Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Syracuse, New York

Syracuse was incorporated as a village in 1825.

The village of Syracuse was authorized to construct water works in 1821, which was reaffirmed in the 1825 village charter.  In 1829 the village was given the power to convey the rights to the water works to Oliver Teall, a prominent local citizen, which was again affirmed in 1834.  Although some sources indicate that Teall built water works in 1829, the village did not convey the rights to him until June 8, 1841, and he constructed a system using wooden pipes that began operating in 1843. At some point, Ira Seymour and Aaron Burt associated with Teall in the water works under the firm name of Teall, Seymour & Burt, which continued until 1849. 

The Syracuse City Waterworks Company was incorporated in 1849 by Oliver Teall, Ira Seymour, John Wilkinson, Hamilton White, and Roger Furham, and acquired Teall's system, which was expanded and cast iron pipes were installed in 1853.  In 1871 a Holly steam-driven rotary pumping engine with a capacity of 3 million gallons per day was installed to pump water into the system's reservoirs.  A 10 million gallon per day Worthington engine was installed in August, 1877 and the Holly engine was offered for sale.  Two 3 million gallon per day Deane pumps were added in 1884.  The Worthington and Deane pumps were offered for sale in 1897.  The name of the Syracuse City Waterworks Company was changed to the Syracuse Water Company in May, 1879.

The Central City Water Works Company was incorporated on January 28, 1885 and received a franchise from the City of Syracuse on March 23, 1885.  The five trustees of this company were Frank B. Merrill, John F. Moffett, Frank A. Hinds, Chas Wm. Kurtz, and Alfred J. Luce.  (Moffett and Hinds were involved in many water works in the late 1880s.)  The old and new companies made extravagant promises to the city and a public ownership movement was begun, but was initially unsuccessful.

In June, 1889, the citizens of Syracuse, at a special election, declared almost unanimously in favor of Skaneateles Lake water and municipal ownership.  The Syracuse Water Board took possession of the works on January 1, 1892 at a cost of $850,000.  A new gravity system taking water from Skaneateles Lake began operating in 1894.  The lake is nineteen miles southwest of the city and 460 feet higher.

Water is currently provided by the City of Syracuse

References
1821 An act to supply the Village of Syracuse with wholesome Water. March 27, 1821

1825 An act to Incorporate the Village of Syracuse. April 13, 1825.
XI. And be it further enacted, That all the rights, property and powers of the trustees of the Syracuse water works, be and are hereby vested in the said corporation, subject to the obligations of the said trustees; and the several duties enjoined on said trustees in and by the act, entitled “an act to supply the village of Syracuse with wholesome water,” passed 27th March, 1821, shall hereafter be exercised by the trustees of said village.

1829 An act to amend the Act entitled "An Act to incorporate the Village of Syracuse," passed April 13, 1825.  April 23, 1829.
§ 2. The trustees of said village shall have power to convey to Oliver Teal, his heirs and assigns, all the rights, property and powers of the trustees of the Syracuse water works company as vested in said village by the eleventh section of the act hereby amended, for the term of twenty years ; and the said Teal shall thereafter be possessed of all the powers, rights and privileges which are granted in and by the act entitled "An act to supply the village of Syracuse with wholesome water," passed March 27, 1821; but in case the said Teal, after receiving such conveyance, shall neglect to exercise the powers thereby granted, the trustees of said village shall, after one year's notice, have the right to resume all the rights thereby granted, on pay ing him the appraised value of any aqueducts laid ; and the sum which the said Oliver Teal shall eharge to a private family for the use of the water, shall not exceed five dollars ; for a boarding-house, ten dollars, and for a tavern, twenty dollars a year.

1834 An act to amend the act entitled "An act to incorporate, the village of Syracuse," and the act amending the same.  April 22, 1834.
§ 9. The trustees of said village shall have power to convey to Oliver Teall, his heirs or assigns, all the rights, property and powers of the trustees of the Syracuse water works company, as vested in said village by the eleventh section of the act hereby amended, for the term of thirty-five years from and after the passage of this act; and the said Teall, his heirs or assigns, shall thereafter be possessed of all the powers, rights and privileges which are granted in and by the act entitled "An act to supply the village of Syracuse with wholesome water," passed March 27, 1821, and of all the powers of said village in reference to that subject, by virtue of this act and the act hereby amended; and the said Teall, his heirs, executors, administrators and assigns, may exercise in his or their own name or names, all the rights and privileges granted by said act; and he shall distribute the water to such places as the trustees,may direct; but it shall not be necessary for him or them, during said term of thirty-five years, to elect said three trustees, or account for the money to be received by him or them from said works, as in and by said act is provided. In case said Teall, after receiving the conveyance of said rights, powers and privileges, shall neglect to exercise them, the trustees of said village shall, after two years notice, have the right to resume all the rights, powers and privileges thereby granted: provided, that the sum which the said Teall, his heirs or assigns, shall charge for the use of said water shall not exceed five dollars for a private family, ten dollars for a boarding-house, and twenty dollars for a tavern, a year; and provided further, that the trustees of said village shall have power, at the expiration of said thirty-five years, to reinvest themselves and take possession of said water works, and all appurtenances thereunto belonging, by paying at the time of so taking possession thereof, estimating said water works and appurtenances at the necessary cost of erecting such works, deducting the decrease in their value by reason of their waste and decay by time and use; and provided further, that in case said trustees and said Teall, or his heirs, executors, administrators or assigns, cannot agree upon the value thereof, the same shall be ascertained and determined by three disinterested appraisers, to be appointed by the supreme court of this state, at the instance of either party.

1842 An act to amend the several acts in relation to the village of Syracuse.  March 29, 1842.
§ 1 The ninth section of the act entitled "An act to amend the act entitled an act to incorporate the village of Syracuse," and the act amending the same, passed April 22, 1834, is here by amended as follows: the said Oliver Teall, his heirs or assigns may charge for the use of the water contemplated in the said ninth section hereby amended, a sum not exceeding ten dollars per annum for a private family, twenty dollars per annum for a boarding house, and forty dollars per annum for a tavern.

1847 An act to incorporate the city of Syracuse, December 14, 1847
§ 12. ... The same rights, duties, obligations and requirements as are now held by the trustees of the village of Syracuse, or imposed upon them in relation to Oliver Teall, as to supplying the said village with pure and wholesome water, shall be conferred and imposed upon the said common council.

1849 An act to incorporate the Syracuse City Waterworks Company.  April 5, 1849.

1851 An act to amend the act entitled "An act to incorporate the Syracuse City Water Works Company" passed April fifth, one thousand eight hundred and fifty. April 8, 1851.

1853 An act to amend an act entitled, "An act to incorporate the Syracuse City Water Works Company," passed April 5, 1849.  March 22, 1853.

1855 An act to amend "An act to incorporate the Syracuse City Water Works Company" passed April 5, 1849.  February 5, 1855.

1864 An act to amend an act entitled “An act in relation to the Syracuse City Water Works Company,” passed April fifth eighteen hundred forty-nine. March 31, 1864.

1865 An act to amend an act entitled "An act to incorporate the Syracuse City Water Works Company," passed April fifth, eighteen hundred and forty-nine. March 3, 1865.

1867 An act to enable the county of Onondaga to obtain a supply of water for the county poor-house.  May 8, 1867.  The county to compensate the Syracuse City Water Company.

1871 Reports of the Engineers to the Joint Committee of Walderment and Citizens of the City of Syracuse, New York, on a Supply of Water, from the Tully Lakes.  January, 1871.

1872 Watertown Daily Times, March 1, 1872, Page 3.
Whisky has gone up in price since the water works gave out in Utica and Syracuse.

1876 "Syracuse, N. Y." from Addresses as President of the National Board of Fire Underwriters of the United States: On Several Occasions, 1871-76
Page 59: The water supply is derived from reservoirs and the "Holly" system, under the control of a private company. The pumping house is located on Onondaga Creek, about one and a half (1 1/2) miles from the City Hall, and has two (2) "Holly" rotary pumps, with a capacity of about three million (3,000,000) gallons of water per tweniy-four hours.

1877 An act to amend chapter one hundred and four of the laws of eighteen hundred and sixty-four, entitled An act to amend an act, entitled "An act in relation to the Syracuse city water-works company, passed , April fifth, eighteen hundred and forty-nine." March 6, 1877.

1878 Engineering News, 5(10):1 (March 7, 1878)
For Sale. Water Pumping Engine.  It was made at the Holly Works in Lockport, and has been in use only six months in each year for five years. 
Capacity - 3,000,000 gallons water each day.
E. H. Brown, Superintendent, Syracuse, N. Y. November 14, 1877

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 rotary pump was also used in connection with high pressure steam engines for water works in Binghamton, Batavia and Syracuse, N. Y.; Peoria and Decatur, Ill.; Kalamazoo, Jackson and Big Rapids, Mich.  In these places the matter of fire protection was the first consideration, that of domestic supply and cost of power being secondary.

1879 An act to amend chapter two hundred and twenty-four of the laws of eighteen hundred and forty-nine, entitled "An act to incorporate the Syracuse City Water Works Company," and to amend the title of said act.  May 26, 1879.  Corporate name changed to Syracuse Water Company.

1881 Syracuse, Engineering News, 8:364 (September 10, 1881)

1882 "Report on the Water Supply of Certain Cities in the United States," by Walter G. Elliott,  Statistics of Power and Machinery Employed in Manufactures, Volume 2, U.S. Census Office, 1887
Page 257-258:  Syracuse information is listed under section "Water-works employing the gravity system and pumping to distributing reservoir and mains."

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

1886 An act to establish and maintain a water department in and for the city of Syracuse. March 17, 1886.

1886 An act to extend the corporate powers of the Syracuse Water Company and to authorize the issuing of additional bonds. May 12, 1886.

1886 The Syracuse Water Company against the City of Syracuse and the Central City Water Works Company, Appeal from Two Judgments. From Court of Appeals: State of New York: 131  This document includes many documents relating to the development of water works in Syracuse.

1889 Report of Commissioners on Sources of Water Supply for the City of Syracuse, New York. February 1, 1889

1889 An act to establish and maintain a water department in and for the city of Syracuse.  May 15, 1889.

1889 The Syracuse Water Company v. the City of Syracuse and the Central City Water Works Company decided October 8, 1889

1889 The Syracuse Water Company, Apellant, v. The City of Syracuse, Respondent, 116 N.Y. 167, October 8, 1889, Court of Appeals of the State of New York

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

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

1893 Municipal Acquirement of Private Water Company Plants as illustrated by the Syracuse Water Works Company's Condemnation by the City of Syracuse, N. Y., by Stephen E. Babcock, September 6, 1893. A paper read before the American Water Works Association at Milwaukee, Wis., September 6, 1893.

1893 "Municipal Acquirement of the Plant of the Syracuse Water Co.," by Stephen E. Babcock, Engineering News 30:207-208 (September 12, 1893)

1894 "The New Water Supply for Syracuse," by Thos. McE. Vickers," | with Inset | Engineering News 32:480-482 (December 13, 1894)

1895 "The Water-Works of Syracuse, N. Y.," by William R. Hill, Read May 15th 1895.  Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers 34(1):23-66 (July 1895)

1896 Onondaga's Centennial: Gleanings of a Century, Volume 1, edited by Dwight H. Bruce
Page 457:  The principal events that took place between the year 1842 and the incorporation of the city, were the laying of the first wooden pipes for supplying the village with water in 1842-3.
Page 503-508:  Syracuse City Water Works

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

1907 Municipal and Private Operation of Public Utilities: Report to the National Civic Federation Commission on Public Ownership and Operation, Part II - Volume 1, Reports of Experts, National Civic Federation. Commission on Public Ownership and Operation.  Pages 2-7 include a history of the Syracuse Water Works.

1908 "Oliver Teall" from Past and present of Syracuse and Onondaga county, New York: from prehistoric times to the beginning of 1908, Volume 2, by William Martin Beauchamp

1933 "The Syracuse Water Works," by Marshall B. Palmer, Journal of the American Water Works Association, 25(2):264-274 (February 1933)

1962 "Syracuse," 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) 









© 2015 Morris A. Pierce