engine, water was pumped from the springs at the bottom of the cliff to the top, which stood 200 meters above sea level. After that, the water was further transported to the banana plantations by means of a 12-kilometer aqueduct.
However, the sumptuous engineering work lasted very little, and within about fifteen years it was decommissioned and abandoned: the discovery of electricity and its rapid expansion in industrial and manufacturing environments decreed its condemnation to oblivion. But, as with many abandoned places, today’s tourism brings to light their charm and that eternal sense of victory even over time: in 2019 Casa Hamilton was added to the Roja Canary List, which includes a series of abandoned sites worthy of being visited.
Author’s notes: There is a path leading to the structure from the nearby San Pedro Lookout, and many walking and running trails pass close by. Cars can be parked on the side of the main road.