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Middle Atlantic States Pennsylvania Philadelphia 1811 Report

Report of Messrs. Davis and Graff to the Watering Committee of Philadelphia, December 18, 1811.

AGREEABLY to your instructions, herewith is presented the following Estimates and Observations, in answer to your inquiries on the state of the works now in operation, and in relation to several other plans for watering the City, viz.
1.  The state of the engines, now in operation, and the cost of placing them in such repair as to answer the purpose of supplying the City; with the probable annual cost of continuing the same.
2.  The erection of another engine at the house on the banks of the Schuylkill, and the cost of altering and repairing the one now in use there; with every expense attending the alteration, and supplying the city entirely by means of the Engines at Schuylkill.
3.  The best mode of supplying a reservoir of sufficient capacity placed at Morris's Hill, at the upper ferry; the expense of making such a reservoir and bringing that mode into operation.
4.  Whether the water of the Falls of Schuylkill, or the Wissahickon Creek can be made subservient to the purposes of supplying the City without the use of aid of steam engines; and the probable cost of the same: and if the canal already commence can be combined or made useful in such a plan.
The Committee will please to observe that the answer to the first, second, and third questions, or examinations, are prepared from such data as to render the statements and estimates nearly correct; except the cost of the site necessary for the works contemplated on Morris's Hill.  With respect to the last inquiry such observations are stated as the shortness of time, and present circumstances would permit; but considering the magnitude and importance of the undertaking, if the City Councils would deem it proper to adopt that method of watering the city, a more correct survey and estimate will be advisable, previous to carrying the same into effect.

1st Question - The state of the Engines now in operation, and the cost of placing them in such repair as to answer the purpose of supplying the City; with the probable annual cost of continuing the same.

Owing to the continual working of the Centre Square Engine and the increased quantity of water now delivered daily to the City, the Engine cannot be permitted to stop, at any time, sufficiently long to repair the most trifling article, or even pack either the pumps or cylinders without depriving the City of water during the period of such business being performed.  The consequence arising from wanting time and opportunity for necessary repair, obliges the persons attending to omit keeping the engine in proper order for the duty it has to perform, and makes the wear and expense much more than they ought to be.  It certainly is a most unfortunate circumstance, that when either the Centre or Lower Engine is out of order and cannot work, the City is deprived of water; and likewise that as long as the present plan is pursued the case much be the same, for it is well known both to the Committee and the citizens that there is no security of water in the pipes of conduit one hour, and serious and alarming accidents from fire might happen, when it would be impossible to deliver a single gallon of water into the City.  It would be quite unnecessary to mention the above well known facts were it not thought proper to call your attention to the examination and adoption of such plans and alterations as will obviate the above uncertainties, and at the same time diminish the annual expense accompanying the present works.  The continue supplying the City on the plan now pursued a very considerable increase of the annual expense much accrue, as is proved by a reference to the expense of the last four or five years.  At the Centre Engine a new boiler is indispensable, and if no alteration in the manner of supply takes place, it ought to be immediately commenced, as from every appearance on of the boilers cannot last longer than one year.  The pumps at this place also begin to be troublesome, and from the imperfect manner in which they are constructed, and the increasing supply of water required, in three or four years at most, they must be altered or replaced, and whenever this happens it will produce a very heavy expense.  The pump chamber at the mouth of the tunnel will have to be taken up, enlarged and rebuilt; the working barrel of the pump enlarged, and some additions made to the engine.  During these alterations the City must be deprived of water for a considerable period.  The lower engine wants sundry repairs, as stated in an estimate herewith presented.  This engine is in much better order than the centre one and owing to having the tunnel for a deposit of water, has only fourteen hours employ out of twenty-four to supply the greatest quantity of water yet required by the City.  This leisure of ten hours per day enables the working to keep the works in repair, and very much lessens the labour of the engine, and unless some very material accident takes place, or repairs are wanted which require more time than the above mentioned, there cannot be a want of water to supply the centre engine from this place.

The cost of repairing the centre engine, including a new boiler, as per estimate, is
Ditto, the lower engine
Sum wanted for repairs,
The cost of maintenance and expense of Centre Engine as per estimate for 1812, $9703.00
Ditto, the Lower Engine, 8360.00 $18,063.00
Making for repairs and maintenance

2d Question - The erection of another engine at the house on the bank of Schuylkill and the cost of alterating and repairing the one now in use there, with every expense attending the alteration and supplying the City entirely by means of the engines at Schuylkill.

To alter the present plan, and to carry into effect the above, will have many advantages over the one now in use, and although considerable funds will be required to effect the same, yet it will certainly be greatly to the interest, as well as the safety of the City to direct and have some alterations made in the present system and whether this plan or other of the following are adopted, it will be easily perceived that it is indispensably necessary something should be done.  By erecting another engine at Schuylkill, and altering the one now there; raising the building and placing as large a reservoir as practicable therein at the same election with those now erected at the centre house, delivering water and supplying the reservoirs at one lift of the engines, and carrying a main pipe from this house to the distributing chest at Centre Square, and by having both engines in one place, each capable of furnishing a supply to water to the City, will certainly be much superior to the present plan, although it should require one or the other of the engines to be continually at work, yet by having the one in reserve kept in good order, it would very seldom or ever happen that the City could be without water, and much of the present annual expense would be saved.  As the defects of the works now in operation are so well understood, perhaps it is not necessary to enter into any investigations beyond those that have been mentioned, as the call of the Councils on the Watering Committee evinces their knowledge of the subject, and as the answer to the third inquiry appears to have considerable advantage in point of economy, permanency, and certainty of a constant supply of water to the City.  It is therefore considered not necessary to make further observations beyond the estimate that accompanies this report.

The expense of these alterations and improvements as per estimate, is
Annual cost of maintenance of the engines, labour, &c. $11886.00
Making a balance in favor of the alternation less per annum than the cost of working the engines now, of 6177.00


3d Question - The best mode of supplying a reservoir of sufficient capacity, placed on Morris's Hill at the Upper Ferry, the expense of making such a reservoir, and bringing that mode into operation.

In examining into the mode of supplying the city with water from this source, it appears to have many advantages of considerable importance to the city. It was found that the surface of the said hill is elevated about eleven feet above the top of the reservoirs at centre square, and presents a very favourable surface for constructing reservoirs of such capacity as may be required or thought advisable, which at all times can furnish as great a supply of water to the city as can possibly be wanted. The outlines of the plan which it is deemed proper to present to the consideration of the
watering committee are, to purchase sufficient ground on the top of the hill for two reservoirs, and a water lot in front thereof on the shore of the Schuylkill river, for the purpose of erecting an engine house to contain a new engine and pumps capable of supplying the reservoirs on the hill, and to carry a main pipe of proper capacity from the reservoirs, and connect the same with the distributing chest at the Centre Square.  After the plan is so far in operation, to remove the engine from the lower engine house, to the new house at Morris's Hill; and repair and fit it up in the best manner with a new set of pumps.  The two reservoirs on the hill each to hold 1,000,000 gallons of water, to supply alternately,. and one or the other to be always full, either and each of the engines made capable to furnish as much water as is necessary for a daily supply.  This plan, like, the one stated for the lower engine house, will always have an engine and pumps in reserve, as a security from accidents, as well as to enable the works being kept in good repair.  Its superiority over the, other methods of supplying the city, is in the opportunity of having large and capacious reservoirs, without which no works of this kind can be considered as complete. It is certainly very obvious, that where there is no opportunity of obtaining large reservoirs to supply from, the engine employed to furnish the daily consumption of water, must be kept continually at work, or the stoppage is so short, that no actual saving of fuel can take place, although the engine with nearly half the expense of fuel could perform the whole duty required in half the time, and of course the wear and decay, of both the engines and boilers, would be nearly in the same ratio. By referring to the account of the time employed at both engines as now in use, it will be seen that, while the centre engine is obliged to perform both day and night, the lower engine only works fourteen hours, consequently, producing a saving of ten hours labour and fuel, &c.  Now if both the engines are erected at Schuylkill at the lower house, one or the other would have to be nearly constantly at work. Making the most favourable allowance for the reservoirs which ·can be placed in that building, the engine would be worked twenty hours per day, and the four hours stoppage would produce very little saving of fuel, as the fire could be permitted to be very little checked; while the Morris's Hill plan would certainly save ten hours fuel, with the large reservoirs. Large reservoirs of permanent construction will be much preferable to those made of the best wood, as the latter are liable to decay and of course must be replaced, and likewise present a more certain and regular mode of supplying the City than is possible from small ones.

By referring to the estimate prepared, the cost of bringing this plan into operation is,
And the annual expense of supplying water, fuel, labour, &c.  $8360.00
Making a balance in favor of these works of 9703.00
The expense of the present supply $18,063.00

4th Question - Whether the water of the falls of Schuylkill, or the Wissahickon creek, can be made subservient to the purposes of watering the City, without the use or aid of steam engines, with the probable cost of the same, and if the Canal already commenced, can be combined or made useful in such plan.

With respect to the waters of the Schuylkill at the falls, it appears by the dam erected to supply a mill, now built at that place, there is only four feet six inches fall above tide water, there is likewise a fall of about two feet from the falls, to the tail race of Mr. Robeson's mill, or the mouth of the Wissahickon Creek, making the whole head and fall about six feet six inches, which fall could be obtained by building a dam across the Schuylkill, above the bridge. There is certainly water, and power enough at this place to supply the City with water, if no impediments ever occurred to prevent the operation of the machinery and works, but the certainty of freshets, which so frequently happen in the river Schuylkill, would render such works nearly as uncertain as the steam engines.
From satisfactory infonnation obtained relative to the quantity of water, flowing from the Wissahickon Creek, at Mr. Rebeson's mill, it appears that in the driest part of the season the stream produces about 10,000 gallons of water per minute, equal to about 14,000,000 gallons every twenty four hours. To employ this stream for the purpose of watering the City, the best mode that appears practicable, would be to dig a race, or canal from Robeson's mill dam, to the Falls of Schuylkill, to erect suitable buildings and machinery at the foot of Sims's Hi11, and to deliver and supply into two large reservoirs, on said hill, as much water as is requisite to supply the City, and to lay a cast iron pipe of eighteen inches diameter and connect the same with the distributing chest at Centre Square.  There is no manner of doubt respecting the sufficiency of the Wissahickon stream, to give an ample supply of water both to the works and machinery, and deliver from three to four millions of gallons of water in twenty-four hours, to such height on the hill as will
produce the same quantity at the Centre Square. The whole head and fall, from the mill dam to high water mark below the falls, is nearly thirty feet, which constitutes a power amply sufficient for the above purpose. The sum necessary to carry this plan into operation is certainly very considerable, but if it was executed in a permanent and simple way, it would perhaps in the end, be the best manner of supplying the city with water.  An estimate is prepared shewing the probable expense of the above plan.  The cost of the mill seat, land, &c.for the purpose is from supposition, the. machinery, pipe, &c. nearly correct.

The amount of the estimate is,
And the probable annual expense of the works and attendance, $1200.00

If the Canal already commenced should ever be completed, and it 1s found that a portion of its waters could be spared for the use of watering the City, a water machinery could be erected near to Morris's Hill, to pump or elevate the necessary quantity of water into reservoirs constructed on the hill as before stated, and if the Morris's Hill plan was at present effected, with the steam engines as mentioned in that plan of supplying the city, all the works of the said plan_ would be subservient to the canal system, except the steam engines, and the annual expense of the same would be nearly that of the Wissahickon Creek, viz. $1200.00.

In recapitulating the various plans, which are presented to the consideration of the watering committee, the following appears to be the result of each mode of supplying the city with water.

1st. To continue the supply from the present works, it is found that the annual expense of wear and tear, including new boilers, &c.

Will average,  $2600.00
Fuel and wages, as per printed report, for the year 1812,  17,310.00
Producing an average annual expense of  $19,910.00

for furnishing the quantity of water now consumed in the city, and as more water is required, and the demand increases, of course the expense of &c. will be increased, and the city may frequently be without water.

2nd. To adopt the Lower Engine House plan  build another engine, &c. will in all probability, keep always a constant supply of water to the city: the cost of this alteration will be $82,443.96,

interest of this sum is $4946.66
Fuel and wages for one year as per estimate, 11,886.00
The whole annual expense would be,  $l6,832.66

This alteration would produce an annual saving to the City of $3077.34, and give a constant supply of water.

3d. Removing the works to Morris's Hill, and supplying from two large reservoirs, &c. as  per estimate, $148,938.54

Annual interest of this sum, is  $8956.31
Ditto the wages and fuel as per estimate, 8360.00
The annual expense at the hill would be $17296.31

If the works and supply were in operation at this place, the actual annual saving at present to the city, would be $2613.69, and the increase of annual expenses occasioned by the additional quantity of water required for the use of the city, would be trifling compared with either of the other plans.

4th. The estimate prepared to effect the supplying from the Wissahickon Creek is S359,718.55.

The annual interest of this sum is  $21,583.11
Expense of repairs and attending the works 1200.00
Making an annual expense of $23,783.11

being an increase of expenses to the city beyond the present annual cost of the works of $2873.11.

The whole of which is most respectfully submitted by
Your humble and obedient servants,

Philadelphia, December 18, 1811.

© 2018 Morris A. Pierce