Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Massachusetts Pittsfield

Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Pittsfield was first settled by Europeans in 1753.

The first water supply system was a two-mile aqueduct of wooden pipes constructed in 1754 by Charles Goodrich to serve buildings around Wendell Square.  It was unsuccessful either due to faulty construction or being torn up by an unhappy landowner unhappy with the pipes on his property.  Later residents around Wendell Square found good water, but at a depth of ninety feet.

The Proprietors of the Water Works in the Middle of the Town of Pittsfield was incorporated on February 22, 1795 Simon Larned, John Chandler Williams, William Kittredge, Joshua Danforth, and Thomas Gold "for the purpose of conveying water in pipes into the center of the town of Pittsfield."  This company contracted, in April, 1795, with Joel Dickinson, and David Blackman, to convey the water to the town in pipes, but encountered many difficulties and the enterprise fell into disarray.  An amendment in 1803 reaffirmed the company's charter and allowed more flexibility in required meetings.  Earthen conduits were installed at some early time, but were not laid deep enough and burst from freezing.

Another aqueduct effort in 1819 came to naught, but in 1827 John Dickinson and Oren Goodrich installed a two-inch lead aqueduct, but the elevation of the source was insufficient for delivery pressure and this effort also failed.

The Pittsfield Fire District was authorized to build a water works for the town in 1852, but local voters did not approve the system until 1855.  A contract was signed with the The Patent Water & Gas Pipe Company of Jersey City, N.J,,  manufacturer of cement-lined wrought-iron pipe that had been used in many cities.  The agreed completion date was October, 1855, but due to various factors, including the incompetence of the local superintendent, completion was delayed until the following year.  The system was plagued by pipes burst by freezing, because "few, if any persons, in 1857 were aware of the extreme depth to which frost sometime penetrates in the Berkshires."  The cement-lined pipe proved impossible to repair and was eventually replaced with cast-iron pipe by 1876.  The Fire District was authorized to expand their supply in 1874 and in 1892 the town acquired the water works.

The City of Pittsfield currently owns the system and supplies water to the community.


References
1795 An act to incorporate Simon Larned and others for the purpose of conveying water by pipes into the center of the town of Pittsfield, by the name of "The Proprietors of the water works in the middle of the town of Pittsfield." February 25, 1795.

1804 An act in addition to an act, entitled, "An act to incorporate Simon Larned and others for the purpose of conveying water by pipes into the center of the town of Pittsfield, by the name of The Proprietors of the water works in the middle of the town of Pittsfield." February 10, 1804.

1852 An act for supplying the Town of Pittsfield with Pure Water.  May 13, 1852.

1869 The History of Pittsfield (Berkshire County), Massachusetts, from the year 1734 to the year 1800 by Joseph Edward Adam Smith
Page  142: While the new town was taking form, as we have seen it, under its municipal organization, and introducing the necessities and conveniences of village-life, its inhabitants were exchanging the log-huts of former days for comfortable and comely dwellings.
When the first partition of the township was annulled, Charles Goodrich and Col. Williams abandoned their intention of creating a business-centre near Unkamet Street, and transferred their interests to Wendell Square, with regard to which they entered upon a similar design in connection with Elisha Jones, Nathaniel Fairfield, and Eli Root. It was arranged that Fairfield, Root, Goodrich, and Jones should erect handsome frame-houses on the four corners of their respective settling-lots, which met at the Square ; while Williams was to build a little farther to the east, on Honasada Street.
But an unlooked-for obstacle presented itself in the nature of the land, whose soil was so completely underlaid with ledges of solid rock, that no wells could be sunk which would afford any but surface-water. In this dilemma, Charles Goodrich displayed his wonted energy and determination by building the first water-works of Pittsfield, an aqueduct some two miles long, extending from his farm to the hills at the east. It was constructed of huge logs divided into quarters, bored, bevelled at the ends, and bound together at the connecting joints with heavy iron bands. The enterprise failed, according to one account, in consequence of a fault in construction, which caused the logs to crack. Another tradition has it that an unpleasant person, through whose lands the pipes passed, soothed his temper and proclaimed his territorial lordship by tearing them up. 

1874 An act in addition to an act for supplying the Town of Pittsfield with Pure Water.  April 10, 1874.

1876 The History of Pittsfield (Berkshire County), Massachusetts: From the year 1800 to the year 1876 by Joseph Edward Adam Smith
Pages 548-572:  "Fire-District and Water-Works"
Page 558:  Later owners of the farms around Wendell square found excellent water, but at a depth of ninety feet.

1868 Reports of the Water Commissioners of the Pittsfield Fire District, April 13, 1868.

1881 "Pittsfield" from Engineering News 8:413-414 (October 15, 1881)

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

1885 Gazetteer of Berkshire County, Mass., 1725-1885
Page 283:  Ashley Water Works.
The scarcity of good water was early a source of annoyance, owing to the prevalence of rocky ledges beneath the soil, rendering it almost impossible to sink wells that would afford any but surface water. The feasibility of constructing works so that an adequate supply might be afforded, was agitated before the beginning of the present century. The first effort was made by Charles Goodrich, who constructed an aqueduct upon his farm, which, however, proved a failure. The next enterprise in this direction was in 1795, when Simon Larned, John Chandler Williams, William Kittredge and Joshua Danforth were incorporated as "The Proprietors of the Waterworks in the Middle of the Town of Pittsfield." This company erected works, but they seem not to have been very successful, and though repeated efforts were made, it was not until 1855, when the present works were erected by the Fire District, that any thing like success was attained. Water was taken from Lake Ashley, on the summit of Washington mountain, at a distance of six and a quarter miles from the village, affording a head of about 700 feet. Since then, in 1873, the "lower reservoir" was erected, and still later the supply was increased by water from Sackett's brook. The works have now about fifty miles of mains, while the village has seventy-six fire hydrants. The total cost of construction has been, according to the statement in Smith's History of Pittsfield, as follows :
Original construction                                        $50,000.00
For re-laying and extending pipe prior to 1866 14,000.00
Extension of pipes after 1866                              2,917.53
Re-laying street mains after 1866                      28,772.63
New twelve-inch mains                                     45,423.32
Raising dam at Lake Ashley                               2,186.88
Lower reservoir and dam in 1873                     13,172.60
Addition of Sackett's brook                              18,329.94
Total                                                              $194,802.90

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

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

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

1892 An act to provide an additional water supply for the city of Pittsfield.  April 20, 1892.

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





2015 Morris A. Pierce