Documentary History of American Water-Works

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Middle Atlantic States New York New York City Croton System

The Croton Reservoir and Aqueduct System

Using the Croton River as a water supply was proposed by Col. De Witt Clinton in 1832.  After years of study and planning, construction began in 1837 on an impounding reservoir and aqueduct.  This first, or Old Croton Aqueduct, was placed in service on June 22, 1842 with a large celebration on October 14, 1842. The distribution reservoirs were located in Manhattan at 42nd Street (discontinued in 1890) and in Central Park south of 86th Street (discontinued in 1925). New reservoirs were constructed to increase supply: Boyds Corner in 1873 and Middle Branch in 1878. In 1883 a commission was formed to build a second aqueduct from the Croton watershed as well as additional storage reservoirs. This second, or New Croton Aqueduct, was under construction from 1885 to 1893 and was placed in service in 1890, while still under construction.

1806 The Evening Post, December 30, 1806, Page 3.
The Bronx, Croton, and Sawmill rivers, or any two of them; will furnish that ample supply.

1823 National Advocate, December 4, 1822, Page 2.
Extract from a letter addressed by Benjamin Wright, Esq. to a member of the Canal Committee in Sharon, Connecticut, dated Rome, (N Y) Sept. 16.
Seeing some notice in the newspapers relative to a canal from Sharon and into Dover, and from thence gaining waters of the Croton River, and following it to its entrance and into the Hudson, and examining the maps and reflecting on the importance of conveying a considerable body of water into the city of New-York, (which I have long considered as absolutely indispensable to the health of the city) I have been speculating upon the probability of connecting the two objects of Canal, and supply the city with abundance of water; believing, that to obtain that supply, resort must be had to Croton River.

1823 National Advocate, July 28, 1823, Page 2.
New York & Sharon Canal. It is said the survey made last fall by Mr. White, an experienced engineer, at the expence of the city, ended, like all the former, in a decided opinion, that it was impracticable to obtain water from any other source, to be relied on, except the Croton; and that at an expence (as then contemplated,) beyond our means.

1825 "Outline of a Project to Supply the City of New York with Water," by "Fulton", from American Mechanics' Magazine, 1(13):203 (April 30, 1825)  Recommends use of Croton River.

1832 Report of Colonel De Witt Clinton on potential water supplies for the City of New York, December 22, 1832

1833 AN ACT for the appointment of commissioners in relation to supplying the city of New-York with pure and whole some water. Passed February 26, 1833.

1833 Report Of the Commissioners, under an act of the Legislature of this State, passed February 26, 1833, relative to supplying the city of New-York with pure and wholesome water. New- York, December 31, 1833.

1834  AN ACT to provide for supplying the city of New-York with pure and wholesome water. Passed May 2, 1834.

1835 Board of Aldermen, February 16, 1835: the following report was received from the Commissioners appointed, pursuant to a law passed by the legislature, on the 2d of May 1834, in relation to supplying the City of New-York with pure and wholesome water, which was referred to the Committee on Fire and Water | Also here |

1835 Board of Aldermen, March 4, 1835: the Committee on Fire and Water, to whom was referred the report of the Water Commissioners, and the documents accompanying the same, in relation to supplying the City of New-York with pure and wholesome water, presented the following report

1835 Exposition of errors in the calculation of the Board of Water Commissioners, by John L. Sullivan.

1836 Board of Aldermen, February 15th, 1836: the following communication was received from his Honor the Mayor, enclosing a communication from Stephen Allen, Esq., Chairman of the Water Commissioners, and from D.B. Douglass, Esq., Chief Engineer, N.Y. Aqueduct, in relation to the practicability and probable expense of forcing by steam engines a sufficient quantity of water from the North or East River to a reservoir to be erected on Murray Hill, in aid of the present means for extinguishing fires, which was referred to the Committee on Fire and Water

1839 "The Croton Aqueduct," New York Herald, July 18, 1839, Page 2.  This article was reprinted in London's Mechanics Magazine, No. 844, (October 12, 1839).

1839 "Account of the Croton Aqueduct for Supplying New York with Water," The Mechanics' Magazine, Museum, Register, Journal and Gazette, 32:24-16 (October 12, 1839)

1842 Description of the Croton Aqueduct by John Bloomfield Jervis, Chief Engineer

1842 Report of the Croton Aqueduct Board in Relation to the Ways and Means of Paying the Croton Water Debt, New York Croton Aqueduct Board

1842 "Croton Aqueduct", from Memoirs of the Most Eminent American Mechanics: Also, Lives of Distinguished European Mechanics ; Together with a Collection of Anecdotes, Descriptions & Etc. Relating to the Mechanic Arts by Henry Howe

1843 Journal and Documents of the Board of Assistants of the City of New-York, Volume 21, November 2, 1842 to May 18, 1843.  Includes several reference and proposals for Croton water rates.

1843 A Memoir of the Construction, Cost, and Capacity of the Croton Aqueduct: Compiled from Official Documents : Together with an Account of the Civic Celebration of the Fourteenth October, 1842, on Occasion of the Completion of the Great Work : Preceded by a Preliminary Essay on Ancient and Modern Aqueducts by Charles King

1843 Illustrations of the Croton Aqueduct by F. B. [Fayette Bartholomew] Tower of the Engineer Department

1843 The mayor, aldermen, and commonalty of the city of New York, plaintiffs in error, vs. James Bailey, sen., John Bailey and Abraham Bailey, defendants in error : case made by defendants in error. | also here |

1845 An ordinance in relation to the use of the Croton Water in the City of New-York, and for other purposes.  Proposed.

1845 Annual Report of the Croton Aqueduct Board, for 1845.  July 7, 1845.
Pages 125-126:  One fact, susceptible of the fullest demonstration, needs to be mentioned: it is, that every person, who pays tax on real or personal estate, actually pays less money now, than he did previous to the introduction of the water; and this arises from the reduction of the rates of insurance. The tax to defray the interest of the Croton Water Debt is 20 cents on the 100 dollars, and the average reduction on the rates of insurance is at least 40 cents on the 100 dollars; and it is fair to presume, that with the number of fires that take place, even with so copious and abundant supply of water to quench them, with small loss and injury, the old rates, without this supply, would of necessity have largely increased. In illustration of the above, the Board mention the following: One of our most intelligent merchants and largest tax payers, who pays at this office water rent for near forty houses, relates the result of a calculation he made, viz.: He placed in one column the rate of insurance he paid on this property previous to the introduction of Croton Water; in another, the rate of insurance he pays at present, and added to it the Croton water tax, and subtracting the two last from the first, the result is a clear saving of 25 per cent. Another merchant states, that he insures on his stock 30,000 dollars; previous to the introduction of the water he paid 85 cents on the 100 dollars; he now pays for the same amount of property 35 cents on the hundred dollars, a saving of 150 dollars. If he paid the Croton water tax on the above amount it would be 60 dollars, leaving a nett gain of 90 dollars.

1846 Description of the New-York Croton Aqueduct: In English, German and French, by Theophilus Schramke

1849 An act to create the "Croton Aqueduct department" in the city of New-York.  April 11, 1849.
§ 18. The common council of said city may by ordinance establish a scale of annual rents for the supply of the Croton water to be called the "regular rents," and apportioned to different classes of buildings in said city in reference to their dimensions, values exposure to fires, ordinary uses for dwellings, stores, shops, private stables and other common purposes, number of families or occupants or consumption of water, as near as may be practicable and modify, alter and amend and increase such scale from time to time, and extend it to other descriptions of buildings and establishments. Such regular rents when so established, shall be collected from the owners or occupants of all such buildings respectively, which shall be situated upon lots adjoining any street or avenue in said city in which the distributing water pipes are or may be laid, and from which they can be supplied with water. Said "regular rents" shall become a charge and lien upon such houses and lots respectively as herein provided.
§ 19. Hotels, factories, stables, livery stables and other buildings, and establishments which consume extra quantities of water, may in addition to the regular rents be charged with additional rents to be called the "extra rents."
§ 20. The regular annual rents which are not paid at the Croton aqueduct department before the first day of August in each year, shall be subject to an additional charge of five per cent., and those rates not paid before the first day of November in each year, shall be subject to an additional charge of ten per cent.

1849 Minutes of the Croton Aqueduct Board of the City of New York: July 18, 1849, to April 9, 1870 New York Croton Aqueduct Board

1850 Annual Report of the Croton Aqueduct Department by New York Croton Aqueduct Board.  The first volume (1850) is not available on line, links to other volumes will be added.

1855 Description of the New-York Croton Aqueduct: In English, German and French, 2nd edition, by Theophilus Schramke

1859 Sketch of the Civil Engineering of North America, by David Stevenson
Page 200-203:  Croton Water Works

1860 "Cheap Water," The New York Times, October 9, 1860, Page 4.

1870 "Croton Poisons," New York Daily Herald, April 11, 1870, Page 7.  Dangers of lead cisterns and pipes.

1873 "Supplying New York with Water from Poughkeepsie," The Evening Gazette (Port Jervis, New York), July 31, 1873, Page 2.

1877 "Croton Water," Scribner's Monthly, 14(2):161-176 (June, 1877)

1879 The inadequate water supply in New York, and its remedies : the Holly system of direct pressure on all mains and pipes ; water to be supplied at all times at the top of each building on Manhattan Island by the Holly system ; triple method as a whole or separately, by J.L. Douglass.

1881 “How Croton Water is WastedEngineering News 8:450-451 (November 5, 1881)
How Croton Water is Wasted. “The inspectors of the Department of Public Works are busy searching for houses where water is wasted. Their method is to have a man enter a sewer in the night-time through a man-hole and apply a gauge to the water flowing into the sewers from houses. In cases where the flow is great an inspector is sent to the house the next day to examine the plumbing. When a serious leak is found the water is cut off summarily. In this way a number of houses have been deprived of water within the last few days. The police have been notified to be especially vigilant to prevent the waste or water, and the result of the order has been that several houses have been reported. In one case yesterday the water was cut off from a row of three houses on a police report. The water will not be let on again until the owners or occupants take measures to prevent waste. The officials of the Department of Public Works find the most fault with apartment houses. One of them visited by inspectors had a tank on the top floor containing 3,300 gallons of water. This was filled and emptied twice a day, making the water supply 6,600 gallons a day. Ten families live in the house, so that 660 gallons are used by each family, which is considered an excessive amount. This does not include hot water, which is supplied from boilers in the basement. The officials have no power to limit the supply unless a waste of water can be shown. Some trouble is experienced by the inspectors in gaining admittance to houses in the daytime, as servants object to letting them in while their employers are out.”

1882 "New York Water Rates," Engineering News 9:182 (June 3, 1882)

1882 New York Water Supply:Proposed New Aqueduct and Storage Reservoir for Additional Supply from Croton River New York Department of Public Works (1870-1898), Hubert O. Thompson, Isaac Newton

1882 Report and Resolutions on the Subject of City Water Supply and Distribution: Showing the Danger of the Proposed Dam at Quaker Bridge, and Renewing the Petition to Appoint Commissioners to Decide Upon Plans and Construct Works. April, 1882 Union League Club (New York, N.Y.)

1882 A report of a plan for supplementing the Croton water supply to the City of New York from the Ramapo District, by William J. McAlpine.  April 30, 1882.

1885 Engineering Drawings and Data: The New Croton Aqueduct by Engineering News Publishing Company

1893 Catalogue of the Illustrations of the Water-supply of the City of New York: Written for the Board of General Managers of the Exhibit of the State of New York at the World's Columbian Exposition by Edward Wegmann

1896 The Water Supply of the City of New York, 1658-1895  by Edward Wegmann, extenstive detail on the Croton System.

1901 "New York Water Works," Fire and Water 29:197-203 (June 15, 1901)
The Croton Dam and Watershed.  Jerome Park Reservoir.  The Distribution System of Manhattan, with views of the principal works of interest.

1905 Report of the Board of Water Supply of the City of New York to the Board of Estimate and Apportionment: October 9, 1905 by New York Board of Water Supply

1905 Report on Filtration of the Water Supply of the City of New York by Thomas Darlington

1917 "Water Works History" from Twenty Second Annual Report of the American Scenic and Historic Preservation Society 1917

1956 Water for the Cities by Nelson Blake, includes several chapters on New York City.

1984 Old Croton Aqueduct from Historic American Engineering Record NY-120

1992 The Old Croton Aqueduct: Rural Resources Meet Urban Needs, by Jeffrey Kroessler

2000 Water for Gotham by Gerard T. Koeppel

2002 Liquid Assets: A History of New York City's Water System, by Diane Galusha

2006 Water-works : the architecture and engineering of the New York City water supply, by Kevin Bone, Gina Pollara, Albert F. Appleton

2011 The Croton Waterworks:  A Guide to the Preservation and Interpretation of Historic Infrastructure, Historic Preservation Studio II, Spring 2011

2013 History of NYC Water System by Catskill Watershed Corporation

2013 The Contentious History of Supplying Water to Manhattan by Lauren Robinson, Museum of the City of New York

2013 Empire of Water: An Environmental and Political History of the New York City Water Supply by David Soll

2014 The Croton and Catskill Systems: Meeting the Demand for Water in New York City by Lauren Robinson, Museum of the City of New York

Old Croton Aqueduct from Wikipedia

New Croton Aqueduct from Wikipedia

Croton Aqueducts from Croton Histories & Mysteries

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce