Documentary History of American Water-works

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South Atlantic States
Virginia Monticello

Monticello, Virginia

Monticello was built in 1772 by Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States (1801-1809)

In an 1805 memorandum, “General ideas for the improvement of Monticello,” Jefferson considers tapping a spring on the mountain and bringing it to Monticello “by pipes or to fall over steps of stairs in a cascade, made visible at Monticello through a vista.”

Extensive water system improvements were made in 2016, generally following Jefferson's plan of a gravity supply from Montaldo, the “high mountain” that rises 410 feet above Monticello.

1805 Morning Chronicle (New York, New York), November 16, 1805, Page 3.
This is the approbation given by Mr. Jefferson to the invention of the Hydraulic Ram, which was offered by Mr. Lapaype, to the inhabitants of Richmond, for the utility and ornament of that city; and of which he has made also some experiments at this house at Monticello.  Balt. Amer.
"I hereby certify, that I attended an experiment made with the Hydraulic Ram of Mr. Lapoyde, that with a descending tube of 1 inch diameter and 4 feet long, it through from 1/2 to 1/16 of the water 22 feet above the reservoir - and am satisfied, had it not been for the leaking pipes affixed to it, it would have thrown the water much higher.  I am well satisfied of the effect of the machine, and pleased with the simplicity of its construction, that I have had one made for myself to be placed under the cove of the house, to catch the rain water from them, and throw up a sufficient porition of it into the cistern on the top of the house as a resource in case of fire.  "Given my hand at Monticello, the 27th of Sept, 1805. Thomas Jefferson

1805 From Thomas Jefferson to James Oldham, 16 November 1805
Mr Poype having obtained from mr Montgolfier the inventor of the Hydraulic ram permission to use his patent right to the advantage of mr Poype who has need of it, I do not think myself at liberty to make any communication of it’s construction to his prejudice. on the same ground I have not put to use yet the one he permitted me to have made from his model. I understood there would be a subscription in Richmond for employing mr Poype in the setting up a number of them, which will give to the city the benefit of the construction.

1815 Thomas Jefferson to William Thornton, 9 February 1815
I have to thank you for the drawing of the beautiful hydraulic machine with which you favored me in yours of Jan. 11. in simplicity and effect it promises to go far beyond Montgolfier’s hydraulic ram.

2016 New Investments by Monticello Solve Jefferson’s Water Dilemma By Liz Russell, May 12, 2016

© 2015 Morris A. Pierce