|Introduction||Historical Background||Chronology||Geography||Biography||Technology||Ownership and Financing||General Bibliography|
New Orleans was founded in 1718.
New Orleans Mayor John Watkins saw the need for a public water supply and in 1806 wrote Julian Poydras, the Territory's representative in Congress, asking him to contact Benjamin Latrobe about developing a system similar to the one Latrobe had built in Philadelphia. Latrobe dismissed the idea until President Thomas Jefferson mentioned the subject to Latrobe when both men were attending the trial of Aaron Burr in Richmond in August 1807. Latrobe had previously received a contract to build a Custom House in New Orleans for the federal government, for which he had sent his friend Robert Alexander to oversee construction. Latrobe corresponded with Territorial Governor William C. C. Claiborne about securing a corporate charter from the territorial legislature, which Latrobe estimated would "furnish water to two thousand houses at twenty dollars each per year." Alexander's efforts to secure such a charter were unsuccessful due to opposition from French interests. In the meantime the City of New Orleans granted a water franchise to Louis Gleise in May 1810. Gleise is said by several historians as having built a system, but his 1810 franchise became invalid if his system was not completed within one year, and the city awarded an exclusive franchise to Benjamin Latrobe in May 1811.
Latrobe sent his son Henry to New Orleans in late 1810 to secure a franchise from that city. Henry, who was fluent in French, was successful in securing a franchise in April, 1811, which anticipated a steam-powered pumping station sited on a vacant lot adjacent to Latrobe's Custom House, defined by Bienville, Custom House, and Levee streets and the high road. The federal government proved to own the property and Congress would not consider transferring it. Henry returned to New Orleans in February, 1812 and secured a lot bounded by Ursuline, St. Phillips, and Levee streets. He received bids for construction of the building on March 20, 1812 The building would house a steam engine to pump water from the Mississippi river into six elevated wooden casks, whose capacity is not known. He and his father spent several years and made some progress, but Henry died of yellow fever in 1817, after which Latrobe went to New Orleans, where he also died of yellow fever on September 3, 1820.
|New Orleans Water Works design, 1812. Designer: Benjamin Latrobe. Construction Supervisor: Henry Latrobe. Credit: Detail from 'Plan of the City and Suburbs of New Orleans' by I. Tanesse, William Rollinson, Charles Del Vecchio and P. Maspero (1815)||Top: Plan
drawing for the new vegetable market, showing the final waterworks
Bottom: Detail from Map of New Orleans Waterworks, by Henry Latrobe (ca. 1811) from The Engineering Drawings of Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1980) Page 200.
The system was seized after Latrobe's death to pay the debts of Latrobe and his waterworks company. It was bought by the city on May 26, 1821 for $10,000, and they sent local engineer Francis B. Ogden and William W. Montgomery, a council member and local merchant, to Philadelphia to buy pipe and other materials to finish the works. The system began working sometime in 1823, but never proved satisfactory. The pumphouse was abandoned and demolished in 1838 after new water works came on line. The maps below show Latrobe's water works and the 1836 pumping plant and reservoir built by the Commercial Bank of New Orleans.
|Plan of the front part of the City of New Orleans in 1818||Section
of Lower Garden District waterfront area around Annnunciation
Robinson’s Atlas of the City of New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Commercial Bank of New Orleans was incorporated by the legislature on April 1, 1833 and given a thirty-five year exclusive right to supply water to the city of New Orleans. The company hired Albert Stein to design and build the works, which began operation on April 28, 1836 by pumping water into a reservoir constructed on a built-up mound. The reservoir held nearly 10 million gallons. The city bought the works on January 19, 1868 for $2 million, of which $500,000 was credited to the city as a stockholder in the company. One wall of the reservoir collapsed on March 31, 1872, flooding the nearby area.
The city contracted with William Bell in 1841 to build a separate water works system near the original Latrobe plant to provide water for flushing streets. This system was taken out of service in 1852 and the building was converted into a market.
The city and state explored several opportunities to privatize the water system. The legislature passed a bill incorporating the Crescent City Water Company in February, 1871, giving the company the perpetual and exclusive right to distribute water in the city. The governor did not approve the bill, but the Secretary of State promulgated it anyway by publishing it in a local newspaper. This got him fired, and the governor prevailed in the ensuing dispute. The city passed an ordinance granting a franchise to the City Water Works Company, but nothing came of it. Finally in 1877, the legislature incorporated the New Orleans Water Works Company with a fifty-year exclusive right to supply water, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. On April 9, 1878, the city transferred the water works and franchise to the New Orleans Waterworks Company.
The city and company fought bitterly over the quality and quantity of water delivered, and city voters approved building new water, sewer and drainage systems on June 6, 1899. The charter and franchise of the New Orleans Water Works Company were revoked effective February 3, 1902, although some stockholders attempted to form the New Orleans Water Supply Company to succeed the defunct entity. The city chose not to purchase the existing water company, and the new system began service in 1909, forcing the old company out of business.
The waterworks are currently owned by the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans.
1805 Mayor Mayor James Pitot became the second man to serve in that office. Pitot wrote the City Council on June 29, 1805, noting the need to secure “more healthful water” since the “uncleanliness” of the water “now being drunk everywhere” was “daily becoming more unbearable.” Pitot’s suggestion was that the city use “flat boat timbers” to build a new wharf “which the water wagons might use exclusively.” No other method of procuring water was mentioned. (2006:51)
1806 Mayor John Watkins is said to have written territorial representative Julien Poydras asking him to contact Latrobe concerning the city's water works. (1970:296) Watkins was mayor from July 27, 1805 to March 8, 1807, while Poydras served as the territory's representative to Congress from March 4, 1809 to March 3, 1811, making this connection more than doubtful. Later historians have nevertheless repeated this tale. (1995:193 and 2006:54-55)
1805 or 1806 The idea of supplying the city of New Orleans [with water] was first suggested to me by a French gentleman [probably Poydras] whom I was exhibiting my works in Philadelphia. (1987:383) BHL to Robert Alexander, July 27, 1811. (1951:xvi and BHL 3:117)
Mayor Watkins of New
Orleans initiated contact with Latrobe in 1806, and in a letter to Robert
Alexander from Washington, July 27, 1811, Latrobe recalled that in 1805 or
1806 a French visitor to the Philadelphia water-works had suggested he
construct something similar for New Orleans. (2006:61) The July 27,
1811 letter does not specify any date for this
1809 Latrobe and Robert Alexander petition the territorial legislature for a waterworks franchise at New Orleans (the petition fails). Late summer or fall of 1809. (Engineering drawings, 36)
1810 New Orleans City Council authorization for Louis Gleise to construct water works, May 10, 1810, Benjamin Henry Latrobe papers, Louisiana Research Collection, Tulane University.
1810 Latrobe sends his son Henry to New Orleans to obtain waterworks franchise from the city council. Fall, 1810.
1811 Latrobe Waterworks Ordinance, April 27, 1811, Approved May 22, 1811.
1811 Latrobe accepts New Orleans Waterworks franchise, June 10, 1811. It is renewed in 1813, 1815, 1817 and 1819. .
1811 Henry Latrobe arrives in Washington on July 27, 1811 "after a passage of 39 days."
State Gazette (New Orleans, Louisiana), December 17, 1811,
A few Shares in the Water-Works of this city, may be had by applying to Talcott & Bowers. Dec 17
Council Records, February 29, 1812. Volume 2/3, Page 151.
Latrobe's letter announcing his arrival in the city and asking for a new site for the waterworks and also asking the City Council to take shares.
Council Records, March 7, 1812. Volume 2/3, Page 153.
Site given at Ursulines and Levee Streets---city to take 12 shares---Henry Latrobe presents Council with picture of the proposed building and asks Council's opinion and observations - thanked by Council - the picture is to hang in the Council's session hall.
Gazette, March 20, 1812
H. S. Latrobe advertises for bids on waterworks buildings, due March 20th.
1812 New Orleans City Council agreed to pay Latrobe $3,000 immediately, and an additional $3,000 when the project was completed. Session of July 11, 1812 (Donaldson, 1987, page 385)
Louisiana and Mississippi almanack, for the year of our Lord 1813,
Page 54: Much has already been done, but much remains yet to be performed to render New Orleans comfortable and healthful to its citizens. The steam water-works now erecting under the superintendence of Latrobe, the younger, will, when got into the operation of watering the streets, be of vast importance in cleansing and carrying off the filth of the gutters.
1813 Petition of Benjamin Henry Latrobe to the Mayor and Aldermen of New Orleans, April 23, 1813, Letter written and signed by Henry S. Boneval Latrobe, acting in his father's name. Benjamin H. Latrobe requested a two-year extension, to May 1, 1815 on the completion date for the waterworks system in New Orleans that had been stipulated in his contract with the City in 1811. Unavoidable circumstances had delayed the work. First the United States Congress had opposed granting him title to the lot the City had set aside for the engine house. After work had begun at this site, Congress had awarded him ownership to a different parcel of land. Secondly, when he was about to ship machinery from Baltimore to New Orleans, the outbreak of war between the United States and England disrupted ocean transport. It became necessary for him to move his factory from Washington to Pittsburgh and there to begin anew constructing the steam engine, pumps, and other machinery necessary for the waterworks.
1813 Amendment to ordinance issued by the City Council of New Orleans regarding the contract with Benjamin Henry Latrobe, April 29, 1813. The City Council passed an ordinance to amend Article 2 of its ordinance of 1811, which had granted Benjamin Henry Latrobe the exclusive privilege to furnish water to the city and the faubourgs by means of one or more water pumps. The Council, after having heard Latrobe's request for a two-year extension of the completion date and the explanation for the delays, voted to extend the contract for two years, beginning May 1, 1813.
1814 Plan of the City and Environs of New Orleans, showing "Latrobe's Water Works" number 14.
1815 Amendment to ordinance issued by the City Council of New Orleans regarding the contract with Benjamin Henry Latrobe, May 2, 1815. Henry S. Boneval Latrobe, acting for his father, appeared before the City Council and requested an extension of the contract the Council had granted his father by its ordinance of April 29, 1813 to install a waterworks system in the city. Latrobe had been unable to finish the project on account of the recent fighting, which had disrupted the city and forced him to suspend operations at a time when work was already well advanced. The Council accordingly agreed to extend the agreement until August, 1816, on condition that Latrobe put up a bond by which he would guarantee completion of the work in the allotted time.
1815 Plan of the city and suburbs of New Orleans : from an actual survey made in 1815, by I. Tanesse.
1817 Henry Latrobe succumbed to yellow fever and died in New Orleans September 3, 1817.
1817 Letter from Benjamin H. Latrobe to the Honorable the Mayor and the Councils of the City of New Orleans, October 13, 1817. The engine house and engine were in place and only the mechanical equipment not yet shipped from New York and Pittsburgh needed to be installed.
1817 The New Orleans City Council agreed to extend the contract completion date to January 1, 1819. Session of November 26, 1817 (Donaldson, 1987, page 389)
1818 Salem Gazette,
July 3, 1818, Page 2.
New Article of Traffic - Last year a still house, with all of the coppers and implements, was exported, per order, from this town to New-Orleans; and also bored logs for an Aqueduct.
1818 Plan of the front part of the City of New Orleans, in 1818, showing water works between Ursulines and St. Phillips streets, and also the square next to the Custom House that was the first site proposed for the plant.
1819 Latrobe arrives in New Orleans from Baltimore on the Clio, January 10, 1819.
1819 Design of a pier to cover the suction pipe of the pump for supplying water to the City of New Orleans, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, January 29, 1819.
1819 The New Orleans City Council agreed to extend the contract for two additional years. Session of February 22, 1819 (Donaldson, 1987, page 383)
1819 An act for the incorporation of the New-Orleans Water Company, March 6, 1819.
1819 "Logs," New
Orleans Argus, March 19, 1819, Page 1.
Proposals are invited for the delivery at New-Orleans of ROUND LOGS, either of Pine or Cypress, of the following dimensions:-
Ten thousand feet, 16 to 18 inches diameter at the but.
Twenty thousand feet, 14 inches at the but.
Five thousand feet, 12 inches at the but.
The logs are required to be 16 feet long, but single sticks in lengths from 30 to 34 feet, may be delivered, provided that, when cut, they will answer to any of the above dimensions.
It is requested that proposals in writing may be left at the water-works in New Orelans, stating the period of delivery and the price per foot, or directed by post to B. Henry Boneval Latrobe. March 11.
1819 The steam engine finally arrived from New York in March, 1819, and was erected in the large octagonal building that Henry had built from his father's plans.
1819 Courrier de la Louisiane, June
14, 1819, Page 4
A subscription of stock is opened at the office of John Lynd, Esqr., Notary Public
B. H. B. Latrobe
1819 Statements of
accounts by [City Treasurer of New Orleans?] of expenditures for
installation of a waterworks system for the city, June 16, 1819
Statement Number 1 gives an account of monies spent by Benjamin Henry Latrobe for preparations at Washington and Pittsburgh, for construction of pumps at Baltimore, for purchase of a steam engine and shipment of it to New Orleans, and for miscellaneous expenses in New Orleans through 1819 June 16. There follow explanations of the different items in the statement and an estimate of $120,000 for installation of 50,000 feet of pipe to carry water and construction of another water reservoir.
Statement Number 2 gives an account of funds spent personally by Latrobe and his associates for the waterworks since 1818 January. There is also a stockholders list, which gives individual and total value of shares. [Folder 17}
1819 The steam engine was first used in July to run the boring machine that Latrobe had brought from Baltimore.
1819 Latrobe writes to City Council about yellow fever and plans to bring his family from Baltimore, September 17, 1819.
1819 Courrier de la Louisiane,
December 1, 1819, Page 4
New-Orleans Water Company. The third section of the act, approved March 6, 1819, for the incorporation of the New-Orleans Water Company, stating that on the first Monday of December, 1819, a meeting of the Stock holders in the City of New-Orleans, for the purpose of electing seven directors, who, together with two such persons who as shall be appointed by the Mayor and Council of the City of New-Orleans, shall form the board under the title of "The President and Directors of the New-Orleans Water Company."
Notice if hereby given to all persons holding, or entitled to share in the capital stock of said company, that the meeting will accordingly take place on Monday, the 6th of December next, at four o'clock, P. M. in the hall of the City Council, at the Town-House.
Jules Davezac, Sec pro tem
1820 Latrobe returns to New Orleans with his family, April 1820.
1820 Advertisement for fraudulent certificates April 12, 1820
Water-Works," Louisiana State Gazette, June 15, 1820, Page
Fire-wood proposals for the supply of from 50 to 100 cords of firewood within one year. B.H.B. Latrobe
1820 By July, he had supervised the installation of some 5,000 feet of wooden pipe in the city, leaving only the placement of the main suction pipe into the river as the remaining accomplishment of the project.
1820 Latrobe given permission to use city's chain gang to build intake tunnel for pumping plant, August 26, 1820.
1820 Benjamin Latrobe died on September 3, 1820
1821 Courrier de la Louisiane,
January 1, 1819, Page 6
Journal of the House of Representatives. Friday, December 22, 1820. Mr. Grymes laid before the House the petition of the President and Directors of the New Orleans Water Company, praying for some relief.
1821 Courrier de la Louisiane,
February 12, 1821, Page 5
Journal of the House of Representatives, Wednesday, January 24, 1821. The bill entitled "An act for the relief of the New-Orleans Water Company," was then read for a second time and ordered for a third reading on Tuesday next.
1821 Courrier de la Louisiane,
February 21, 1821, Page 3 (also printed in French
on page 2 of the same issue)
New-Orleans Water Company. The Stockholders of the New-Orleans Water Company, are hereby requested by the board of the said company to attend a meeting to be held on Wednesday the 21st inst. at 12 o'clock, at the City Hall, in order to take under consideration matters of the highest interest for the Company.
By order of the board, Jules Davezac, Sec'ry
1821 City buys the New Orleans Water Company for $10,000, June 26, 1821.
1822 An act to prescribe the manner of laying out the three hundred thousand dollars which the Corporation of New-Orleans are authorised to borrow by an act entitled "An act to authorise the Corporation of New Orleans to create a capital fund to procure a loan." March 14, 1822. The funds were to be used "exclusively for the expenses necessary for paving and watering the city."
1822 Plan drawing for the new vegetable market, showing the final waterworks location and design plan at the corner of Ursulines and Rue de la Levee (now Dacatur)
1822 "Mayoralty of
New-Orleans," Louisiana Courier, June 17, 1822, Page 2.
Considering that the execution of the plan definitively adopted by the City Council, for putting into active operation the Water Works, demands at least a year's labor, before the object of that establishment can be obtained.
That insurmountable circumstances have disappointed to a certain extent the views of the Council, by opposing themselves to measures by which it had hoped to have given, provisionally, this year water for the streets of the city.
That the excessive heats which have already been experienced, permitted no works to be carried on to effect, by gutters, the irrigation of the city, and demand, at the same time the most scrupulous attention and activities for the maintenance of the cleanliness so essential to health.
The Mayor of New Orleans invites his fellow citizens to unite their efforts to his, to prevent, if possible, the melancholy effects which may result from the inclemency of the season, coupled as it is with the insufficient means opposed to it. He recommends in consequence, to the citizens of New Orleans, the strict observance and faithful execution of the regulations and ordinances of police concerning the public health and relative, as well, to the watering of the streets at the hours and in the manner prescribed, as to the removing of stagnant waters, unclean animals, matters subject and liable to fermentation and putrefaction, &c. so, and he hopes that the general co-operation will remedy the evils which might give cause for apprehension in the threatening aspect of the season. June 17. J. Roffignac, Mayor.
1822 The New-Orleans
directory and register : containing the names, professions &
residences of all the heads of families and persons in business of the
city and suburbs, notes on New-Orleans, with other useful information,
printed for John Adams Paxton, 1822.
Page 41: The wells are generally from 5 to 15 feet in depth, the water in them in clear, free from salt, but unpleasant to the taste, and unfit for drink or washing of cloaths. Drinking water, and that used for cooking and the washing of cloaths, is taken from the river, carried through the city for sale, in hogsheads on carts, and sold at the rate of 4 buckets for 6¼ cents or 50 per hogshead. The water for drinking, is either filtered through a porous stone or is placed in a large jar, and cleared by alum, &c. The water is considered wholesome.
The building for the water works stands on the Levée, was erected 1813, but is not yet finished, and has already cost the city $25,000.
It is thought by most persons that the water ought to be introduced from the river into the city from above the eddy and point, as it is certainly more pure than that opposite the city, where it becomes imprignated with all kinds of filth, the very thought of which is sufficient to turn the stomach of a person of delicate constitution.
Water would be introduced into the city at a comparatively reasonable rate, by means of floating engines, such as are used in New-York, which can be moved from place to place, and would afford an abundant supply, during fire, or for the purposes of cleansing the gutters and laying the dust which so much annoys the citizens in dry weather; besides the health of the city would be much improved thereby. An improvement might be made in cleaning the streets and gutters, by adopting scrapers of hard wood or iron and large birch brooms, such as are used in Philadelphia.
1823 The New-Orleans
directory and register : containing the names, professions &
residences of all the heads of families and persons in business of the
city and suburbs, notes on New-Orleans, with other useful information,
printed for John Adams Paxton, 1823.
Image 54: Coulter Sidney, engineer for the city water works, engénieur de la pompe à feu.
Page 7 (Image 163): Water Works, Pompe à feu, cor. coin Levée & St. Philip
Page 140 (image 296): The building for the water works stands on the Levée, was erected 1813, but is not yet finished, and has already cost the city 50,000 dollars. The annual expense of keeping it is operation will be about 10,000 dollars.
It is thought by most persons that the water ought to be introduced from the river into the city from above the eddy and point, as it is certainly more pure than that opposite the city, where it becomes imprignated with all kinds of filth, the very thought of which is sufficient to turn the stomach of a person of delicate constitution.
Water could be introduced into the city during the greatest part of the year, by means of hydraulic machinery, worked by the current of the river, which can be built for a less sum that half the annual expense of working the present engine; and when completed, would only require the expense of a person to superintend its operation. The adoption of this plan would save the city annually a very considerable sum in fuel, &c. It is proper to observe, however, that it would be necessary to raise the water by a steam engine during the lowest stage of the river, as the current then runs very feeble. The same reservoir could be filled by either machine.
Orleans Argus, February 2, 1828, page 2
Mayoralty. In virtue of the resolution of the city council of the 26th January last, will be sold on Saturday the 15th of February, inst. at 4 o'clock p.m. in the yard of the steam water works, by F. Dutillet, auctioneer, all the useless materials for the use of said pump. J. ROFFIGNAC, Mayor
1833 An act to incorporate the Commercial Bank of New Orleans. April 1, 1833. Granted a thirty-five year charter to build and operate water works in New Orleans.
1833 An Act to Incorporate the Commercial Bank of New Orleans, April 1, 1833. Printed by the company. Includes Documents Relating to Dividend, Commercial Bank of New Orleans, 1847.
1834 Journal of John
H.B. Latrobe. from Southern
travels : journal of John H.B. Latrobe, edited by Samuel
Pages 46-47: November 16, 1834. This morning I rose with the sun, and went down to the riverside to look for a steamboat for Natchez. While here I saw how the good people of New Orleans procured water. A dozen cars with hogsheads on them were standing with their wheels in the river and the horse on the land, while their drivers were filling them, with large buckets from among the filth falling from the steamboats, and trickling from the shore where the platforms furnished, day and night a most convenient privy - or public rather, for those who had no other and better place of resort for their necessities.
The water works erected by my father are in operation, and at the corners of the cross streets along the Rue de la Levee, I saw this morning the water bubbling up from the pipes into the large cast iron box around them, and running off in a rapid stream through the gutters, At every corner were crowds of negro women filling their buckets and water carts supplying themselves from a less defiled place than the margin of the river. After my fathers death these works, in an unfinished state, fell into the hands of the corporation, and the mode in which they are at present used, is much less efficient than they were capable of under a proper management.
American Almanac and Repository of Useful Knowledge, for the year 1836
Pages 323-324: New Orleans. Other Public Works.
1. Commercial Bank Water-Works; — length of pipe, about 12 miles; — cost, when finished, $455,000. These works belong to the Commercial Bank Charter. They are for the use of the inhabitants, and for watering the streets of the city. The water is drawn from the river by a steam engine to a reservoir on a mound 20 or 30 feet high, above the city; — thence conveyed by pipes through the city.
2. City Water Works; – length of pipe, 1 mile; — cost, $110,000: used exclusively to keep water running through the gutters in hot weather. The water is pumped by a steam engine from the river.
1836 Report of the water works committee of the Commercial Bank of New Orleans. Presented February 18, 1836, and published by order of the board of directors
1836 A Digest of the Ordinances, Resolutions, By-laws and Regulations of the Corporation of New Orleans: And a Collection of the Laws of the Legislature Relative to the Said City
Picayune, July 14, 1837, Page 2.
Compliment to the Firemen.-- We are pleased to learn that Albert Stein, Esq. engineer of the public water works, intends giving a collation to the firemen of this city on Saturday afternoon. This is what we like to see, and is a praiseworthy action on the part of Mr. Stein.
1837 Annual Report of the President of the Commercial Bank of New-Orleans, January, 1838. Brief mention of the water works on pages 52 & 53.
of the City Council, September 3, 1838, "Resolved that it is
necessary to discontinue to make use of the waterworks at the corner of
Ursulines and [Old] Levee streets. Resolved that the committee on
improvements jointly with the mayor be and are hereby authorized to cause
to be sold the apparatus, machinery, materials together with the buildings
belonging to said waterworks.
Be it further resolved that the committee on improvements be charged to report as soon as possible on the best manner of disposing of the lots on which the said waterworks are located."
guide and directory of the state of Louisiana and the cities of New
Orleans & Lafayette, by John Gibson
Pages 335-339: New Orleans Water Works. A charter was granted in the year 1833, to a Company invested with banking privileges, entitled "Commercial Bank of New Orleans." The chief object in incorporating this Company was to supply the city of New Orleans with pure water, from the Mississippi river.
Immediately after the passage of this act, a Board of Directors was organized, and a Watering Committee appointed, who determined to commence operations as soon as practicable.
Various plans were submitted to attain this object, but the Company resolved to engage the services of a person skilled in Hydraulics, before adopting any plan. In this State, the Board authorised the engagement of Mr. Albert Stein, whose successful, and repeated erections of works of this nature, in Cincinnati, Ohio; Richmond and Lynchburg, Virginia; and Nashville, Tennessee; guaranteed a similar result in this city.
The plan proposed and adopted, was the raising of an artificial mound; and on the mound, the construction of a reservoir, to be filled and replenished as the consumption required it; and for the distribution, cast iron pipes laid in the streets.
The mound is situated on the square comprised within Richard, Market, John the Baptist, and Religious streets. The earth of which it is thrown up was carted from the batture of the river, amounting to 70,000 cubic yards. The first load of earth was hauled June 2d, 1834. The mound is 21 feet above the level of the soil, and is surrounded with a brick wall 320 feet square, 9 feet high from the upper part of the bottom, and 6 feet thick at the base, reduced to 2 feet at the top; it is plastered with hydraulic cement. The first brick was laid on January 28th, 1835, and the whole wall completed the 26th of March, 1835.
The reservoir is constructed on the mound. It is 250 feet square, built of bricks, and divided into four compartments, measuring each 118 feet in the clear. The walls and bottoms forming the reservoir are built of bricks and plastered with hydraulic cement.
A pavilion of an octagonal form has been erected on the intersection of the partition walls, supported by eight pillars. It is about 15 feet wide and 10 high.
The reservoir is supplied with water from the Mississippi river by plunge pumps, worked by a condensing engine acting expansively on Bolton & Watts' plan. These pumps were adopted as the most efficacious on account of the great quantity of matter held in suspension by the water. They are connected to a suction pipe 16 inches in diameter, and about 800 feet long: and to the main descending into the reservoir 16 inches in diameter and 600 feet long.
The cylinder is 25 inches in diameter and 6 foot stroke and is calculated to raise 3,000,000 gallons of water in 24 hours.
The engine and pump houses are built of bricks, and are situated on the lot forming the corner of Tchapitoulas and Richard streets.
The engine house is 34 feet high, and has a front of 29 feet on Tchapitoulas and 40 feet on Richard.
Both the lot on which the mound has been raised, and that on which stand the engine and pump houses, are situated in the fauburg Annunciation and within the parish of Orleans, the former being the third, and the latter the first square from the river.
On the same lot with the engine and pump houses, is a commodious two story dwelling house for the use of the person who runs the engine, brick work shop and blacksmith shop, and severa1 out-houses for the use and convenience of the establishment.
The water is distributed through cast iron pipes, capable of sustaining a pressure of water of 300 feet head. They vary from 18 to 6 inches in diameter for the mains, but the greater part of them consist of the larger sizes, which have ramifications of less dimensions. There are two mains from the reservoir, one of l8, the other of 12 inches bore, which are gradually reduced in size as the distance becomes greater from the source, or as circumstances may require.
On April 28. 1836, two years after the commencement of the works, water was pumped into the reservoir. It can be delivered to the upper part of the city at 21 feet, and in the lower sections of it at 21 feet above the level of the soil.
The provisions of the charter specified that the company were to expend annually $100,000 until the completion of the works, and the water to be delivered at a height of 15 feet; and that they were to commence operations twelve months after the election of the directors. By the delivery of the water two years after the commencement of the works, and at a height of not 21 feet, the provisions of the charter were anticipated in date and excelled in height.
The daily average consumption of water during the year 1837 was 250,000, tons and from the comparative great capacity of the reservoir sufficient time is allowed for the water to settle in one of the four compartments before it is drawn for the use of the city.
Statement of Expenditures on the New Orleans Water Works, from the commencement of the Works, to January 1st, 1858.
Engine and Pumps, and the lot on which they stand $55,184.95
Reservoir and Mound, 154,505.11
Real Estate and Other Property, 57,921.08
Private Families, 6,864.04
The plan on which Mr. Stein had based his estimates, comprised the engine and pups, the reservoir, and a line of eleven miles of pipes. The estimate was $400,000. There is now laid 18 miles of pipes.
Page 353: Commercial Bank Water Works - Office No. 60 Magazine street, Banks' Arcade.
Water Works Committee- Chairman, Wm G. Hewes, Mansel White, T.O. Meux; Engineer, Albert Stein; Superintendent, Jos P. Coulon; Secretary, S.W. Elliot
Rates - For a tavern or hotel $50 to which will be added three per cent. on the annual rent thereof; a bottling establishment, from $60 to 100; a dyeing or scouring establishment, 50 to 100; a printing office 30; a public bath house 10 per tub.
1840 Commercial Bank of New Orleans vs. Newport Manufacturing Company, 1 B. Mon. 13, Fall Term, 1840, Supreme Court of Kentucky
Improvements in the United States," by Francis Anthony Chevalier de
Gerstner, from Journal of the Franklin Institute 26(6):366-367
Pages 366-367: New Orleans Water Works, May 20, 1839.
On the 1st of April, 1838, the state of Louisiana granted a charter for the formation of a company with a capital of 3,000,000 dollars; this company was to provide the city of New Orleans with pure water, to construct the works, etc., necessary for that purpose, and to apply the residue of the capital for the establishment of “The Commercial Bank;” the company had further the obligation to expend annually at least 100,000 dollars, until the greatest part of the city and suburbs is provided with water. The payments for water, obtained from these works, was to be proportioned so that the company may get, in the first five years, a clear profit of 15 per cent. at the maximum, and in the following years only 10 per cent. After the expiration of thirty-five years the city may purchase the water works and its appurtenances at a price to be determined by appraisement, and five years after, or in any case within fifty years from the day of the passage of the act, the banking privileges expire.
In conformity with this charter, the company has constructed a large reservoir, into which the water is raised from the Mississippi by steam power, and then conducted through pipes, the aggregate length of which is already twenty-three miles, to the different parts of the city. A family of six persons pays annually twenty dollars as water rent, for every person over six two dollars additional; two children under fifteen years of age are counted for one person. The owner of a public house (hotel) pays fifty dollars per year, and three per cent. of the house rent. For a horse is paid three dollars, for a carriage three dollars, for a bath in a private lodging five dollars, for a bath in a public house fourteen dollars per year, etc. As yet not the fourth part of the city is provided with water, and nevertheless the expenditure of the company amounts already to 900,000 dollars. The revenue or water rent was, in 1837, only 8,000 dollars, and in 1838 17,000 dollars; in 1839 the company expects an income of 25,000 dollars. It is clear that the works would not have been undertaken without the profits being secured by banking privileges.
1841 New Orleans General Guide and Land Intelligence, showing water works reservoir at P.1. on the square bounded by Richard, Market, John the Baptist, and Religious streets. The engine and pump house is located at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Richard streets.
Georgia Telegraph, March 7, 1843, Page 3.
Commercial Bank in New Orleans has applied for liquidation of its banking business but will keep water works.
1843 The Commercial Bank of New Orleans v. Albert Stein, 4 La. 189, March 20, 1843, Supreme Court of Louisiana
1845 The Mayor, Aldermen, and Inhabitants of the City of New Orleans v. The Commercial Bank of New Orleans, 5 La. 234, June Term, 1843, Supreme Court of Louisiana
1845 Norman's New Orleans and Environs:
Containing a Brief Historical Sketch of the Territory and State of
Louisiana, and the City of New Orleans, by B.M. Norman
Page 70: The Water Works constantly supply the people with water forced from the Mississippi, by the agency of steam, into a reservoir, whence by pipes it is sent all over the city. This water is wholesome and palatable.
Page 146-148: THE WATER WORKS. In 1833, a company was incorporated under the title of the "Commercial Bank of New Orleans," the principal object of which was to supply the city with pure water from the Mississippi river. To effect this object, an artificial mound was constructed on the square comprised within Richard, Market, John the Baptist and Religious streets, consisting of seventy thousand cubic yards of earth, taken from the batture (deposit) of the river. The work was completed during 1834-5.
The reservoir is constructed on the top of this mound. It is two hundred and fifty feet square, built of brick, and divided into four compartments, measuring each one hundred and eighteen feet in the clear. The walls and bottoms forming the reservoir, are built with brick, and plastered with hydraulic cement. A pavilion of an octagonal form has been erected on the intersection of the partition walls, supported by eight pillars. It is about fifteen feet wide and ten high, and affords quite a commanding and pleasant prospect. The reservoir is supplied with water from the Mississippi river, by plunge pumps, worked by a condensing engine, acting expansively on Bolton and Watt's plan. These pumps were adopted as the most efficacious, on account of the great quantity of matter held in suspension by the water. They are connected to a suction pipe sixteen inches in diameter, and about eight hundred feet long; and to the main, descending into the reservoir, sixteen inches in diameter and six hundred feet long. The cylinder is twenty-five inches in diameter and six feet stroke, and is calculated to raise three millions gallons of water in twenty-four hours. The engine and pump houses are built of brick, and are situated on the lot forming the corner of Tchapitoulas and Richard streets.
The water is distributed through cast iron pipes, capable of sustaining a pressure of water of three hundred feet head. They vary from eighteen to six inches in diameter for the mains—but the greater part of them consist of the larger sizes, which have numerous ramifications of less dimensions. There are two mains from the reservoir; one of eighteen, the other of twelve inches bore, which are gradually reduced in size as the distance becomes greater from the source, or as circumstances may require. In 1836, water was first pumped into the reservoir. It can be delivered in the upper part of the city twenty-one feet, and in the lower sections, twenty-seven feet above the level of the soil.
The daily average consumption of water, during the year 1844, was one million gallons; and, from the comparative great capacity of the reservoir, sufficient time is allowed for the water to settle, in one of the four compartments, before it is drawn for the use of the city.
Much good might be achieved by a more enlarged operation of these works. The water is capable of being made fit for all domestic purposes, thus obviating the necessity for cisterns, the birthplace of millions of moschetoes, and, possibly the source of much sickness. For the purposes of bathing it is almost indispensable; and, for forming fountains, to cleanse the streets and to purify and cool the air, it may be rendered equally a convenience, a luxury, and an embellishment.
Daily Picayune, April 14, 1846, Page 2.
"The First Municipality Council authorized the Mayor to pay a first installment of $5,450.43 to Mr. Wm. Bell, on his contract to build the waterworks on the levee, between the meat [Sq. 3_oldnumber] and vegetable [Sq. 11] markets. The work scheduled for completion June 1, were designed to supply the reservoir with 75,000 gallons of water per day, with a head of 25 feet."
Water Works of New Orleans," New Orleans Weekly Delta,
December 21, 1846, Page 2.
The New York Herald states that the President of the Water Works of the Commercial Bank of New Orleans has made a contract with the Allaire Association of this city for an engine and hydraulic machinery, to be capable of raising six millions of gallons of water every twenty-four hours. This work will be the largest of the kind in the United States. It is to supply New Orleans with water.
days in New Orleans in February, 1847, by Albert James
Page 26: A large portion of the city of Orleans is watered from the large reservoir in the upper part of the second municipality. An iron pipe eighteen inches in diameter, is placed in the river twelve feet below the surface, and through this, great columns of water are continually ascending by sixty horse power force-pumps, situated in brick buildings on Tchoupitoulas and Richard streets. The water is carried under ground for two hundred yards further, and forced up the reservoir alluded to, which has been made in the manner of an artificial mound, from the sediment of the river. The reservoir is built on the top of the mound, and is about three hundred feet square, walled with brick and cemented, with four apartments in it, each having about five feet live water in them. Every month or two, the water is drawn off from two of them, and the deposit formed six inches deep is scraped off, and the water let in again. A pavilion in the middle of the reservoir affords a pleasant seat, and affords you a commanding view of the immediate neighborhood. The pumps force up 2,280 gallons per minute. The cost of the works is about $1,490,000; expenses, $17,000; revenue, $75000. The water is distributed through cast iron pipes from sixteen to six inches in diameter, and is sold at the rate of three dollars per head. The daily consumption is near one million three hundred thousand gallons.
1847 Documents relating to the dividend by the of the Commercial Bank
1848 An act to compel the Commercial Bank of New Orleans to comply with the terms of its charter, March 16, 1848.
Picayune, November 9, 1852.
The alderman wanted to alter the Waterworks [Sq. 10], between the Market Houses, to a market house, and to sell the engine and other fixtures. It was previously proposed to move it from opposite St. Philip St. to Esplanade. [N.B. The waterworks mentioned above is NOT the Latrobe waterworks in Sq. 11 but the second one, in Sq. 10.]
1851 Report of the Commercial Bank of New Orleans, from The Historic New Orleans Collection, 87-817-RL
1855 "Statistics of the Company," The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), April 26, 1855, Page 1. Includes table of total water rents since 1837.
1855 "Water-Works Extension," by Logan McKnight, The Daily Delta (New Orleans, Louisiana), June 10, 1855, Page 4.
new and complete statistical gazetteer of the United States of America,
by Richard Swainson Fisher
Page 557: New Orleans water works. The reservoir, into which the water is raised by a steam-engine, is constructed on an artificial mound, and is 21 feet high at its base, with side 250 feet in length, and capable of containing nearly 10,000,000 gallons. The reservoir has four compartments, and when the water is cleared, it is distributed through iron pipes through the city.
1858 An Act to Incorporate the Lafayette Water Works Company, March 18, 1858. To serve the Fourth District.
1859 "Report of the President and Directors of the Water Works or Commercial Bank of New Orleans for the year 1858," The New Orleans Crescent, February 1, 1859, Page 7. Includes table of total water rents since 1837.
at the Water-Works," The Times-Picayune, October 6, 1859,
Two new steam engines and pumps, 12,000,000 gallons per day.
1867 "The Commercial Water Works and the Supply They Give," The Times-Picayune, June 1, 1867, Page 8 | Part 2 |
1867 "Our Water Supply," The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, Louisiana), July 21, 1867, Page 2.
1867 "Our Water Supply, Gen. Braxton Bragg's Letter," The Times-Democrat (New Orleans, Louisiana), July 21, 1867, Page 3.
1868 "Commercial Water Works," The Times-Picayune, March 24, 1868, Page 2. Report by Superintendent Braxton Bragg
1868 An act to amend an act entitled "An act to incorporate the Commercial Bank of New Orleans, approved April 1, 1833. July 22, 1868.
1869 "Water Works Report," The New Orleans Crescent, April 15, 1869, Page 6.
1869 The Water Question, by Braxton Bragg, from The Historic New Orleans Collection, 57-79-L. Reprint of above newspaper article.
1869 "The Cost of Water Supply," The Times-Picayune, May 5, 1869, Page 12
1869 Annual report by the Board of Commissioners of the City Water Works : for the year ending Dec. 31, 1869 ; together with the reports of the superintendent and chief engineer, secretary and treasurer, registrar of water rents and water purveyor, with An analysis of waters by Joseph Jones.
1870 The Laws and General Ordinances of the City of New Orleans: Together with the Acts of the Legislature, Decisions of the Supreme Court, and Constitutional Provisions Relating to the City Government
1871 "The Water Works Monopoly," The Daily Picayune, January 15, 1871, Page 8.
1871 "The Water Works Monopoly," The Daily Picayune, January 17, 1871, Page 1. List of incorporators of the Crescent City Water Works.
of the Waterworks," New
Orleans Republican, February 9, 1871, Page 6
Description of water works proposals.
1871 "A Stupendous Monopoly," The Daily Picayune, February 24, 1871, Page 4.
1871 An act to incorporate the Crescent City Waterworks, to define its rights and duties, to punish offenses committed against the franchises of said company, and the public health. [This bill was passed by the legislature on February 24, 1871 and delivered to Governor Henry Clay Warmoth for his approval or veto. He chose to keep the bill, and since the bill was not in the Governor's possession for the required five days before the legislature adjourned on March 3, it did not become law without his approval. Secretary of State George Bovee nevertheless had the bill promulgated by publication in the German Gazette and Louisiana State Register on August 29, 1871. Warmoth was furious and removed Bovee from office, starting a chain of events in which Warmoth prevailed.]
1871 "Crescent City Water Works," The Daily Picayune, February 28, 1871, Page 9.
1871 "Water Works bid of T. W. Yardley," New Orleans Republican, March 30, 1871, Page 2. Yardley bid for New Orleans water works, Holly apparatus
1871 "Fate of the Crescent City Water Works Bill," The Ouachita Telegraph (Monroe, La), May 13, 1871, Page 2.
New-Orleans Times (New Orleans, Louisiana), August 29, 1871,
"An act to incorporate the Crescent City Water Works" has obtained an apparent or real official publicity through an extra fly-leaf of the State Register. Curiously enough, however, the promulgation, through bearing the name of Mr. Bovee, Secretary of State, is without date or number. The legend runs thus:
"The forgoing act having been presented to the Governor of the State of Louisiana for his approval, and not having been returned by him to the House of the General Assembly, in which it originated, within the time prescribed by the constitution of the State of Louisiana, has become a law without his approval."
Herein lines the very kernel of the nut. Did the act become a law without the approval of the Governor? According to the Governor's repeated averment, the act was not presented to him until the "the time prescribed by the Constitution of the State" had already been encroached upon, and that it therefore could not become a law through lapse of time. The list of incorporators presents a strange medley, reminding us of the strange bedfellows which travel makes one acquainted with. There is also something strange in the fact that the initial promulgation was not made as usual in the Republican.
Caesar, Aut Nullus," The New-Orleans Times, August 30, 1871,
The Governor suspends the Secretary of State.
on the War Path," The Daily Picayune, August 30, 1871, Page
Suspension and Arest of G. E. Bovee, Secretary of State. All about the Water Works.
and Messenger (Macon, Ga), August 31, 1871, Page 3.
Night Dispatches: New Orleans Water Works
1871 "New Orleans. Radicalism Run to Seed," Nashville Union and American, August 31, 1871, Page 1.
Water Works Imbroglio," The Daily Picayune, September 1,
1871, Page 7.
The Crescent City Water Works Company Make a Demand for the Transfer of the Water Works to Them. They are Refused Possession.
1871 "The Holly Waterworks System," New Orleans Republican, October 15, 1871, Page 1.
1871 Contest for Office of Secretary of State: Testimony and Argument of Counsel in the Case of the State of Louisiana Vs. F.J. Herron : Eighth District Court, Parish of Orleans
1871 New Orleans Republican, November 1, 1871, Page 6. Visit to other cities, Holly water works
Salt Lake Tribune, April 1, 1872, Page 2.
Collapse of New Orleans reservoir.
1872 "Water Works. The Holly System - What an Engineer Says About It," Chicago Tribune, January 1, 1872, Page 4.
1872 "Water Works. McCan's Report - Hear Both Sides," Chicago Tribune, January 12, 1872, Page 3.
1875 "Water Works," San
Antonio Daily Express, May 25, 1875, Page 2.
A recent St. Louis Republican special from New Orleans says:
"F.M. Mahan, President of the National Water Works Company, now at Kansas City, writes Mayor Leeds that his company will lease the water works of this city for fifty years and improve them. The matter came up to day in the Council. Mahan will probably bo invited here to examine the works. The Council also adopted a resolution to lease the wharves and levees, lessees to pay accrued indebtedness on same, amounting to over $700,000."
In addition to the improvement at New Orleans, the National Waterworks Company will probably build works at San Antonio, Dallas and Denison, Texas, Lawrence and Topeka, Kansas, and St. Joe, Missouri. The excellent construction of the works in this city will recommend the National Waterworks Company everywhere, as they have no superiors any where.— Kansas City Paper.
1876 Pablo Sala et al. vs. The City of New Orleans et al., 2 Woods. 187, November term, 1875, Circuit Court of Louisiana
1877 An act to enable the city of New Orleans to promote the public health and to afford greater security against fire, by the establishment of a corporation to be called the "New Orleans Waterworks Company;" to authorize the said company to issue bonds for the purpose of extending and improving the said works, and to furnish the inhabitants of New Orleans an adequate supply of pure and wholesome water; to permit the holders of Waterworks bonds to convert them into stock, and to provide for the liquidation of the bonded and floating debt of the city of New Orleans, March 31, 1877
1878 An act relative to the Charter of the New Orleans Water-works Company and amending an Act, number Thirty-three of Extra Session of eighteen hundred ans even-seven (1877), approved March 31, 1877. February 26, 1878.
1881 New Orleans, Engineering News, 8:163 (April 23, 1881)
of the Life and Work of Erastus W. Smith," American Machinist
5(27):1-2 (July 8, 1882)
Principal Engineer for Allaire Works. Besides these duties, he designed the constructed the system of water works for the cities of New Orleans, La., and Cleveland, O., and was consulting enginer for the Jersey City Water Works.
1882 New Orleans from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.
1883 Section of Lower Garden District waterfront area around Annnunciation Square, from Robinson’s Atlas of the City of New Orleans, Louisiana. Shows location of reservoir and water works pumping station.
1885 New Orleans Water-works Co. v. Rivers, 115 U. S. 674, S. C. 6 Sup. Ct. Rep. 273, December 7, 1885, United States Supreme Court
1887 St. Tammany Water-Works v. New Orleans Water-Works, 120 U. S. 64, 7 Sup. Ct. Rep. 405, January 10, 1887, United States Supreme Court
1888 New Orleans Waterworks Company, Pltf. in Err., v. Louisiana Sugar Refining Company et al., 31 U.S. 607, March 19, 1888, United States Supreme Court
Southern Insurance Directory
Page 173: New Orleans Water Works. The New Orleans Water Works Company use intermittent system of pumping. During the day for 12 hours, the pumping is via a stand-pipe, and from 6 A.M. to 6 P. M., pressure is maintained at a head of 60 feet. The night supply is from a reservoir of 4,000,000 gallons capacity, and delivered at a head of 30 feet. Banked fires are maintained through the night, with engineers and firemen on duty, and in case of emergency the pumping machinery can be put in motion in less than five minutes.
Engines used: One pair Beam Condensing Engines, Allaire Works, N. Y., 1847, one Pair Beam Condensing Engines, Novelty Iron Works, N. Y., 1860, and one Knowles Horizontal Compound.
Capacity: 10,000,000, 20,000,000 and 4,000,000 gallons in 24 hours, respectively.
Average dynamic head against which pumps work, is 60 for high service and 30 for low service.
Distribution —Cast-iron Pipes.
3-in.. 30,220 ft. 10-in....23,600 ft. 20-in.... 2,300 ft.
4-in.. 68,323 ft. 12-in.... 8,375 ft. 24-in.... 2,400 ft.
6-in.. 94,911 ft. 16-in... 21,175 ft. 30-in....i6,100 ft.
8-in. 101,862 ft. 18-in... 16,400 ft. 36-in.... 3,300 ft.
Or 73.67 miles.
Number and Description of Fire Hydrants in City Distribution.
Wooden case, 740; Holly, 137; underground, 132; Matthews, 63; iron case, 40; Boston, 5; total, 1,117.
Fire wells, 51; blow-offs, 23, main stop cocks or gates, 551. Source of supply, Mississippi river.
1888 "New Orleans," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.
History of New Orleans," by William Wirt Howe, Johns
Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science,
Seventh Series, IV (April 1889)
Page 22-23: The water supply of New Orleans is drawn from the Mississippi River and is in the hands of a Company, in which, however, the city has some stock and a representation on the board of direction. The first company was incorporated in 1833, as the Commercial Bank, at a time when it was the fashion to charter banks with a power to do something quite irrelevant to the operations of finance. By a provision of the charter the city had the right to purchase the works at any time after the lapse of thirty-five years. This right was exercised in 1869, and bonds issued for the amount of the appraisement. The city operated the system until 1877, when, being in default in the interest on the bonds as well as on the rest of her funded debt, it was deemed wise to put the concern in the hands of a business corporation. This change was effected under the Act of March 31, 1877, the bonds given in 1869 being mostly exchanged for stock in the new company. Under this Act, as interpreted by the Courts, the "Water-works Company has a monopoly of the supply of water for sale, which is to last for fifty years from the date of the act of 1877. Some improvements have been made of late in the service by the introduction of a stand-pipe, with a head of sixty feet, and by some extension of the mains. The problem of filtering the water, however, remains unsolved. It is, as a rule, very muddy and unattractive for any purpose. The use of cistern water, stored in cypress tanks, above ground, is almost universal in New Orleans. Such water, exposed to light and air and renewed by frequent showers, is clear and white, makes a charming bath and when filtered through porous stone as it may easily be, is agreeable and wholesome for drinking.
1890 "New Orleans," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.
1891 New Orleans v New Orleans Water Works Co., 142 U.S. 79, December 14, 1891, United States Supreme Court
1891 "New Orleans," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.
and Historical Memoirs of Louisiana: Embracing an Authentic and
Comprehensive Account of the Chief Events in the History of the State,
a Special Sketch of Every Parish and a Record of the Lives of Many of
the Most Worthy and Illustrious Families and Individuals
Pages 193-194: Water Works
1896 New Orleans Water Works Co. v New Orleans, 164 U.S. 471, November 30, 1896, United States Supreme Court
1897 "New Orleans," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.
1899 An act to make effective the vote and levy of the special tax by the property taxpayers of the city of New Orleans for water, sewerage and drainage purposes by authorizing the capitalization of said tax by the issuance of fifty year bonds of the city of New Orleans, under certain conditions and with certain privileges and restrictions, providing for the payment of the principal and interest thereof, for the disposition of the said bonds and the proceeds thereof, and defining the powers and duties of the Board of Liquidation with reference thereto; by constituting. and establishing a Sewerage and Water Board for the city of New Orleans, and defining its powers, duties. rights and obligations with reference to the public, the City Council, the Board of Liquidation, and the Drainage Commission, and vice versa; by authorizing the city of New Orleans, through said board, to acquire all necessary property rights and franchises by purchase. construction or expropriation. either within or without the city, necessary and proper for her public systems of sewerage and water and in such case to assume as part of the purchase price existing mortgages on said property. and to provide for the payment of the principal and interest of such assumed debts; and to provide for the violation of said act. August 18, 1899.
1900 Standard History of New Orleans,
Louisiana, Giving a Description of the Natural Advantages, Natural
History ... Settlement, Indians, Creoles, Municipal and Military
History, Mercantile and Commercial Interests, Banking, Transportation,
Struggles Against High Water, the Press, Educational ... Etc
by Henry Rightor
Page 94: In 1810 a still greater improvement was begun, one Louis Gleises obtaining the right to establish water-works, which would not only provide the inhabitants with such drinking water as they needed, but would be of assistance in the extinguishment of fires.
Page 126: WATER-WORKS. In 1810, an attempt to establish water-works was made by one Louis Gleises. The new water-works were of a most primitive character. The pipes were hollowed out of cypress logs, and the supply of water was obtained from the river by slave labor, that is, a number of slaves pumped the water into a large reservoir, from which it was distributed through the hollow logs to such citizens as had subscribed. Necessarily, very few persons got their water supply in this way, a majority of them depending upon cisterns or wells.
In 1819, the New Orleans Water-Works Company was incorporated by the Legislature, with a capital of $120,000. The board met on December 19, with eleven directors, nine elected by the stockholders and two appointed by the mayor. Nothing, however, of any moment was done by this company.
In 1833, the Commercial Bank was established, with a capital of $3,000,000, its purpose being to establish water-works in New Orleans. The charter was to run for thirty-five years, at the end of which time the city was authorized to purchase the works. The company was to furnish the city with water free of expense and with all the water it needed for the extinguishment of fires and for other public purposes. The new company did not fulfill all its obligations, find in 1848 an act of the Legislature had to be passed compelling it to do so, requiring it to keep all hydrants open, free of charge, for the purpose of washing the streets and gutters imder a penalty of a forfeiture of its charter unless .the company accepted the terms proposed by the State.
On the expiration of the charter of the company in 1869, the city utilized its right to buy in the water-works, issuing, for that purpose, bonds to the amount of the appraised value of the works, $1,300,000. The city then operated the works until 1877, but so badly that it was on default in the interest on its water-works bonds, as well as on the rest of its funded debt. It was thought best to surrender control and let the water-works pass into the hands of a private company. This was effected under an act of the Legislature of March 3, 1877, the bonds issued in 1869 for the purchase of the works being given in exchange for stock in the new company. Under this act, the New Orleans Water-Works Company was given a monopoly of the supply of water from the Mississippi River for fifty years.
The Algiers Water-Works and Electric Company was organized in 1895, and the mains were completed the following year. This company supplies the entire fifth municipal district of New Orleans with water, as well as illuminates it.
Page 593: The Commercial Bank of New Orleans, like the New Orleans Gas Light and Banking Company, was an improvement bank, organized for the purpose of providing New Orleans with water, and practically survives to-day in the New Orleans Water Works Company. It was incorporated April 1, 1833, with a capital of $3,000,000, and with five commissioners or directors, three of whom were to be appointed by the Governor and two by the City of New Orleans. The bank was required to furnish the city with free water for the extinguishment of fires, as well as for the public squares. On this score frequent complaints were made and the Legislature of Louisiana found it necessary in 1848 to pass a special act compelling the bank to carry out its obligations to the city in the matter of supplying it with such water as was needed.
v. New Orleans Water Supply Company, 107 La. 1, November 6,
1901, Supreme Court of Louisiana
1902 New Orleans Water Works Co. v Louisiana, 185 U.S. 336, May 6, 1902, United States Supreme Court
1904 State v. New Orleans Water Supply Company, 111 La. 1049, January 18, 1904, Supreme Court of Louisiana
1905 New Orleans Water Works excerpt from "Introduction," The journal of Latrobe. Being the notes and sketches of an architect, naturalist and traveler in the United States from 1796 to 1820, by Latrobe, Benjamin Henry, 1764-1820. With an introduction by J. H. B. Latrobe.
1907 "Notes on Municipal Government. The Relation of the Municipality to the Water Supply, A Symposium," by Frederic Rex, Chicago, Ill.; Henry Ralph Ringe, Philadelphia, Pa.; Henry Jones Ford, Baltimore, Md.; Edward W. Bemis, Cleveland, O.; Prof. A. C. Richardson, Buffalo, N.Y.; Murray Gross, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.; Max B. May, Cincinnati, O.; James J. McLoughlin, New Orleans, La.; Delos F. Wilcox, Secretary, Municipal League, Detroit, Mi.; Daniel E. Garges, Washington, D.C.; Frank E. Lakey, Boston, Mass.; and W. G. Joerns, Duluth, Minn. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 30:129-164 (November 1907)
Building of the New Orleans Water Works," by Charles Patton Dimitry,
Times-Picayune, June 28, 1908, Page 39.
Interesting History of the First Attempt to Supply the City with Water from the Mississippi River. Enterprise Undertaken by the Commercial Bank of New Orleans.
1909 Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans v. Howard, 175 Fed. Rep. 555, December 7, 1909, Circuit Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit.
1909 Twentieth Semi-annual Report of the Sewerage and Water Board of the City of New Orleans, December 31, 1909.
1910 "The Old and New Waterworks of New Orleans," Fire and Water Engineering 47:240-242 (April 20, 1910)
Franchises; a Description of the Terms and Conditions Upon which
Private Corporations Enjoy Privileges in the Street of American Cities,
by Delos Franklin Wilcox
Pages 436-440: A franchise forfeited for abuse of privileges - New Orleans
1914 New Orleans: A History of Three Great Public Utilities: Sewerage, Water and Drainage and Their Influence Upon the Health and Progress of a Big City, by Martin Behrman
Longevity of Cypress Again Demonstrated," The St. Louis
Lumberman 55:69 (January 1, 1915)
Prior to the installation of the waterworks system in New York, or in 1798, a waterworks system was established in New Orleans and it was indeed an unique plant. Mammoth centrifugal pumps were unknown in those days and the methods adopted to obtain a continual supply involved the construction of a large wooden tank (built of cypress, of course) on the river bank. Hand pumps were used and a force of negro slaves was constantly at work keeping the tank full. From this tank ran the water mains, which mains covered a large area of New Orleans. They were cypress logs joined together at the ends and bored with holes ranging in size from seven inches down to four inches in diameter.
It seems that this system was established by old French and Spanish families on a subscription basis.
1915 The New Orleans Book by Emma Cecilia Richey and Evelina Prescott Kean
H. B. Latrobe and his times, 1803-1891 by John Edward Semmes
Pages 32-33: Benjamin H. Latrobe had made a contract in 1811 with the city of New Orleans for a water supply. Under the terms of this contract he was to have the right to supply water for twenty years from May 1813, at which time it was presumed the work would be finished, but the war of 1812 interfered with and destroyed all chance of completing the work at that date. The machinery was built in Washington. It was loaded and shipped to New Orleans. The vessel on board of which it had been shipped was captured by the British, which resulted in a great loss to those engaged in the enterprise. It was about this time that the Capitol was partially burned by the British.
Mr. Latrobe removed to Pittsburg in 1812, for the purpose of constructing the machinery which was to be used in the New Orleans water works and which was to be shipped by water to that place.
His eldest son, Henry, who was superintending the works at New Orleans, died in 1817 of yellow fever. Mr. Latrobe's interests required him to visit New Orleans from time to lime. In 1817 or 1818 he moved to Baltimore with his family. His interests in New Orleans required him to move to New Orleans, so that in 1820 he took up his residence there with his family. The elder Latrobe died in September of yellow fever at New Orleans.
Page 60: As mentioned already, my father had a contract for supplying the City of New Orleans with water, and had sent my half brother, Henry, there to look after the work. While we lived in Speaks' house, news came to my father of his death. It was a heavy blow to him. Henry was a brave, gallant fellow who had distinguished himself at the battle of New Orleans on the 23rd of December, was accomplished for his years, had become an able architect, and was universally esteemed. My father felt his loss, not only in the death of a son, but in the confusion caused by it in connection with the contract. 1 remember the death and the gloom and the mourning. But I had rarely seen my brother, and to me the loss was a slight affliction. Children get over such things easily.
Page 83: It was in the fall of 1820 that my father died. After the death of my eldest brother there had been no one to take his place, and being detained no longer by his employment at Washington, while I was at West Point, had gone to New Orleans to attend to his interest there. He had survived a yellow fever season, during which he had had the disease, and, fancying himself fever proof, had taken my mother, brother and sister there, intending to remain until the water works were completed. The year 1820 was a year of great fatality, and among other and numerous victims was my father, who was carried off in the month of September of that year. As soon as possible my mother, with Ben and Julia, returned to Baltimore and took a house in Lexington Street, on the South side, not far from Pine. With my father died, however, forever all prospects of realizing a dollar from the New Orleans contract, and the family was once more reduced to very narrow straits indeed. Some small sum that had been realized in New Orleans, my father's library, and some woodland that my mother had in New jersey, were all she had to live upon.
of New Orleans, Volume 1 by John Smith Kendall
Volume 1, Page 90: Still another and important improvement concerned the water supply. In May, 1810, the Council made a contract with Louis Gleizes to furnish "a sufficient supply of the Mississippi water not only for the use of the inhabitants but also to water the streets and to extinguish fire in the case of conflagration." Gleizes laid a system of wooden conduits to various parts of the town. He was paid not by the municipality but by selling the water to the persons with whose houses the system was connected.
Pages 113-114: In March, 1819, the city entered into a contract with Benj. H. B. Latrobe, for the erection of water works to be run by steam. Latrobe erected a small building with appropriate equipment on the levee near the French Market, and for many years supplied the city with water for drinking purposes and for public uses. Up to this time drinking water drawn from the river had been hawked about the city by itinerant vendors, who sold four bucketfuls for a "picayune" (6¼ cents) or a hogshead for 50 cents. The public water supply was derived from shallow wells, which, however, did not supply potable water. Latrobe's enterprise, unpretentious as it would seem at the present time, was looked upon as a remarkable improvement upon these antiquated methods of supply.
Page 334 note: Purchase of water works in 1869.
Pages 388-389: Sale of waterworks in September 1878 for $2 million.
Page 426: New Orleans Water Works Company.
Volume 2: Water supply
1937 "Water, 50¢ a
Hogshead," New Orleans States, September 10, 1937, Page 2.
Slaves used to pump water from the Mississippi river to the old New Orleans water works established by Louis Gleises in 1810. The water was distributed to subscribers through pipes hollowed out of cypress logs. Up to 1819 water from the river was sold for 50 cents a hogshead, for four buckets for 6¼ cents. It was filtered through stone or treated with alum for drinking purposes.
of the Water Supply System of New Orleans" [with Discussion], by
Alfred F. Theard and George G. Earl, Journal
of the American Water Works Association, 30(7):1103-1115 (July,
Page 1104: It appears, from all the historical notes which I have been able to gather, that, in the early part of 1800, a man named Louis Gleises made an attempt to establish a water works system in New Orleans. The pipes were hollowed out of cypress logs and the supply of water was obtained from the Mississippi River by slave labor. A number of slaves raised the water into a large reservoir from which it was distributed through the wooden pipe to such citizens as had subscribed for the service. How this water was distributed is not quite established. It was probably by gravity flow, for the banks of the River were high. Very few people took this service.
Orleans City Guide, written and compiled by the Federal Writer's
Project of the Works Project Administration for the City of New
Orleans. | also here
Page 20: Many improvements were made in the town during the next few years. A waterworks carrying water from the Mississippi in wooden conduits laid a foot and a half below the banquettes was installed by Louis Gleise; a Negro chain gang was employed in filling in the streets; sidewalks were built and crossing bridges constructed; and meat markets, notoriously unclean, had their water closets torn down.
respecting New Orleans; diary & sketches, 1818-1820, by
Benjamin Henry Boneval Latrobe. Edited, with an introduction and
notes, by Samuel Wilson, Jr.
Pages xiv-xxi, xxiii: New Orleans Waterworks, history of the project.
Page xv: Already an attempt had been made by others to secure the franchise, and on May 10, 1809, the City Council went so far as to adopt a resolution authorizing Louis Gleise, of New York, to establish a water- supply system for New Orleans. Although Latrobe referred to him as a "madman without character or ability to carry on the project," within three weeks he had obtained fifteen hundred subscriptions at ten dollars each. Nothing came of the Gleise project, and Latrobe resolved to follow Governor Claiborne's advise by sending his son Henry to New Orleans.
Page 139: Sept'r 27th, 1819, on board the Emma. The steam engine belonging to the waterworks having arrived & being landed about the 24th of April [March], my time began to be extremely occupied during the day.
1962 "New Orleans," from Public Water Supplies of the 100 Largest Cities in the United States, 1962, US Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 1812, by Charles Norman Durfor and Edith Becker
1969 "Henry Clay Warmoth and Louisiana Reconstruction," by Francis Wayne Binning, PhD dissertation in History, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
1970 New Orleans, 1718-1812: An Economic
History, by John
Page 296-297: In 1806 Mayor John Watkins initiated an effort to secure a permanent and adequate water supply for New Orleans. Mayor Watkins wrote Julien Poydras, serving as territorial delegate to the United States House of Representatives, asking him to contact B. H. Latrobe on the matter. Latrobe, then a federal surveyor, had completed a water supply system for Philadelphia in 1799. He presented the outline of a charter to the city council in 1810 when he intended to submit to the state legislature. A charter organizing the New Orleans Water Company was granted in 1811. Negotiations between the city and water company continued through 1812.
The agreement between the two parties granted the water company the exclusive privilege of furnishing the city and suburbs with water for fifteen years. Everything possible of definition was spelled out in the contract. When Latrobe suggested that the city subscribe to shares in the company, the council agreed on the condition that the mayor of New Orleans serve as one of the company's directors so long as the city retained ownership of any stock. Latrobe agreed to this stipulation. Areas of possible altercation between the contracting parties were narrowed as much as possible and the city secured official representation on the company board. [Clark did not provide citations for these paragraphs, but his bibliography includes substantial primary sources.]
Papers of Benjamin Henry Latrobe are published in four series
by Yale University Press for the Maryland Historical Society.
Series I contains all the Latrobe journals, or memorandum books, supplemented with relevant sketchbook materials, literary and visual, and occasionally with individual letters that strengthen the sense of chronology.
Series II is devoted to those architectural and engineering drawings executed by Latrobe or under his direction. Each volume contains an introductory essay followed by a critical catalog of Latrobe's extant drawings organized by categories.
Series III consists of selected examples from Latrobe's sketchbooks and a complete catalog of the contents of the sketchbooks.
Series IV comprises correspondence and miscellaneous papers.
1987 "Bringing Water to the Crescent City: Benjamin Latrobe and the New Orleans Waterworks System," by Gary A. Donaldson, Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, 28(4)381-396 (Autumn, 1987)
John Watkins, New Orleans' Lost Mayor," by Jerah Johnson, Louisiana
History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association 36(2)187-196
Page 193: But the local populace was still dependent for drinking water on the river or on shallow, and more often than not, contaminated wells. In order to insure a pure water supply for the city, Watkins, through Julian Poydras, the territory's representative in the United States House of Representatives, got in touch with Benjamin Latrobe and began negotiations to have him design and build a water supply system for New Orleans similar to the one he had put in place in Philadelphia in 1799. At the same time Watkins drew up a charter for a proposed company to finance and operate the water works. None of these plans, however, came to realization during his administration. They had to wait for thirteen years, until the administration of Auguste McCarty.
1996 Pipe Dreams: Commercial Bank of New Orleans V. Albert Stein, Waterworks Engineer, by Carolyn Kolb
1999 "Introducing…clean Water," by Darwin H. Stapleton, Invention and Technology, 14(3):24-35 (Winter 1999) | pdf |
2000 Trickle by trickle: municipalization of the New Orleans water system in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, by Carolyn Kolb, April, 2000
2003 "Municipalizing American Waterworks, 1897-1915," by Werner Troeksen and Rick Geddes, Journal of Law, Economics and Organization 19(2):373-400 (October, 2003) | also here |
2006 At the Confluence of Science and Power: Water Struggles of New Orleans in the Nineteenth Century, by Carolyn Kolb, University of New Orleans, Dissertation in Urban History
2006 "Regime Change and Corruption: A History of Public Utility Regulation," by Werner Troesken from Corruption and Reform: Lessons from America's Economic History, edited by Edward L. Glaeser and Claudia Goldin
2011 "Albert Stein," by Greg O'Brien, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Encyclopedia of Alabama
Ornament, Modern Symbol: New Orleans’ First Waterworks on the
Mississippi River," By Rina Faletti, Peer Review, from Open
Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place & Community 8:29-51 (Fall
Pages 29, 31-32: The second city in U.S. history to debut a modern industrial urban waterworks system was New Orleans. Designed and built between 1811 and 1820, the New Orleans Waterworks displayed the most advanced innovations of its day, both in hydraulic engineering technology and in aesthetic architectural design. Its cutting-edge steam-powered pumps lifted water from the Mississippi River, fed it into a neoclassical-style waterworks pumping station, and then conveyed the water supply through a downtown distribution network of bored-log pipes. In addition to pioneering industrial machinery capable of pumping river water continuously under pressure and against gravity, the New Orleans system featured a vanguard architectural design. The neoclassical temple to water technology displayed a bold aesthetic form designed by the nation’s leading engineer-architect and Architect of the U.S. Capitol, Benjamin Latrobe. Latrobe’s temple form worked symbolically to brand the port city of New Orleans as a modern, industrious, and prestigious gateway to the new American West, and it advanced a vision of technological and aesthetic innovation for the United States.
"1000 Decatur St," Vieus Carré Digital Survey. Site of Latrobe's water works.
of Ordinances, 1841-1937
relating to the water works of New Orleans, 1822-1824. New
Orleans Public Library
References to Louis
1800 "New Coffee-House," Alexandria Times, April 25, 1800, Page 1.
L. Gleises begs leave to inform his friends and the Public at large, that he has just opened up a Commodious House in King street, for the purpose of accommodating Clubs and Select Parties with those amusements and innocent diversions that can promote the charms of society.
His house will afford, at any time of the day, ICE CREAMS, COFFEE, TEA, CHOCOLATE, PASTRY, PRESERVES, WINES, CORDIALS, LEMONADE, PUNCH, SWEET CAKES, &c &c.- He keeps every day a Boarding Table for Breakfast, Dinner and Supper.
Those persons that will honor will wiith their commands out of doors, may depend upon their being waited on at the shortest notice. Nothing will be omitted on the part of the advertiser to deserve a continuation of favours of the public. He hopes to open his House the 15th or 20th of this month.
Previous to the subscriber's opening his house, he wishes to submit to public inspection a model of a MONUMENT sacred to the memory of Gen. Washington.
This Monument, which is the only one of its kind, is so constructed that streams of water issue from it in 16 different directions. He has no doubt but that it will exceed the expectations of those who have a curiosity to view it. In order to defray the expense of the workmanship, he will charge 25 cents for each person who inspects it. \
If the subscribe should meet with sufficient encouragement, he will engage to execute one upon a large scale, to be fixed in some part of the town as may be through proper - or in any part of the Continent. L. GLEISE.
1807 "Public Baths," Savannah
Republican, March 28, 1807, Page 4.
The subscriber returns his respectful thanks to his friends and the inhabitants of Savannah, for the generous encouragement they have granted him, in the two establishments he has formed in this city. He has the honor to inform the public, that by the first of April, the BATHS will be open in the same place they were kept last season.
The improvements he has thought indispensible to make by render the rooms larger, and by giving them a degree of air necessary in the warm season of this country, leads him to hope for the continuation of encouragement and kind patronage of his customers.
The price of subscription for the season, six months, ten dollars - six dollars for 3 months - and 25 cents for each Bath. L. GLEISES.
1807 "Notice," Savannah
Republican, May 9, 1807, Page 3.
The Subscriber being obliged to leave the United States for the month of June on business of a family nature, where his interests are concerned, notifies the public and his credits, that he will transfer the lease he has of the EXCHANGE, and will sell the furniture and effects it contains in order to discharge what he owes. Individuals who are disposed to bargain, will address themselves to Mr. Petit de Villers, who is charged with this transaction, and to present to him their evidences of debt. It is hoped that persons who have contracted debts at the Exchange will come forward and adjust them. L. Gleises
N.B. He will sell on the same conditions his establishment of PUBLIC BATHS, which are in the highest order, and exempt from an reparation.
of the Common Council of the City of New York, Volume 4 (1917)
Page 502: 27 July 1807. A proposal of L. Gliese respecting sweeping chimnies, in this city, by contract was read and ordered to lie on the table.
1809 "Notice to
Creditors," Philadelphia Gazette, September 26, 1809, Page 2.
Take notice that I, the subscriber, have applied to the Judges of the Court of Common Pleas for the County of Philadelphia, for the benefit of the several Acts of Insolvency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and they have appointed the 16th day of October next, at 10 o'clock, in the forenoon, at the County Court-house, to hear me and my creditors, and where you may attend. L. GLEISES.
1821 An act to incorporate the president and trustes of the Roman Catholic society of christians in the town of Shieldsborough and its vicinity, passed November 26, 1821, Louis Gleises, John J. Jourdan, Belon Dedeaux, Eugene Dubuisson, Ramon Lizance, John B. Lardasse, and John B. Toulmi.
© 2015 Morris A. Pierce