Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Connecticut Bridgeport

Bridgeport, Connecticut

Bridgeport was first settled in the 1640s.

The Reverend Elijah Waterman (1769-1825) built the first water system in 1818 using hollowed logs to carry water from his property atop Bridgeport's Golden Hill to a trough on the community's waterfront, providing fresh "running" water to sailors and merchants.  Other wells of good water in the village were owned by Robert Linus and Capt. Stephen Burroughs. It happened, now, at this time, that vessels coming into the harbor were often in need of water and consequently expected to obtain it here. Linus and Burroughs agreed to supply the ships with water, for a certain price per cask. This seemed to Waterman to be an unfair method, so he cleared out his springs and deepened them, then laid wooden pipes, roughly constructed, through Main and Water streets, ending in a trough on the west side of Main at Cannon Street. Upon this trough he erected a sign reading "Public Water.".In 1823 Lewis C. Segee bought out Waterman, enlarged the springs, and continued to supply "public water" until 1848, when he sold out to C. B. Hatch of New York City.

On September 17, 1822 permission was granted to Reuben Tweedy, Smith Tweedy and Lemuel Hubbell to place logs or pipes under the ground for the purpose of carrying water. 

The Bridgeport Golden Hill Aqueduct Company was incorporated in 1833 by Jesse Sterling, Stephen Hawley, Seth B. Jones, Ziba Northrop, Nicholas Northrop, Edwin Porter, and George Kippen for the purpose of "conducting pure and wholesome water into, in, and about the borough of Bridgeport, by means of subterraneous pipes laid along the streets of said borough."

On September 6, 1852 the Borough council "Ordered, That Thaddeus H. Barnes, Charles R. Hatch, their heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, be and they are, hereby authorized to dig and excavate in and through the streets of the city for the purpose of relaying, repairing and extending the pipes connected with their water works on Golden Hill."

On March 7, 1853, Nathaniel Greene presented a petition to the council relative to supplying the city with public water. It was referred to a committee. Greene, who was the agent for the Pequonnock Mills, had a year previous to this time advocated a scheme of pumping water from the pond to a reservoir, thence to conduct it to the people. This committee on April 18th reported resolutions for giving the right of supplying water to Joseph Battin and N. C. Whiting, but the committee of investigation reported unfavorably to this.  On May 5, 1853, the council contracted with Greene, including "the sole and exclusive right subject to the legal rights of any other person or corporations now existing, of laying down pipes in the streets, highways and avenues of said city for supplying the city and inhabitants with water so long as a full and pure supply is furnished."

The Bridgeport Water Company was incorporated in 1853 by Nathaniel Greene, Thatcher T. Payne, Joseph Carpenter, Charles Canda, Jonas W. Thaxter, and James H. Jennings.  This company built a system designed by Daniel Marsh that used cement-lined wrought-iron pipe to distribute water from a reservoir supplied by Factory Pond and Bunnell's Lower Reservoir, formed by an earthen dam on the Pequonnock River.  The dam collapsed in a storm in February 1854 and company treasurer Jonas W. Thaxter died on March 1st.  By 1855 the company had defaulted on its bonds and fallen into foreclosure.

The surviving company was incorporated as the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company in 1857 by William S. Knowlton, Nathaniel Greene, J. H. Washburn, Joseph Richardson and Nathan Stevens, who acquired all of the rights of the Bridgeport Water Company.  In March, 1873, Phineas T. Barnum (of circus fame) offered $300,000 for the water company.  Two months later the legislature gave the city permission to purchase the system in 1873, but voters turned it down on August 13, 1873 by twenty-seven votes, and again on November 3, 1873 by a margin of two hundred and twenty-three.  Barnum, who was elected mayor of Bridgeport in 1875 for a one-year term, was also president of the Hydraulic Company for some time. 

The Citizens Water Company of Bridgeport was incorporated in 1886 by Henry N. Beardsley, James Staples, Dr. I. DeVer Warner, E. C. Bassick, Alonzo J. Beardsley, Charles B. Hotchkiss, John L. Wessels, B. H. Hull, Charles A. Read, D. F. Hollister., Wheeler Beers, William F. Pinkham, Emory F. Strong, William F. Bishop, John N. Near, William R. Palmer, Frank Armstrong, Benjamin Root, F. A. Bartram, William R. Hinkley, and Charles A. Hotchkiss, for the purpose "of supplying pure water for public, domestic, and manufacturing purposes to the town and city of Bridgeport, and the borough of West Stratford, and town of Fairfield."  Barnum was also involved in this company, which laid pipes in West Stratford but a lawsuit by the Hydraulic Company stymied their work in the city of Bridgeport.  The Connecticut Supreme Court of Errors decided in favor of the Hydraulic Company based on the language of the 1853 contract, and the two companies merged shortly thereafter.

In 1968, the Hydraulic Company was formed as a holding company for the Bridgeport Hydraulic company, which it acquired the following year, and non-water utility businesses.  In 1991, the Hydraulic Company changed its name to Aquarion Company.  Aquarion was acquired by the Kelda Group in England in 2000 for $596 million.  In 2007 Kelda sold Aquarion to Australia's Macquarie Bank for $860 million.

Water service in the City of Bridgeport is currently provided by the Aquarion Water Company of Connecticut

1833 Resolve incorporating Bridgeport Golden Hill Aqueduct Company, May 1833.  Capital stock $10,000.

1853  An act incorporating the Bridgeport Water Company, May 1853.  Capital stock $200,000, may be increased to $300,000.

1857 An act to incorporate the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company, May 1857. Capital stock $200,000, may be increased to $300,000.

1869 Springfield Republican, August 26, 1869, Page 4
The Bridgeport water company, which has once escaped popular annihilant-indignation by fair promises to furnish the city with pure water, still continues to choke the people with bugs, newts, snails, rotten wood and a slimy and horrible fluid for their beverage.

1873 New London Democrat, March 29, 1873, Page 2
P. T. Barnum says he will give $300,000 for the Bridgeport water works.

1873 An act amending the charter of the city of Bridgeport, July 2, 1873.  Authorized the city to purchase the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company.

1883 Bridgeport, from Engineering News 10:39 (January 27, 1883)

1886 Incorporating the Citizens Water Company of Bridgeport, March 16, 1886

1886 Springfield Republican, May 3, 1886, Page 7
P. T. Barnum, for the past four years president of the Bridgeport hydraulic company, has unloaded his entire stock in the company and Saturday resigned the presidency.  W. D. Bishop succeeds him.

1886 "The Hydraulic Company," A History of the Old Town of Stratford and the City Bridgeport, Connecticut, Volume 2, Samuel Orcutt, Fairfield County Historical Society, Bridgeport, Conn

1887 The Citizens' Water Company of Bridgeport vs. the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company, Supreme Court of Errors, State of Connecticut, decided February 25, 1887

1887 "The New Water Works at Bridgeport, Conn," from Engineering News 17:230 (April 9, 1887)

1888 The Life of P. T. Barnum: Written by Himself, Including His Golden Rules for Money-making. Brought Up to 1888, by Phineas Taylor Barnum
Page 355: The corporation known as the "Bridgeport Hydraulic Company," of which I was president, was unable, in consequence of the rapid growth of the city, to furnish that "abundant supply of pure water" which its charter required, without obtaining it from some other source than the Pequonnock River.
By acquiring the rights of Mill River, a stream of great volume and purity, and bringing it through very large pipes some eight miles into the city, Bridgeport has now a water-power whose natural force throws a stream over the tops of its highest buildings, and thus renders the use of fire engines unnecessary. This great blessing will largely enhance the growth and prosperity of our beautiful and thrifty city.

1888 "Bridgeport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1890 "Bridgeport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Bridgeport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1897 "Bridgeport," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1897 "Bridgeport's Water Supply", The Standard's History of Bridgeport, by George Curtis Waldo

1917 "First Water Pipes" and "Water and Light," History of Bridgeport and Vicinity, Volume 1, George Curtis Waldo

1921 "A Description of the Water Works of the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company," by Samuel P. Senior, Journal of the New England Water Works Association 35:309-317 (December, 1921)

2007 Aquarion Company from International Directory of Company Histories on

2013 "The role of Bridgeport Hydraulic Company" by Tom Spurr, Easton Historical Society, Easton Courier (May 20, 2013)

2015 Morris A. Pierce