Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Germantown, Pennsylvania

Germantown was laid down in 1683, incorporated as a borough in 1844, and annexed by the City of Philadelphia in 1854.

The Germantown Water Company was incorporated in 1851 by George Hergeshimer, George W. Carpenter, F. W. Bockius, Joseph King Jr., Christopher Fallon, Joseph Handsberry and Cephas G. Childs "for the purpose of introducing into the borough of Germantown, in the county of Philadelphia, a sufficient supply of fresh and pure water for the inhabitants of said borough."  After exploring several alternatives, the company built a system that pumped water from a well into a 120-foot high standpipe, which is believed to be the first one ever built.  A reservoir was added in 1853. 

Germantown was annexed by the City of Philadelphia in 1854, and in 1866 the company was authorized to sell its system to the city, which was done in May, 1866 for $86,000.  The city rented the pumping plant until it was no longer needed in 1872.

Water service is provided the City of Pennsylvania.

1851 An act .,. incorporating the Germantown Water Company.  March 29, 1851.  Sections 18 and 19 pertain to the Germantown Water Company.

1851 Raising the stand pipe for the Germantown Water Works
View showing the engineering crew using a windlass to raise the standpipe in a large field at the corner of Tulpehocken Street and Wayne Avenue on August 13, 1851.

1853 An act ... relative to the Germantown Water Company.  April 18, 1853.  Section 13 allowed the Germantown Water company to increase it capital stock.

1862 Atlas of the City of Philadelphia, by Samuel L. Smedley, Section 20.  Shows Germantown water works.

1866 A supplement to an act ... incorporating the Germantown Water Company.  February 8, 1866.  Authorized sale of the company to the city of Philadelphia.

1868 McCallum versus The Germantown Water Company, 54 Pa. 40, January 7, 1867, Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

1872 An Ordinance to make an appropriation to the Department for Supplying the City with Water, for temporary clerk hire and rent of engines, enginehouse, and pool of the Germantown Water Company.  January 18, 1872.

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

1889 Ancient and Modern Germantown, Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, by Samuel Fitch Hotchkin
Pages 327-329: History of Water Works for Supplying the Borough of Germantown in the County of Philadelphia (now city) built in 1851 and 1852.

1890 "Roxborough and Germantown Supply," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1890 Germantown Water Company office and short history of the company and works.

1931 "The Germantown Works - 1851," from The Water Works of the City of Philadelphia: The Story of their Development and Engineering Specifications, compiled by Walter A. Graf, Staff Engineer.

1933 Germantown 1683-1933: the record that a Pennsylvania community has achieved in the course of 250 years; being a history of the people of Germantown, Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, by Edward W. Hocker.
Page 218:  The Germantown Water Company was organized in 1851, and supplied water obtained from springs in the neighborhood of Wayne avenue and Tulpehocken street. The cost of the service was $12 a year for a maximum consumption of ninety gallons a day, and $6 a year for twenty-five gallons a day.
Now at last it was possible to lay the deep dust on Germantown road. Property owners arranged with the water company in 1852 to have the highway sprinkled twice daily during three months of summer, 50 cents being paid by each family.

Records of the Germantown Water Company are held by the City of Philadelphia Department of Records.

2016 Morris A. Pierce