Documentary History of American Water-works

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Middle Atlantic States New York Potsdam

Potsdam, New York

Potsdam was settled around 1803.

The first water works in Potsdam was built in 1824 by Charles Partridge, who installed a water-driven pump to supply his distillery and tannery, and also distributed water to others through wooden logs for $5 per year.  The pump was installed in a sandstone structure known as the "Aqueduct Building." It is not known where this building was or how long the system operated.

The committee of citizens was appointed in January 1871 to devise a plan of water supply for the village, and their March recommendation in favor of the Holly water works was unanimously adopted.  Legislation authorizing the village to construct the works was granted the same month

Water is provided by the Village of Potsdam Water Department.

1824 A Gazetteer of the State of New York, by Horatio Gates Spafford
Page 425:  The Village is supplied with pure and wholesome water, [without the aid of a Bank,] by means of a forcing pump and an aqueduct, taking the water from the bottom of the river, always temperatures and wholesome.  It would be well for many places, much larger, to take a hint from these villagers; and it should be borne in mind by everybody, (excepting only the makers of Towns-on-paper,) that water power is indispensably necessary, in a thin, farming population, to the making of a respectable Village.

1853 Village of Potsdam Map The location of the 1824 water works is not shown.

1871 An act to amend the charter of the village of Potsdam.  March 16, 1871.

1873 Gazetteer and Business Directory of St. Lawrence County, N.Y. for 1873-4
Page 180-xx:  The village is supplied with water drawn from the Racket River and supplied by Holly's system of water works.
We are Favored with a communication from Mr. William. H. Wallace relative to the water works of the village, which we give entire.
“The village of Potsdam has an excellent system of water works both for domestic and fire purposes. At the annual charter meeting held in January, 1871, a committee of five citizens was appointed to devise a plan of water supply and report at a subsequent meeting. In March following they made a report to a meeting of citizens called to hear the same and take action thereon. In their report they recommended the adoption of tho Holly system of water supply. Their report was unanimously adopted. The necessary legislation was immediately procured and the works completed and put in operation about the first of December, 1871. The works, with the additional water pipes laid in the summer of 1872, have cost fifty thousand dollars. The water building is a substantial three story structure of Potsdam sandstone, in which are placed two of Holly’s patent elliptical rotary pumps, driven by two turbine water wheel of four and seven feet diameter respectively, together with Holly’s patent hydrostatic pressure gauge for controlling the pressure of the water in the street mains and pipes. The water is taken from a coarse filter well in the center of the Racket River, conducted thence in a 12 inch iron pipe laid in the bottom of the river and forced by the pumps directly into the street mains and pipes. There are now laid about four miles of street water mains, and thirty one double fire hydrants, together with fifteen water gates in the different street mains. These works were erected under the supervision of the trustees of the village of Potsdam, and are to be placed under the direction and control of three water commissioners to be chosen for terms of three years by the village trustees, and are under the immediate charge of a superintendent oty water works appointed by the village trustees. The water works in case of fire can throw directly from the fire hydrants four inch streams of water, at the same time, 80 feet high."

1878 "The Holly System of Water Supply and Fire Protection for Cities and Villages," Scientific American Supplement, 6(140supp):2219-2234 (September 7, 1878)
Page 2219: The Auburn works had triplicate rotary pumps and turbines, and works having similar pumping apparatus were subsequently introduced at Minneapolis, Minn. ; Gouverneur, Ogdensburg and Potsdam, N. Y.; Canton, Ohio; and Allegan, Mich.

1879 Watertown Daily Times, February 27, 1879, Page 3.
Mr. A. N. Tupper, who has been the efficient superintendent of the Potsdam water works since they were first introduced there, ten years since, now resigns his charge.  His resignation takes place March 1st.  Sometime since it was our pleasure to pay a visit to the water works, which are the Holly system, and for neatness, good order and efficiency, we must say we have never seen them excelled.  They are very creditable to the town that they serve.

1881 Potsdam, Engineering News, 8:394 (October 1, 1881)

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

1888 An act to relation to the village of Potsdam.  April 23, 1888.

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

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

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

1891 Official Reports of Various Duty Trials of the Gaskill Pumping Engines, Holly Manufacturing Company
Page 12:  Potsdam, Holly Water Power, capacity 1,500,000 gallons daily.

1894 Our county and its people: a memorial record of St. Lawrence County, New York, edited by Gates Curtis
Page 468:  About the year 1821 the first building of much importance was erected in the village, of the now extensively used sandstone. It was the store still standing on the southeast corner of Market and Elm streets, and was built by Liberty Knowles, Sewall Raymond and Charles Partridge. It was an experiment on their part, to ascertain if the stone was suitable for such a purpose ; the results are well known. About 1822-3 Mr. Knowles built a tannery, to be operated by Azel Lyman, and Mr. Partridge a distillery, of the same stone. Aside from the mills and shops, these were among the prominent early manufacturing industries. In 1823-4 Mr. Partridge built also a three story stone structure known as the "Aqueduct Buildings," in which water was raised to supply the tannery and distillery.  Pump logs were laid to various parts of the village and the citizens were supplied with water at five dollars per year.  The prevailing temperance agitation of a few years later led Mr. Partridge to close his distillery, and it was not reopened.
Page 472: Potsdam Water Works- The works consist principally of a stone building thirty-four feet square and two stories high. The works were constructed in 1871, the original cost being about $50,000, for which the village authorities issued bonds. The water is pumped from a filtering pier on the Holly system, by water power, with the exception of an auxiliary steam pump, which was added in 1890, at a cost of $2,500. Improvements have also been made in the original pumps. The entire cost of the works to the present time (1893) is nearly $60,000; but the cost of the late improvements noted was paid from the village funds. The bonds, in a sum of $40,000 issued in 1871, and $10,000 issued in 1872, had twenty years to run at seven per cent. interest. Of this amount $37,000 of the first issue became due April 1, 1891, and were refunded at four per cent., payable $2,000 annually; and on April i, 1892, the $10,000 were refunded in like manner, payable $500 annually.
The original commission chosen to procure plans, specifications, etc., were William H. Wallace, Samuel B. Gordon, E. A. Merritt, Bloomfield Usher and E. W. Foster. About four miles of mains were originally laid, which have been extended to nearly or quite six miles.

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

1910 Watertown Daily Times, October 7, 1910, Page 11.
Laborers go on a Strike.  Street Gang on Potsdam Water Works Refused a Raise in Wages.
Potsdam, Oct. 7.--A small strike developed on the street yesterday.  The board of water commissioners set a gang at work digging up the old mains preparatory to installing a large pipe.  After about an hour's work all hands quit.  The men were receiving 20 cents an hour and demanded 25.  The board refused to pay the demand and at present no work is being done and the street is still torn up.

1919 Fire and Water Engineering, 67:52 (January 7, 1919)
Potsdam, N. Y.--Contract for furnishing electric motor and a motor driven pump for the municipal pumping station,to be used as an emergency pump, was awarded to the Gould company, Seneca Falls. N. Y.

Potsdam Public Museum

Potsdam Water Works Building, 11 Raymond Street.  Now the Cactus Grill & Cantina.

Partridge Distillery, 17 Market Street

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce