|Introduction||Historical Background||Chronology||Geography||Biography||Technology||Ownership and Financing||General Bibliography|
|Middle Atlantic States||New York||Buffalo|
Buffalo was first settled in 1789.
The Buffalo Hydraulic Association was incorporated in 1827 by John G. Camp, Reuben B. Heacock, and Frederick B. Merrill "for the purpose of supplying said village with water, and also to use the same for hydraulic machinery,"
The Jubilee Water Works Company of Buffalo and Black Rock were incorporated in 1827 by Donald Fraser, Nelson Randall, Horace Bush, Peter B. Porter, and Samuel F. Gelston for the purpose of "supplying the villages of Buffalo and Black Rock, in the county of Erie, with water, by means of conduits or aqueducts," This company built a system that may have been operating in the Village of Black Rock as early as 1826, and their distribution system was extended to serve parts of Buffalo, but as the Jubilee Springs diminished and water demand grew the system did not expand. Black Rock was annexed by the City of Buffalo in 1853 and the City acquired this system and had abandoned it by 1890.
The Buffalo Water Works Company was incorporated in 1849 by George Coit, Walter Joy, William A. Bird, Orlando Allen, Horatio Shumway, George R. Babcock, Isaac Sherman, Cyrenius C. Bristol, Oliver G. Steele, Thomas M. Foote, William Bucknell, Jr., Joseph Dart, Jr., Henry W. Rogers, William Coffin, and Aaron D. Patchin "for the purpose of supplying the said city of Buffalo with pure and wholesome water." This company contracted with the Philadelphia firm of Battin, Dungan & Co. to build a system, and in return the Philadelphia company took a substantial amount of the water company stock. George Parish, who owned the Rossie Iron Works in Ogdensburgh, also took $125,000 in stock, for which he provided the iron pipes for the water system. The system that began service on January 5, 1852 using two steam engines to pump water into a reservoir. Alonzo R. Ketcham (1814-1890) was appointed superintendent on the same day and served in that post until 1874 and also from 1880 to 1882. Ketcham was also engaged as the consultant engineer for the Memphis Water Company in 1872.
The city of Buffalo was authorized to issue bonds and buy the water system in 1868, and closed the transaction on August 15, 1868 for the sum of $705,000. The city greatly expanded the system over time.
The Buffalo Water Board was formed in 1992 and acquired the water system from the City on September 24, 1992.
Water service is provided by Buffalo Water Board and managed by Veolia.
1827 An act to incorporate the Buffalo Hydraulic Association. March 8, 1827.
1827 An act to incorporate the Proprietors of the Jubilee Water Works Company of Buffalo and Black Rock. April 7, 1827.
1849 An act to incorporate the Buffalo water works company. March 15, 1849.
1850 "Water! Water ! !," Buffalo Daily Courier, February 9, 1850, Page 2.
1850 "Corporation Proceedings, March 12, 1850," Buffalo Daily Courier, March 13, 1850, Page 2.
1850 "Water," Buffalo Daily Courier, March 21, 1850, Page 2.
1850 "Water," Buffalo Daily Courier, April 4, 1850, Page 2. Bill passed in legislature for supplying Buffalo with water. Gentleman in town of Philadelphia offering to build system and take water stock.
1850 An act to authorize the city of Buffalo to subscribe to the capital stock of the Buffalo Water Works Company. April 5, 1850. Note the original version of this bill was vetoed by Governor Hamilton Fish and was repassed with the offending language removed. See his veto statement.
1850 "Legislature of New York," Buffalo Daily Courier, April 6, 1850, Page 2. Veto of Buffalo water bill. Also Buffalo Water Works and notice for election of directors.
1850 "Corporation Proceedings, April 16, 1850," Buffalo Daily Courier, April 17, 1850, Page 2. Water works discussion, favors taking stock in company.
1850 "The Water Works Company," Buffalo Daily Courier, April 25, 1850, Page 2.
1850 "Water Works Meeting Notice," Buffalo Daily Courier, April 30, 1850, Page 4.
1850 "Buffalo Water Works," Buffalo Daily Courier, May 2, 1850, Page 2. Election of directors and officers.
1850 "The Benefits of Water Works," Buffalo Daily Courier, May 6, 1850, Page 2.
1850 "Corporation Proceedings, May 7, 1850," Buffalo Daily Courier, May 8, 1850, Page 2. Petition of George Palmer and other in relation to the Water Works.
1850 "Buffalo Water Works," Albany Evening Journal, May 13, 1850, Page 2. link
1850 "Buffalo Water Works," Buffalo Daily Courier, May 15, 1850, Page 2.
1850 In May of 1850, a special committee of the Common Council held a meeting with the directors of the Buffalo Water Works Company. By now the Company reported it had sold $234,850 of its stock. Some $183,000 of this was subscribed by Battin, Dungas and Company, with the provision they would build the waterworks and distribution system. The project was estimated at $375,000. The Waterworks Company invited the City to buy its remaining stock. (Buffalo Common Council Minutes, Special Meeting, June 4, 1850).
1850 "Report on the Water Works," Buffalo Daily Courier, June 5, 1850, Page 2. Information from the contractor and engineer on the proposed works.
1850 "Buffalo Water Works," Buffalo Daily Courier, June 10, 1850, Page 2.
Water Works," Schenectady Reflector, June 21, 1850, Page 3.
The city of Buffalo, it appears, is to be supplied with water, notwithstanding the city has refused to take stock. Mr. Parish, of St. Lawrence Co., has taken $125,000 in stock, to be paid for in iron pipe. Batten, Dungan & Co. of Philadelphia, who are to construct the works, take $200,000. The balance, some $75,000 has been or is to be taken by the citizens of Buffalo. The water is to be raised from the bed of the Niagara river near Fort Porter,by means of two steam engines and pumps of great power, and of the most approved construction, into a reservoir, or more properly speaking, a series of reservoirs, capable of containing a supply sufficient for the wants of the city for about ten days, to be located on some of the high grounds in the vicinity of Prospect Hill, from thence distributed through pipes to the different parts of the city.- Argus.
1850 "Buffalo Water Works," Buffalo Daily Courier, August 24, 1850, Page 2.
1850 "Buffalo Water Works," Milwaukee Sentinel, September 19, 1850, Page 2. Construction of reservoirs and tunnel shaft.
North American, December 31, 1850, Page 1.
Buffalo Water Works.- While the workmen were engaged, last week, in excavating the tunnel under Black Rock Harbor, having penetrated about 130 feet, the struck a seam or fissure in the rock, through which the water poured up in such quantities to force them out. It is thought that operations will, in consequence, be suspended a week.
Daily Courier, March 26, 1851, Page 2.
Corporation Proceedings, March 25, 1851. By Ald Pierce, that the Common Council petition the Legislature for the passage of an Act authorizing the Common Council to raise by tax on the property benefited, sufficient money to defray the expense of Fire Plugs, or Hydrants, and cases and service pipe for the same, and that the Mayor request the Senator and members of this District to effect the same. Adopted.
1851 An act to authorize the Buffalo Water Works Company to covey certain lands to the county of Erie. March 29, 1851.
1851 "Our Water Works," Buffalo Daily Courier, April 3, 1851, Page 2. Description of pumping engines. Original article was in the Public Ledger (Philadelphia), March 31, 1851, Page 3.
1851 "The Tunnel," Buffalo Daily Courier, April 19, 1851, Page 2.
1851 "Great Tunnel," Detroit Free Press, April 26, 1851, Page 2.
1852 Buffalo Daily Courier, January
6, 1852 Page 2.
Water - The lovers of cleanliness were highly delighted on Saturday evening by finding that the pure water of Niagara was running through the pipes in our streets, though they had previous notice of the filling of the reservoirs on Prospect Hill. Many of our dwellings, stores, etc., are already supplied with the pipe and apparatus necessary to make available this important acquisition, and many more will soon be put in condition to secure it. One of the greatest benefits to be derived from this supply of water, will be felt in the efforts of the Fire Department to arrest the spread of fires, when they will not find it necessary to change their suction at the critical moments when a plentiful supply of water for a few minutes will stop the ravages of the destroyer. Every one should be glad that the promised "good time" had made its appearance when we will have plenty of plenty that is good for all the purposes for which that necessary fluid is used.
Proceedings, January 6, 1852," Buffalo
Daily Courier, January 8, 1852, Page 2.
The following communication was received from the Water Works Company:
The Buffalo Water Works Company report that they are now prepared to supply water to the city for public and private purposes, on the line of the present water pipes.— They propose to furnish water for the Public Fire Hydrants now constructed or which may hereafter be constructed by the city for the sum of $50 per annum for each Hydrant,
payable quarterly. The use of water for these Hydrants is to embrace the following purposes:
1st. For water for the extinguishment of fires.
2d. For water for the use of the several Engine and Hose Companies at their houses.
3d. For water for the use of the Public Markets for cleansing purposes.
For the Company, Henry W. Rogers, President.
Water Works," The Weekly Wisconsin, July 14, 1852, Page 1.
The Water Works Company have set and brought into use 95 hydrants. There are 59 more to be set between the first day of July and the first of November - Commercial.
1853 Annual Report of the Board of Water
Commissioner 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,
Page 22: Buffalo - The Water Works of this city are owned by a company. The water is taken from the Niagara river, and is carried into the pump well, through a tunnel cut through the rock, under the Erie Canal. The water is raised to the reservoir by means of two Cornish Bull engines, cylinders 50 inches diameter, and 10 feet stroke. The reservoir is of earth embankment, and will store 13,000,000 gallons. These works have cost upwards of $400,000.
Population of the city about sixty thousand.
1855 "Performance of the Cornish Pumping Engines of the Buffalo Water Works," By Henry Cartwright, March 17, 1855, Journal of the Franklin Institute, Third Series 29(4):271-274 (April, 1855)
1856 An act to amend an act entitled "An act to incorporate the Buffalo Water Works Company," passed March 5, 1849. March 21, 1856.
1858 "Corporation Proceedings, March 29, 1858," Buffalo Courier, March 30, 1858, Page 2.
1858 "Corporation Proceedings, April 3, 1858," Buffalo Courier, April 4, 1858, Page 2.
1858 "Common Council, April 12, 1858," Buffalo Courier, April 13, 1858, Page 3.
1858 "Common Council, April 19, 1858," Buffalo Courier, April 20, 1858, Page 3.
1858 "The Water To be Shut Off," Buffalo Courier, April 21, 1858, Page 3.
1858 "The Water Not To be Shut Off," Buffalo Courier, April 27, 1858, Page 3.
1858 "Common Council, April 26, 1858," Buffalo Courier, April 27, 1858, Page 3.
Daily Exchange, May 10, 1858, Page 1.
The Buffalo Water Works are owned by a private company. They have made a losing business of it, and have, therefore, been endeavoring to sell out to the city. They demand a perpetual guarantee from the city of seven percent. interest on the cost of their extensions, which are estimated at $125,000.- The Common Council acceded to the other demands of the company, and agreed to pay 8,000, or seven percent per annum on their extension for twelve years only. This is not satisfactory to the company, and they have given pubic notice that they will suspend all operations on the 2d of May. This leaves the Buffalonians in a sad plight.
1860 Gazetteer of the State of New York:
Embracing a Comprehensive View of the Geography, Geology, and General
History of the State, and a Complete History and Description of Every
County, City, Town, Village and Locality, with Full Tables of
Statistics, by John Homer French
Page 248: The main part of the city is supplied with wholesome water from Niagara River by the Buffalo Water Works Company. The reservoir, situated on Niagara between Connecticut and Vermont Sts., is 88 ft. higher than the river, and has a capacity of 13,500,000 gallons. The water is elevated by two force pumps, each of a capacity of 235 gallons, and is distributed through 31 mi. of pipe. Lower Black Rock is supplied by the Jubilee Water Works with water obtained from the Jubilee Springs. It is conducted through wooden pipes, of which there are more than two miles laid.
Note 7: The Buffalo Water Works Company was Incorp. March 15, 1849. The original cost of the works was $400,000; and $66,000 of the earnings have been expended in extending the works. Connected with them are 320 street hydrants, and 20 underground reservoirs, having an aggregate capacity of 407,850 gal.
Note 8: The Jubilee Water Works Company was organized in 1827, with a capital of $20,000. At one time the company had 16 mi. of wooden pipe laid, fully supplying Black Rock and a part of Buffalo; but, while the increase of population created a greater demand for water, the supply from the springs diminished, and in 1845 the citizens of Lower Black Rock purchased the work and confined the supply to their own village.
1861 An act to amend an act entitled an act to amend an act entitled "An act to incorporate the Buffalo water works company," passed March fifteenth, eighteen hundred and forty-nine. March 26, 1861.
1862 Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Buffalo. From January 7th, 1861, to January 6th, 1862.
1865 Proceedings of the Common Council of the City of Buffalo. From January 4th, 1864, to January 2d, 1865.
1865 "Corporation Proceedings, December 18, 1865," Buffalo Daily Courier, December 20, 1865, Page 1.
1865 "The Cost of Water," Buffalo Daily Courier, December 21, 1865, Page 3.
1867 An act in relation to the Buffalo Water-Works Company. April 24, 1867.
1867 Views of the Water Question, As presented by the Buffalo Water Works Company, Dec. 19, 1867.
1868 An act to provide a supply of water to the city of Buffalo. May 7, 1868.
1868 "The Water Works Communication from the Holly Manufacturing Company" The Buffalo Commercial, September 22, 1868, Page 3.
Holly Water Works," Buffalo Daily Courier, October 10, 1868,
Visit of the City Water, Officers of the Corporation, and other citizens to the Holly Water Works at Lockport -- The Holly Works vs. a Steam Fire Engine -- A Lively Display -- The Holly Patent a success -- A few ideas on the subject.
Holly Water Works" Buffalo Daily Courier, October 24, 1868,
The system thoroughly vindicated -- The objections of Messrs. Ball and Dunbar answered.
1869 "The Water Question," The Buffalo Commercial, January 27, 1869, Page 2.
Water Question" The Buffalo Commercial, February 13, 1869,
The new proposition of the Holly Manufacturing Company. -- Mr. David Bell's Objections Considered.
1869 An act to amend an act entitled "An act to provide a supply of water to the city of Buffalo," passed May seventh, eighteen hundred and sixty-eight. May 8, 1869.
1870 "The Buffalo City Water Works - Proposals for the Construction of Pumping Machinery, &c." Evening Courier & Republic (Buffalo, New York), May 6, 1870, Page 2.
1871 "The Introduction of
the Holly System," Evening
Courier & Republic (Buffalo, New York), January 18, 1871,
Description of works.
1871 "The Holly Water Works," Buffalo Daily Courier, February 18, 1871, Page 2.
1872 "Map of old and new water works pumping plants," from Buffalo Map, showing part of Eleventh Ward, including location of old and water works pumping station and reservoir at foot of Massachusetts street.
1873 An Act to authorize the city of Buffalo to issue its bonds for the purpose of extending the supply of water to the city and its inhabitants, and to purchase land, and, and to construct a reservoir thereon, May 23, 1873.
1873 An act to empower the board of water commissioners of the city of Buffalo, together with the common council of said city, to establish or designated free public hydrants in said city, and providing for the appointment of water commissioners in said city. June 23, 1873.
1874 An act to authorize the city of Buffalo to issue its bonds for the purpose of perfecting the extended system of water supply to the city and its inhabitants. May 21, 1874.
1874- Annual Reports of the Buffalo City Water Works | Volumes 6-14 | Volumes 15-18 | Volumes 19-22 | Volume 36 | Volume 40 | Volume 43 |
1875 An act to authorize the city of Buffalo to issue its bonds for the purpose of extending the supply of water to the city and its inhabitants. June 9, 1875.
1876 An act to authorize the common council of the city of Buffalo to appoint Jubilee Water Commissioners. May 13, 1876.
Water Supply," Buffalo Courier, December 1, 1878, Page 1.
New Holly pumping machinery.
1881 Buffalo, Engineering News, 8:173-174 (April 30, 1881)
1882 Buffalo, from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.
1884 History of the City of Buffalo and Erie
County, Volume 2, edited by H. Perry Smith
Page 103: On the fourth of July, 1826, the Jubilee Water Works Company began operations for the purpose of supplying the village with water from the Jubilee Springs, “a fountain of pure water, one and one-half miles from Black Rock.” Pump logs were laid from the spring to Black Rock, during that season. .In the winter of 1827, the company was incorporated, and contemplated continuing their conduits to Buffalo. This was finally done in 1829, the logs being laid down Main street to the canal basin. The rates charged were seven dollars for families, and five dollars for stores and offices.
During the period under consideration the village suffered severely from fires, much loss being entailed through the lack of sufficient extinguishing apparatus. Early in the morning of November 14, 1829, eleven stores were burned on the west side of Main street, causing a loss of over $25,000. On the 15th of December, 1831, the “Kremlin corner” was burned, with a loss of over $20,000. November 14, 1832, occurred one of the most disastrous conflagrations in the history of the city, destroying several squares of buildings in the heart of the city, on Main, East and West Seneca, Pearl and Washington streets, and causing a loss of nearly $200,000.
Page 523-526: "The City Water Works"
Pages 114-115 (Biographical section) : Mayor Chandler Joseph Wells - During his administration as Mayor, the Water Works, then the property of a corporate company, was purchased by the city. Mr. Wells has frequently been characterized: the “father of water works," and not altogether unjustly considering what he has done for them. When the city came into possession, the supply of water was taken from Niagara river so close in shore, that it was more or less impregnated with the filthy sewage discharged into the river above. As a remedy, it was determined to construct a new and larger tunnel under Niagara, extending it one thousand feet from shore, with an inlet near the centre of the river, where it was ascertained by practical tests, that the water was always pure. In 1868, the Board of Water Commissioners was created. Mr. Wells was appointed on the commission, and held the position the full term of six years; most of the time acting chairman of the board. The inlet pier and tunnel were constructed while he held this office. and the completion of this important work was undoubtedly due to his indomitable perseverance. Great difficulties were encountered, and for a time it was feared the project would have to be abandoned. Messrs. Clark and Douglass, the first contractors, sunk about $150,000 on the work, and abandoned their contract. A new contract was made with John Heckler, who, under the advice and encouragement of Mr. Wells, by his energy and skill overcame the many difficulties, and practically completed the work. Mr. Heckler was discouraged and at times disposed to throw up his contract, which he doubtless would have done, had it not been for the financial aid rendered him by Mr. Wells, in becoming personally responsible for a large sum of money, then absolutely essential to the prosecution of his contract. The greatest misfortune suffered by Mr. Heckler, was the loss in Niagara river, of a crib intended for the foundation of the inlet pier, on which he had expended about ten thousand dollars. While the work was in progress Mr. Wells gave it his constant personal attention to the neglect of his private business; overlooking and directing operations, and a portion of the time performing the duties of superintendent. Having faith and confidence in the young engineer in charge, Louis H. Knapp, who inflexibly contended that the projected tunnel was feasible and passible, Mr. Wells supported him in every essential suggestion necessary to success. According to eminent physicians, the ample supply of pure water, resulting from this improvement, greatly reduced the average of certain diseases and generally promoted the health of the city.
1888 "Buffalo," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.
R. Ketcham," The Buffalo Commercial, January 16, 1890, Page
Water works superintendent for many years. Later built works in Rochester, Memphis, Long Island City, Galveston, Texas and other places.
1890 An act to provide a mode for ultimate disposition of property belonging to the Jubilee water system in the city of Buffalo, and investment of the proceeds. April 22, 1890.
1890 An act to authorize the city of Buffalo to issue three and one-half percent bonds for the purpose for constructing a reservoir, and to prevent further issue of seven per cent bonds for such purpose. May 21, 1890
1890 "Buffalo," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.
1891 "Buffalo," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.
1891 An act to revise the charter of the city of Buffalo. March 27, 1891.
1891 Official Reports of Various Duty Trials of
the Gaskill Pumping Engines, Holly Manufacturing Company
Page 11: Two Holly Quadraplex - 4,000,000 and 6,000,000; Four Gaskill Horizontal - 1 x 15,000,000 and 2 x 20,000,000 gallons per day
Page 232-235: Duty and Capacity Trials Gaskill Compound Pumping Engine (October 1890)
New Prospect Storage and Distributing Reservoir, at Buffalo, N. Y.,"
25:26-27 (January 10, 1891)
1895 "Studies for a Water-Works Intake at Buffalo," Engineering News 33:309-319 (May 9, 1895)
1895 History of a great failure : being a review of the Buffalo city water-works since they became the property of the city by purchase : including a statement, taken from the public records of the city, of the construction of the tunnel and inlet pier, and of the changes made in the plans of the same for the benefit of the contractors and against the interests of the taxpayers : also articles printed in the city newspapers, and letters written by citizens bearing on the faulty method of supplying water to the people of the city of Buffalo, N.Y., by Thomas Dark.
1896 An act to authorize the city of Buffalo to issue its bonds for the purpose of raising money to construct, maintain, extend, repair and regulate water-works. May 20, 1896.
1897 "Buffalo," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.
1898 "History of the Buffalo Water Works," from The Engineering Record 38:362-364 (November 24, 1898)
1899 "The Buffalo, N. Y., Water Works," by Louis H. Knapp, Engineer, Buffalo, N. Y. Read September 15, 1899. Journal of the New England Water Works Association 14(3):206-212 (March 1900)
1907 "Sketch of the Buffalo Waterworks," Fire and Water Engineering 41:281 (June 12, 1907)
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)
1908 "Bureau of Water Report" from Sixteenth Annual Report of the Department of Public Works of the City of Buffalo for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 1908. Includes historical information and details on water system.
1909 "Brief Sketch of the Buffalo Waterworks," Fire and Water Engineering 45:338 (June 2, 1909)
1913 "Water Supply," from The History of Buffalo, by Joseph Nelson Larned, from The Progress of the Empire State, Volume II, Edited by Charles Arthur Conant
1916 "Buffalo Complete Huge New Pumping Station," Engineering News, 75:207-209 (February 3, 1916) | Also here | and here |
1927 "The Buffalo Water Works," by George C. Andrews, Consulting Engineer, Water Commissioner, Buffalo, New York, 1916-1926. Journal of the American Water Works Association 17(3):279-290 (March 1927)
1930 "Special Features of the Buffalo Distribution System," by William H. Grotz, Assistant Engineer, Division of Water, Buffalo, New York. Journal of the American Water Works Association 22(9):1251-1256 (September 1930)
1936 "The Buffalo Water Works," by Alan D. Drake, Director of Water, Buffalo, New York. Journal of the American Water Works Association 29(6):763-773 (June 1937)
1962 "Buffalo," 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
1985 An act to amend the public authorities law, in relation to financing various public improvements within the state by creating the Buffalo municipal water finance authority and allowing for the creation of a water board; providing for their powers and duties and other matters in connection therewith. August 1, 1985.
1999 "A Pipe Dream Comes True: Buffalo's Decision to Make Water A Public Good," by M. Stephen Pendleton. Middle States Geographer, 32: 48-60 (1999)
2006 "The Colonel Ward Pumping Station," from Ghostly Ruins: America's Forgotten Architecture, by Harry Skrdla. Includes several pictures of the old Holly engines and new electric pumps.
2012 "Water – Life’s Blood of Western New York Past, Present and Future," by Daniel Bentivogli and Molly Miller-Nagy Clear Waters 42:12-19 (Spring 2012)
Colonel Ward Pump Station Pictures of the plant as it exists today.
© 2015 Morris A. Pierce