Documentary History of American Water-works

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

Tacony, Pennsylvania

Tacony is a neighborhood in the City of Philadelphia

Henry Disston moved his saw factory to Tacony in 1872, where he built water works by 1878 that served the factory and community.  After his death his 1878, his son Hamilton Disston ran the business.

The Disston Water Company was incorporated on August 31, 1887 and built a system distributing water from local streams.

The water system was sold to the City of Philadelphia in 1924 for $854,610.

Water is provided by the City of Philadelphia.

1887 Fire and Water Engineering (August 13, 1887)
The Disston Water Company, Philadelphia, Pa„ has been incorporated. Capital stock, $10,000. Jacob S. Disston. incorporator.

1888 Fire and Water Engineering (April 28, 1888)
The Disston Water Company has asked permission from the city council of Philadelphia to lay water pipes to Tacony, Pa.

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

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

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

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

1924 "City Takes Title to Disston Water Company's Property for $854,610," The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 3, 1924, Page 72.

1994 A Place to Live and Work: The Henry Disston Saw Works and the Tacony Community of Philadelphia, by Harry C. Silcox
Pages 34-35:  In addition to real estate and the wealth generated by the business, Disston had control of the community's utilities.  By 1878 a water plant on the Pennypack Creek provided driving water for the factory (although, as previously stated, he used Delaware River water for the steel-making process.  More important, he was able to sell water to the residents of Tacony.  The profitability of these utilities gave Henry Disston & Sons extra capital.  In 1887, he water rents produced a cash profit of $4,994.01.  The 1922, the Tacony Water Works, by then a worn-out, inefficient plant, was sold to the city of Philadelphia for nearly $1 million.

Historic American Buildings Survey - Tacony.  HABS No. PA-6692
Developed first to service the industrial plant, from early on the Disston Water Company provided limited service to the town. Henry Disston initially had water piped in from springs a few miles away and stored in large tanks located west of the railroad tracks around what would later become the intersection of Disston and Glenloch streets.19 These tanks provided a gravity feed for a water main along Longshore Street, then Tacony's principal thoroughfare.20 By 1889, another water supplier, the Tacony Water Company, had been founded and was negotiating the purchase of "the Disston water plant" with plans to extend the network of mains.21 Whether this consolidation occurred is uncertain as an 1890 article notes that the Disston Water Company was adding tanks for better service. A Tacony historian has noted that the Disstons controlled the Tacony Water Works when it was sold to the City of Philadelphia in 1922. Regardless of the company designation, it appears that from the beginning the Disstons had continued controlling interests in the town's water service.

© 2019 Morris A. Pierce