Documentary History of American Water-works

Introduction Historical Background Chronology Geography Biography Technology Ownership and Financing General Bibliography
Middle Atlantic States Pennsylvania Allentown

Allentown, Pennsylvania

Allentown was founded in 1762 by James Allen.  Originally called Northampton, it was renamed in 1838.

The Northampton Water Company was incorporated in 1816, with Peter Newhard, Charles H. Martin, Peter Snyder, William Boas, and Solomon Gangewere appointed commissioners to sell stock.

Nothing was done under this charter, but it was revived in 1825 with John J. Krause, Henry Wilson, Abraham Newhard, Solomon Gangewehr and Michael Schneider appointed commissioners.  This company built a system that pumped water to a reservoir 160 feet above the town, from which water was distributed through iron pipes.

The Allentown Water Company was incorporated in 1850 and attempted to have the charter for the Northampton Water Company nullified but was unsuccessful.

In 1855 the Northampton Water Company changed its name to the Allentown Water Company, which could have been done by the Court of Common Pleas in Lehigh Valley under an 1843 law.

In May 1868, the Allentown Water Co. offered to sell its entire property to the city.  Voters approved the sale on March 19, 1869 by a vote of 920 to 670, and paid $98,958 for the system on July 5, 1869. 

The City of Allentown bought the Allentown Water Company in 1869.

The City of Allentown leased its water system to the Lehigh County Authority for fifty years in 2013.

Water is provided by the Lehigh County Authority  which was formed in 1966.

1816 An act authorising the governor to incorporate the Northampton Water Company, February 13, 1816.

1825 Reviving the act entitled, "An act authorising the governor to incorporate the Northampton Water Company," and for other purposes. March 25, 1825.

1829 A further supplement to an act approved the eighteenth day of March, eighteen hundred and eleven, entitled "An act to erect the town of Northampton, in the county of Northampton, into a borough1 and also, to an act erecting the towns of Allegheny, Birmingham, Franklin, and Northumberland, into boroughs, and to give effect to the act incorporating the borough of Elizabethtown, in the county of Lancaster," passed April fourteenth, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-eight, and for other purposes. March 19, 1829.
Authorized the borough of Northampton to buy stock in the Northampton Water company and to borrow up to $10,000 to pay for it.  Also repealed the first proviso in section eight of the 1816 charter which limited the price of water paid by a family to $10 annually.

1830 A supplement to an act entitled "An act authorising the Governor to incorporate the Northampton water company," and to continue in force an act entitled "An act to incorporate the York manufacturing company." April 7, 1830
Specified how stock transfers are to be made and recorded.

1836 A further supplement to an act entitled "An act authorising the Governor to incorporate the Northampton water company," and to an act entitled "An act to incorporate the city of Lancaster, and for other purposes," March 21, 1836.
Board of managers authorized to declare dividends and to establish a contingent fund.

1843 Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania: Containing a Copious Selection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, Etc., Relating to Its History and Antiquities, Both General and Local, with Topographical Descriptions of Every County and All the Larger Towns in the State, by Sherman Day
Page 425: Allentown ... a splendid water works, erected in 1828, about half a mile from town, by means of which cool spring-water is forced to a height of 160 feet, and distributed in cast-iron pipes through the town.

1844 A supplement to an act, entitled "An act authorising the Governor to incorporate the Northampton water company," passed the 13th day of February, A. D. 1816.  April 12, 1844.
Authorized the company to extend their pipes and dispose of their water beyond the limits of the borough of Allentown.

1850 An act to incorporate the Allentown water company, January 29, 1850.
Authorized the new company to "contract with the present holders of the property of the old Northampton water company for the property now held by them."

1853 An act to authorize the Northampton water company to borrow money, January 19, 1853.
Authorized to borrow up to $40,000.

1857 An act to authorize the Allentown Water Company to borrow money, April 1, 1857.
Authorized to borrow up to $20,000 at a rate of interest not exceeding 6%.

1857 An act relative to the Allentown Water Company. April 28, 1857.
Repealed the April 1, 1857 act and authorized the company to borrow "any further sum or sums of money not exceeding" $20,000 at a rate of interest not to exceed 6%.

1860 Supplement to act relative to the Allentown Water Company, passed the twenty-eighth of April, Anno Domini One thousand eight hundred and fifty-seven.  March 21, 1860.
Interest rate not to exceed 7%.

1860 History of the Lehigh Valley: Containing a Copious Selection of the Most Interesting Facts, Traditions, Biographical Sketches, Anecdotes, Etc., Etc., Relating to Its History and Antiquities ; with Complete History of All Its Internal Improvements, Progress of the Coal and Iron Trade, Manufactures, Etc. by Mathew Schropp Henry
Page 284:  Allentown is supplied with some of the purest spring water in the State; Worman's spring, where the waterworks are located, and from which the town derives its supply, is situated about one mile from Allentown, and is said to be inexhaustible. The water is as clear as crystal and delightfully cool throughout the summer. The works consist of two water-wheels and two pumps, propelled by the water issuing from the spring; it is forced to the height of one hundred and sixty feet into a reservoir in the highest part of the town, from which it is distributed by about five miles of main pipe through the different streets.
The company was originally incorporated in 1816, as the Northampton Water Company, but was not organized until 1827—the property of the company in 1833 was valued at $18,000. The company at the present time own the “spring property,” consisting of twenty-five acres of land, on which are located the waterworks and two flouring mills; these, in connection with the other improvements, are valued at $100,000. The company is now known as the Allentown Water Company, Joseph Weaver, President; Jesse M. Line, Secretary; Ephraim Grim, Treasurer.

1861 A further supplement to act incorporating the Allentown Water Company, and its several supplements. May 1, 1861.
Users of water are personally liable to the company for payment of water rent.

1868 A further supplement to act, entitled "an act to incorporate the Northampton (now Allentown) Water Company," approved February thirteenth, one thousand eight hundred and sixteen, and its several supplements. April 14, 1868.
Company authorized to assess water rents "upon every dwelling house situated in any of the streets, lanes and alleys of the said city, in, through and along which, and as far as the water pipes of the company are now laid and shall hereafter be laid, and to collect the said assessments or rents in the same manner as water rents are now collected."

1870 A supplement to the charter of the city of Allentown, March 22, 1870.
City authorized to supply water and to acquire all rights of the Allentown water company.

1874 Allentown v Henry, 73PA404, Pennsylvania State Reports Containing Cases Decided by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Volume 73, cases argued at January term, 1873

1881 Manufacturing and Mercantile Resources of the Lehigh Valley, Including Historical Sketches of the Prominent Towns: A Descriptive, Industrial and Statistical Review. Progress. Enterprise. Development
Page 101: The city of Allentown has abundance of good water, and every portion is well supplied there with, and the streets are thoroughly lighted, oil, however, being used in a greater part of the town in preference to gas.
The first water works derived the supply from what was then known as Worman's springs, and the same source is still serving the city. The water is very pure, clear as crystal and delight fully coo) throughout the summer, and believed to be inexhaustible. The first company was incorporated in 1816 as the Northampton Water Company, but was not organized until 1827, and in 1833 the property of the company was  valued at $18,000. Some years later it was reorganized as the Allentown Water Company, when the "spring property" was purchased.
This company passed the property over into the hands of the city, and it now forms one of the departments, and directly in charge of the Water Commissioners. The city has two reservoirs and one stand pipe, the water supplies being two turbine wheels. The daily consumption of water is about one million gallons, except during the summer months, when the streets in various parts are sprinkled, when the amount exceeds this. There are eighteen miles of street mains, and the number of fire plugs reaches ninety three. The water works are equal of any city of its size in the State, while the supply of water is abundant for all purposes at any season of the year.

1881 Allentown from Engineering News 8:489 (December 3, 1881)

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

1884 "The Water Works" from History of the Counties of Lehigh and Carbon, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Alfred Mathews and Austin N. Hungerford

1886 Past, Present, and Future of the City of Allentown, Pa
Page 25:  About this time the water question had become the absorbing one of the hour. The elevated situation of the borough necessitated the sinking of wells to great depths before water was reached, so that they were luxuries confined to the rich. There were only a few wells in the town. Most of the water for the general public was hauled from the Jordan or Little Lehigh and peddled around town somewhat after the fashion of fresh fish nowadays. As early as 1816 a water company was formed under an act of the Legislature, but made such slow progress that the franchise lapsed. It was revived, however, in 1825, and the Northampton Water Company secured the "Silver Spring," or "Crystal Spring," near the present Fountain House, and began operations in 1829. The water was pumped by water power derived from the Little Lehigh, the stream of which turned the breast-wheel that furnished the motive power.
Page 46: In 1850 the Allentown Water Company tried its hands with but slender financial encouragement, but it paid Henry King $6,315 for the spring property and thereafter made faces at water dearth and ill-health. Criticism, more or less well-founded, became rampant and the heads of the water department didn't sleep on pillows of roses for months. In April, 1852, the citizens under the leadership of the late Hon. R. E. Wright, rose in their might and took a whack at prevalent abuses. They were gradually corrected, and in 1856 the water house arose from the bosom of the Little Lehigh and proclaimed itself a thing of beauty. In 1858 the Allentown Water Company appeared on the scene.

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

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

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

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

1914 "Water-Works" from History of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania: And a Genealogical and Biographical Record of Its Families, Volume 1 by Charles Rhoads Roberts, John Baer Stoudt, Thomas H. Krick, William Joseph Dietrich

1963 History of the Lehigh Valley Region:  A Comprehensive Plan Research Report, W. Ross Yates, Joint Planning Commission Lehigh-Northampton Counties
Page 57:  Prior to 1828 the inhabitants drew water from a larger spring on Lehigh Street, a small steam that ran through the town along German Street, and from public wells.  In 1828 the Northampton Water Company began distributing water from the Little Lehigh and a spring on Abraham Worman's property.

1978 "The Development of Allentown, 1811-1873," by Mahlon H. Hellerich, Lehigh County Historical Society Proceedings 32:46-68 (1978)

1987 Allentown 1762-1987: a 225-year history by Mahlon Howard Hellerich
Pages 196-197 include a good description of the city's acquisition of the water works in 1869

1988 "Water Woes Go Way Back," by Frank Whelan, The Morning Call (April 10, 1988)

2012 Allentown Water and Sewer System Request for Qualifications for Water and Sewer Concession, July 29, 2012

2012 Allentown's Water Gambit, September 2012

2013 "Allentown approves $220 million lease of water system to Lehigh County Authority," by Gregg Bortz, The Express-Times (April 25, 2013)

2013 Allentown Water and Sewer Utility System Concession and Lease Agreement

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce