Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Connecticut New Haven

New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven was first settled in 1638.

At a Town Meeting in New Haven in 1804, it was proposed that an aqueduct should be constructed to supply the city with water.  A charter was obtained from the state legislature in October, 1804, which unusually allowed the city to construct and own the works, or it could assign the right to an outside party, which would be known as the "New Haven Aqueduct Company."  Noah Webster was placed in charge of the aqueduct committee and advertisements were placed in local newspapers in December, 1804 and January, 1805.  No further evidence on this early attempt has been found, and Mr. Webster published his first dictionary in 1806.

An 1811 account of New Haven notes that "There is an aqueduct in this town; the commencement of which is unknown, as well as its origin.  It empties a sprightly stream into the East creek, on the south side of Fair street, just below State street."  Nothing more is known about this aqueduct.

The New Haven Water Company was incorporated in 1849 by Henry Peck, Ezra C. Read, Henry Hotchkiss, James Brewster, and Wooster Hotchkiss "for the purpose of supplying the city of New Haven with pure water, for public and domestic use."  In June, 1852 the city was authorized to contract with the company and buy its stock, but that same month a city meeting voted to appoint a committee "to inquire and report the most feasible method of supplying the city with water for the extinguishment of fires and other purposes."  The committee's report was issued in February, 1853 and included proposals from three engineers" Alexander Caitlin Twining, from New Haven; Joseph Battin, who built numerous gas and water works; and Jonathan Ball, who had patented cement-lined wrought-iron pipe that was used in many water systems and constructed several as well.  The report was accepted by the city and approved by local voters, and an amendment to the city charter was obtained establishing a board of water commissioners.  The commissioners entered into a contract to buy land for a reservoir from Eli Whitney (1820-1895, son of the famous inventor) for $50,000.  A report in 1854 identified four options" Mill River by water power, with an occasional aid of steam power; Quinnipiac by water power; Pile River by natural head; and Furmill River by natural head. 

Despite the earlier votes and conclusions of the reports, opposition grew and a vote in 1854 overturned the original approval.  Whitney sued for performance of the contract, but lost, although the city paid substantial legal fees.

In 1856 the charter rights were sold to Whitney, who commenced construction in 1860 despite local opposition and the water was turned on January 1, 1862.  The Water Company and the City entered into an agreement for fire hydrants and other services, with a proviso that the city could buy the works after twenty years.  Voters turned down that proposition as well, and the company expanded to serve other communities in the area.  Advocates of public ownership were finally successful more than a century later.

The New Haven Water Company fought off an attempt by Benjamin Noyes and John Osborn to form the Mountain Water Company to compete with them in New Haven.  The two men then became involved with the Fair Haven Water Company, which was incorporated in 1861 to serve the village of Fair Haven, but tried several times to secure authority to serve New Haven before gaining the legislature's approval in 1867.  The New Haven company began service to Fair Haven in 1865 and the two companies merged in 1876.  The New Haven Water Company expanded during the early 20th Century, serving several adjacent communities.

Water service in New Haven is provided by the South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority, which was formed in 1977 and acquired the New Haven Water Company on August 26, 1980.

References
1804 An Act authorizing an Aqueduct in the city of New- Haven, October, 1804

1804 Connecticut Herald, December 18, 1804, Page 3.  Republished several times in this paper and the Connecticut Journal in December 1804 and January 1805.
The Major, Aldermen, Common Council & Freemen of the City of New-Haven, being authorized by Law, to conduct water into the City, by means of subterraneous Pipes, for the use of the citizens and the prevention of injuries by Fire--of it they deem it expedient to assign their right--
With a view to accomplish the object, the subscribers are authorized in behalf of the City to receive proposals--
I.  Such persons as are desirous to obtain an Assignment of the grant, are requested to transmit or communicate proposals, on what terms they will receive the same; they will be pleased to specify the source from which they would conduct the water--the materials with which, and the manner in which they would conduct the Aqueduct.
II.  Such person or persons as are desirous to contract to accomplish the object, and be answerable for its execution for a stipulated period, are requested to state the source from which the water may be most conveniently drawn--the materials which which--the manner in which, and the price at which they will undertake to conduct a supply of water from the Fountain to the Public Square--
Proposals of the above nature will be received for the term of two months, after which time, no proposals will be received; but an assignment will be made, or a contract entered into, in case the terms are such as to render either measure expedient. ELIZUR GOODRICH, Mayor, Henry Daggett, Joseph Darling, Simon Baldwin, Isaac Mills, Aldermen, City of New-Haven, December 11, 1804

1811 "A Statistical Account of the City of New-Haven, July 6, 1811," A statistical account of the towns and parishes in the state of Connecticut.
Page 5:  There is an aqueduct in this town; the commencement of which is unknown, as well as its origin.  It empties a sprightly stream into the East creek, on the south side of Fair street, just below State street.

1849 Incorporating the New Haven Water Company, May 1849

1851 Amending the Charter of the New Haven Water Company. May session, 1851.

1852 An Act relating to the City of New Haven, June 24, 1852.

1853 An Act to alter the Charter of the City of New Haven, to provide the means for the extinguishment of fires therein, and for supplying its inhabitants with pure Water, June 29, 1853.

1853 Report of the Committee on Supplying Water, for the City of New Haven, February 10, 1853. | also at archive.org

1854 Report of the Board of Water Commissioners of the City of New Haven, February 21, 1854.

1854 An act in addition to an act, entitled "An act to alter the charter of the city of New Haven, to provide the means for the extinguishment of fires therein and for supplying its inhabitants with pure water." June 30, 1854.

1855 Whitney vs. City of New Haven, from Connecticut Reports: Containing Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of Errors, Volume 23, 1856

1856 Altering Charter of the New Haven Water Company, May session, 1856.  Increased capital stock to $450,000.

1857 Amending charter of the New Haven Water Company, May session, 1857.  Company "authorized to change the line or bed of such highway or highways as they may deem necessary or convenient for the construction of their reservoir or reservoirs."

1860 Resolution Amending the charter of the New Haven Water Company.  June 23, 1860.

1862 "Closing of the 'Water War'," Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), February 22, 1862, Page 2.

1862 City Year Book for the City of New Haven: Containing Lists of the Officers of the City Government; Address of His Honor the Mayor; Annual Reports of City Departments and Other Public Documents.
"Water Contract Negotiations," May and October, 1861
"Water Contract" February 7, 1862
"City Reservoirs and Wells", 1862

1862 "Water Works," from The American annual cyclopedia and register of important events: Embracing political, civil, military, and social affairs: public documents; biography, statistics, commerce, finance, literature, science, agriculture, and mechanical industry, Volume 2.  Pages 807-808 include detailed information on the 1862 water works.

1863 The First Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, February 12, 1863.

1863 Amending the Charter of the New Haven Water Company.  June 10, 1863.  Authorized to issue a total of $200,000 in bonds.

1864 The Second Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1864.

1865 The Third Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1865.

1865 "Water in Fair Haven," Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), October 7, 1865, Page 3.
September 30. The New Haven Water Company have connected their main pipes with those in Fair Haven, through Grand street, thus giving the citizens of that flourishing village an abundant supply of water for years to come.  A trail was made to-day, by attaching a hose to a hydrant, at the corner of Grand and Ferry streets, from which the water was thrown one hundred feet, through a 1 inch opening.  The hose was then attached to a hydrant at the corner of Grand and Front streets, and a stream thrown on the top of Todd's four-story building, more than fifty feet high, from a distance of fifty feet from its base.  This result was highly satisfactory to all concerned.

1866 The Fourth Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1866.

1866 Amending the Charter of the New Haven Water Company.  June 30, 1866.  Allowed the company to serve East Haven.

1867 The Fifth Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1867.

1867 Norwich Aurora, May 15, 1867, Page 2.
About forty men at work for the Water Company in New Haven, who were working for $1.80 per day, struck for $2 last Friday.  Their demands were refused, when they quite work.

1867 Springfield Republican, September 4, 1867, Page 8.
New Haven voted, Monday, 2978 to 116, to allow the Fair Haven water company to supply the city with water, but most of the opponents to the measure, believing the town meeting to be illegal, did not vote, and will fight the matter out in the courts.

1868 The Sixth Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1868.

1869 The Seventh Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1869.

1870 The Eighth Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1870.

1870 The Hartford Courant, October 3, 1870, Page 4.
The Fair Haven water company, that a few weeks since connected its reservoir with that of the New Haven company, has now given notice that it can furnish no more water for that city.  Consequently, New Haven is worse off then ever for water.

1871 The Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1871.

1871 Amending the Charter of the New Haven Water Company.  June 2, 1861.  Capital stock increased to $1 million, may issue bonds up to $500,000, not to exceed half of the sum actually expended on the works.

1872 The Tenth Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1872.

1873 The Eleventh Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1873.

1874 The Twelfth Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the New Haven Water Company, January 1, 1874.

1876 Amending the Charter of the New Haven Water Company.  June 22, 1876.  Board of directors to consist of nine persons.

1880 Authorizing the New Haven Water Company to Increase its Capital Stock.  March 19, 1880.  To $1.5 million.

1881 An act amending the charter of the city of New Haven, and the New Haven Water Company.  April 14, 1881.  City may purchase water company.

1881 "New Haven" from Engineering News 9:372 (September 17, 1881)

1881 "The New Haven Water Question," Hartford Courant, November 3, 1881, Page 4.
Valuation set at $808,035.02, no included stock issued to purchase Fair Haven Water Company.

1882 Amending the charter of the New Haven Water Company.  March 22, 1882.  Obligates contract of December 15, 1881.

1882 New Haven, from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

1886 The Republic of New Haven: A History of Municipal Evolution, by Charles Herbert Levermore
Page 244:  The supply of water furnished another troublesome question. A proposition to build an aqueduct was first debated in City-Meeting in 1804. Two years later, the consent of the General Assembly was received, and a committee, headed by Noah Webster, was elected to manage the construction of an aqueduct. But poverty prevented the successful termination of this effort, and compelled the city to tolerate the inefficient service of creeks and wells. Unavailing were all endeavors to improve the quantity and quality of the water in the East Creek.
Pages 268-269:  The services which the water in the Canal had occasionally rendered in extinguishing fires probably emphasized the idea, in 1850, of a contract with the New Haven Water Company for a sufficient supply of water at all times for such purposes. This led to negotiations in 1852 for the purchase of the water-works by the city. A vote in 1852 to buy the water-works was immediately succeeded by a counter-agitation, which was successful in the next year. The water-supply was abandoned to the care of the private projectors, but the subject was not laid away to rest before 1856, and ended in successful lawsuits against the city. The City-Meetings held to decide the matter were tumultuous, and were open to suspicions of chicanery. The tellers were unable to count the votes, and the Mayor was unable to preserve order.

1887 "The Water Supply," from  History of the city of New Haven to the present time, Edward E. Atwater
Page 448: The water supply furnished a vexatious question. In 1804 it was proposed in city meeting that an aqueduct should be built. Two years later the consent of the General Assembly was received, and a committee, headed by Noah Webster, was appointed to manage the construction of the aqueduct. But poverty prevented the successful termination of their labors. The city stumbled along with what aid it could get from creeks and wells until the formation of a water company. Unavailing efforts were made to improve the quantity and quality of the water in the East Creek, and during the first few years of this century a small sewer was laid in Chapel street.
Page 449: From 1850 to 1852, the problem of a water supply demanded solution. The proposal of a contract with the New Haven Water Company led to a city vote in 1850 to buy the water- works for the city. A counter agitation was begun, and city meetings were frequent and disorderly. The number of voters was so great that the Mayor could not control the assemblage, and the tellers could not agree in their enumeration. In 1853 it was finally decided that the vote of the previous year was rescinded, but the matter lingered until 1856, and ended in lawsuits which cost the city between fifteen and twenty thousand dollars. It was probably this unhappy experience that fortunately induced the abolition of the city meeting.
Page 472:  In August, 1858, an agreement was made between the City of New Haven and the New Haven Water Company for supplying the city with water for fire purposes, at the annual rental of $4,000, for a term of twenty years. ... Water for the Fire Department use was not successfully introduced until the summer of 1862, when post fire-hydrants with two openings and a four-inch valve were set, which afforded a good supply of water.

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

1888 History of the Town of Hamden, Connecticut: With an Account of the Centennial Celebration, June 15th, 1886, by William Phipps Blake
Pages 99-102:  New Haven Water Company.

1889 Increasing the Capital Stock of the New Haven Water Company.  March 9, 1889.  Limit increased to $2 million.

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

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

1892 New Haven, Connecticut USGS quandrangle map.  Shows New Haven, Fair Haven, and reservoirs.

1892 History of New Haven County, Connecticut, Volume 1, edited by John L. Rockey
Page 124:  The question of an exterior water supply was long agitated as a sanitary measure, necessitated by the rapidly increasing population, and in 1849 the New Haven Water Company was chartered to serve this need. The company failing to build works, the charter was amended to permit the city to construct them, and from 1852 to 1854 the project was before the public for its approval. The propositions were defeated, and in 1856 the old company assigned its charter to Eli Whitney and others, who reorganized the company, and, largely through Mr. Whitney's efforts, the work of construction was begun in the spring of 1860.
The old dam at Whitneyville was made the base for the works, and was raised to afford an immense reservoir.  The works were completed at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars, and water was first introduced into the 18 miles of mains laid January 1st, 1862. That year the city made a contract with the company for its water supply for twenty years for the use of the fire department, with privilege to purchase the works at the close of that time. But a proposition to that end was defeated by the citizens of New Haven, and the city has since procured its water supply from the above company at an outlay of $16,000 per year.
The company has added to its original source of supply at Mill river, the waters of Maltby lake, in the northwestern part of the city, Saltonstall lake, in the town of East Haven, and the West river above Westville, in the town of Woodbridge. The summer resources of these four places of supply are 1,530,000,000 gallons daily. Over one hundred miles of mains are now in use, and the daily consumption of water is more than 9,000,000 gallons. The pumping capacity of the works is nearly double that daily, and the water in the various reserve reservoirs measure 6,000,000 gallons. In the extent of supply and the quality of the water used but few places in the country surpass this city.
Page 322:  The New Haven Water Company was incorporated in 1849, but failing to construct the works the charter was assigned to Eli Whitney, who organized the company, and in 1860 the construction of the works was commenced. The dam at Whitneyville was raised to the height of 35 feet, with a total length of 500 feet, and built in the most substantial manner. On Sachem's hill, a distributing reservoir, with a capacity for 10.000,000 gallons was constructed, with which 18 miles of distributing mains were connected. On the second of December. 1861, the pumps of the company, at the dam, which have a capacity for 6,000,000 gallons daily, were set to work, and January 1st, 1862, the water was introduced into the distributing mains. Since that time these water works have been much improved.
On the northeast slope of the West Rock hills is a small sheet of water called Wintergreen lake, which lies 240 feet above tide water. In 1863 John Osborn gathered these waters into a reservoir of 60 acres, and they have been utilized as another source of New Haven's supply. In 1877 the property passed to the New Haven Water Company, which has since managed it in the interest of the city.

1894 Charters of the New Haven and Fair Haven Water Companies with the amendments also the by-laws as revised, amended and adopted September 27th and October 12th, 1893.

1895 Concerning the New Haven Water Company and the Fair Haven Water Company.  March 12, 1895.  Allowed the Fair Haven Water Company to be merged into the New Haven Water Company.

1897 Amending the charter of the New Haven Water Company.  April 5, 1897.  Capital stock increased to $3 million.

1897 Amending the charter of the New Haven Water Company.  April 23, 1897.  Authorized service to the town of Branford.

1897 Amending the charter of the New Haven Water Company.  May 13, 1897.  State board of health may regulate or prohibit fishing and/or skating on lakes, ponds, streams, or reservoirs of company.

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

1899 New Haven Water Co. v Borough of Wallingford, 72 Conn. 293, 44 Atl. 235, October 5, 1899, Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut.

1900 Site Plan of New Haven Water Company

1902 "Contract between the city of New Haven and the New Haven Water Company," February 17, 1902, from City Year Book for the City of New Haven for 1902.  Includes schedule of rates.

1903 Amending the charters of the City of New Haven and the New Haven Water Company.  June 1, 1903.  Obligates contract of February 17, 1902.

1905 Amending the charter of the New Haven Water Company.  June 22, 1905.  Authorizes company to serve towns of Bethany, Woodbridge, Cheshire, Hamden, North Haven, Prospect, North Branford, Milford, and Branford.

1905 The Scranton Republican, December 13, 1905, Page 6.
One of the items of expense in Yale college is drinking water.  Not everyone knows that the students have to buy every class of water that they consume, and the annual cost average fifty cents a week.  Such a thing as drinking the town water supply is not thought of.

1906 Report on the financial affairs of the New Haven Water Company, New Haven, Conn. January 1, 1906, National Civic Federation 

1907 Charters of the New Haven, Fair Haven, and West Haven water companies with the amendments. Also a historical sketch of the New Haven Water Company and its by-laws as adopted April 4, 1907.

1907 Amending the charter of the New Haven Water Company.  July 27, 1907.  Authorized to take water from Ten Mile Brook.

1910 "Water Supplies Low Throughout Connecticut," Municipal Journal and Engineer 29:854 (December 21, 1910)
The New Haven Water Company, whose reservoirs are low, has purchased the Mt. Carmel Water Company, and will combine that supply with its system, supply the Mt. Carmel district by a main from its present reservoirs.

1910 Report of the New Haven Civic Improvement Commission: Cass Gilbert, architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect, to the New Haven Civic Improvement Committee, New Haven, December, 1910.  Several references to the New Haven Water Company and the advantages of municipal ownership.

1913 A Working Plan for the Woodlands of the New Haven Water Company: Prepared After Five Years of Forest Practice, 1908 to 1912, by Ralph Chipman Hawley

1916 "Raising and Lengthening of the Spillway of Lake Whitney Dam and the Drainage of Pine Swamp," by Orson H. Marchant, Papers and Transactions for 1916 and Proceedings of the Thirty-Third Annual Meeting of the Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers

1918 A Modern History of New Haven and Eastern New Haven County, Volume 1, Everett Gleason Hill
Pages 242-243:  The New Haven Water Company was incorporated in 1849, by New Haven men, to serve the city with water. It has been conducted so honestly and ably that it stands for all the country as one of the best arguments against the public ownership of utilities of this sort. Eli Whitney is its president and treasurer, and has for many years been in large measure its genius, though the company owes much of its standing to the able management of David Daggett, who was its secretary for many years previous, to his death in 1916. From eight great reservoirs, holding in the aggregate three billions of gallons of water, the company serves now the needs of New Haven, East Haven, Hamden, Branford, Milford. West Haven and some contiguous territory. Its high pressure service is from the pumping stations near Whitney and Saltonstall lakes, from which the higher ground in its territory is supplied. The other service reservoirs feed by the gravity system, but some of the largest are storage reservoirs. In addition to the two lakes mentioned, water comes from Wintergreen and Maltby lakes, from Fair Haven, and the three reservoirs in Woodbridge, Sperry, Dawson, and newest of all, Lake Watrous, partly in Woodbridge and partly in Bethany. The company's authorized capital is $5,000,000.

1965 New Haven Water Co. v New Haven, 152 Conn. 563, May 4, 1965, Supreme Court of Connecticut

1993 "Organization as Artifact: A Study of Technical Innovation and Management Reform, 1893-1906," by Peter Dobkin Hall, from The Mythmaking Frame of Mind Social Imagination and American Culture, edited by James Burkhart Gilbert, Amy Gilman, Donald M. Scott, and Joan W. Scott.

1996 Who Wants to Buy a Water Company?: From Private to Public Control in New Haven, by by Dorothy S. McCluskey and Claire C. Bennitt. McClusky was a state representative who push hard (and successfully) for public ownership.   Bennitt served as the Chairman of South Central Connecticut Regional Water Authority.

1997 "Partnerships Protect Watersheds: The Case of the New Haven Water Company," by Dorothy S. McCluskey and and Claire C. Bennitt,  Land Lines 9(1) (January 1997)

2003 New Haven Water Company The fountain around the Memorial Flagpole commemorates 150 years of service by the New Haven Water Company founded by Eli Whitney. The first water was brought to the Green from Lake Whitney on January 1, 1862 in order to provide fresh water for drinking and fire protection to the City of New Haven.

2011 "RWA Renames Recreational Program for Claire Bennitt," By Pam Johnson Sound Senior Staff Writer, Published January 06, 2011.

New Haven Water Company records, 1787-1965 are held by the New Haven Museum.

"Chronological Development of the New Haven Water Company"


2015 Morris A. Pierce