Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Schenectady, New York

Schenectady was chartered as a city in 1798.

On May 7, 1799, a firm composed of  Wright Tryar, James Case and Oliver Bull applied to the Schenectady Common Council for permission to supply water through aqueducts.  On July 6, 1799 the Council granted permission to Henry R. Teller, Richard Rosa and Remsen R. Teller "to lead water works through any of the City's lands."  On October 1, 1801, Oliver Bull applied for a loan of $100 "to enable him to make the necessary extensions to convey water to the old Masonic Temple."  (See 1935 history)

The Schenectady Water Works Company was incorporated in 1804 by Abraham Oothout, Stephen N. Bayard, Maus Van Vranken, James Murdoch and Joseph C. Yates.  This company may have operated as late as 1835. 

The Jack Springs Water Works Company was incorporated in 1832 "for the purpose of supplying the city of Schenectady with good and wholesome water, and for making cisterns and fire stops for the extinguishment of fire." John I. De Graff, Henry Peek, Richard Fuller, Jonathan Crane and David Burt appointed as commissioners to receive subscriptions to the capital stock.  This company built a system that served several buildings, but no further information is known.

The city was authorized to construct water works in 1835, but doesn't appear to have done anything.

The Schenectady Water Company incorporated April 13, 1865 by William Van Vrankin, George G. Maxon, David C. Smith, John W. Veeder, Simon C. Groot, Benjamin F. Potter, and Thomas W. MeCamus, but as in other cities there were many who desired city ownership.  The advocates of public ownership petitioned for An Act to provide for a supply of water in the city of Schenectady which was passed May 9, 1867.  A report prepared by William J. McAlpine was presented to the city, but residents overwhelming voted down city ownership.

The water company then elected new directors and they contracted with the Holly Manufacturing Company for a direct pressure water system, which began service on June 14, 1872.

The water system was purchased by the City of Schenectady.on November 4, 1885 for $90,000 and has been owned by them since.

1804 An act to incorporate the stockholders of the Schenectady Water Works Company, April 7th, 1804.

1826 An act  for the relief of the Trustees of the Schentectady Water Works, March 24, 1826.

1832 An act to incorporate the Jack Spring Water Works Company, April 26, 1832.

1835 An act to enable the mayor, recorder, aldermen and commonalty of the city of Schenectady, to supply the said city with water for the extinguishment of fires and other purposes, May 4, 1835.

1865 An act to incorporate the Schenectady Water Company, April 13, 1865.

1867 An act to provide for a supply of water in the city of Schenectady, May 9, 1867

1867 Report of the Hon. Wm. J. McAlpine. to the Water Commissioners of the City of Schenectady, A.D. 1867.

1868 "Politics," Jamestown Journal, May 29, 1868, Page 3.
Schenectady has admitted the votes of women into the affairs of the burgh, and on a recent question about building water works they nearly all voted with the old fogies.

1882 Schenectady, Engineering News, 9:84 (March 11, 1882)

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

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

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

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

1895 "Specifications for the Schenectady Stand-Pipe," from Engineering News 33:354 (May 30, 1895)

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

Note:  The following three histories do not mention the 1804 Schenectady Water Works Company or the 1832 Jack Springs Water Works Company, and only the 1886 history mentions the 1835 act authorizing the city to construct water works.  Local newspapers contain many references to these water systems and local attempts to improve the water supply.

1886 "Schenectady Water-Works." from History of the County of Schenectady, N.Y., from 1662 to 1886 by George Rogers Howell and John H. Munsell.

1902 "The Fight for Water," from Schenectady County, New York: Its History to the Close of the Nineteenth Century by Austin H. Yates.

1935 "Historical Sketch of of Schenectady's Water System 1799-1935," from Fiftieth Annual Report of the Bureau of Water of the City of Schenectady, New York. Volumes 5-18  Volumes 35-50 Note:  This sketch was published in the annual reports since 1922 and was updated regularly.  This version is the most recent one found.

2015 Morris A. Pierce