Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
Middle Atlantic States New York Albany

Albany, New York

Albany was first settled by the Dutch in 1614 and came under the control of the English Crown in 1664, receiving its current name. The Dutch temporarily regained control from 1673 to 1674.  The City of Albany was chartered in 1686, the oldest city charter in the Western Hemisphere. 

1678 System: The first water supply in Albany was built in 1678 to bring water from a creek near the current state capitol building to public reservoirs through wood pipes installed underground.

1798 System: The City of Albany advertised for bids in November, 1794 to construct, own, and operate a water works taking water from a spring near the Five-Mile House.  The City received several bids and contracted with Benjamin Prescott, who appears to have completed the initial system in 1798.  Prescott sold the system to the Albany Water-Works Company in 1802, which operated the system until they sold it to the City of Albany in 1851.  

On April 9, 1850, the legislature passed "An act to provide for a supply of water in the city of Albany" that allowed the City to buy the system later that year. 

The City of Albany currently supplies water to the community from the Alcove, Basic Creek, and Loudonville Reservoirs.

1850 Report made to the water commissioners of the city of Albany, August 1, 1850, on the proposed projects for supplying the city with water by William J. McAlpine

1853 Annual Report of the Board of Water Commissioners of the City of Detroit. In 1853, the new Board of Water Commissioners of the City of Detroit sent superintendent Jacob Houghton, Jr. to visit and report on water works in other cities, including Albany.
Page 22-23:  Albany Water Works. 

1854 Map of Albany County by Jay Gould.  This map shows "conducts" [conduits] from Rensselaer Lake northeast of the City and from the Maezlandt Kill to the north.  Rensselaer Lake was a reservoir formed by a dam installed on Patroon Creek in 1851.

1880 "Our Water Supply," by Willis G. Tucker, M.D., Albany Medical College, The Medical Annals 1(5):1-4 (October 1880)

1881 "Albany Water Works" from Engineering News, 8:226 (June 4, 1881)

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

1888 "Albany" from the Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1 by Moses Newton Baker

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

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

1892 An act to provide for the appointment of a board of water commissioners for the city of Albany.  April 14, 1892.

1897 "Water Supply" from Landmarks of Albany County, New York, by Amasa Junius Parker

1897 "Albany" from the Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4 by Moses Newton Baker

1913 "Typhoid Fever at Albany, N. Y.: An Account of the Recent Outbreak Due to Use of Raw Hudson River Water following Flooding of Filtration Plant," by Theodore Horton Public Health Reports, Vol. 28, No. 21 (May 23, 1913), pp. 987-994

1919 "The Water Works of Albany," by Wallace Greenalch, Commissioner of Public Works, Albany, N. Y. Fire and Water Engineering, 66:678-681 (September 24, 1919)

1919 "The Albany Water-Works a Hundred Years and More Ago," and "Purification-Plant Methods and Results at Albany" from Engineering News, 83:605 (September 25, 1919) | also here |

1962 "Albany," 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

1977 "Water Works History:  A Comparison of Albany, Utica, Syracuse, and Rochester" by Joseph W. Barnes, Rochester History 39(3):1-24 (July 1977)

2013 "Angry Waters: The Great Easter Flood of 1913" New York Archives, Winter 2013.  This includes a description of the Albany Water Works in 1913 and how it was affected by the flood.

2015 Morris A. Pierce