|Introduction||Historical Background||Chronology||Geography||Biography||Technology||Ownership and Financing||General Bibliography|
Standpipes refer to two separate technologies used in water systems. The original use was to describe cylindrical towers used to maintain water pressure for distribution systems, while more recently the term describes dedicated piping systems within buildings used for fire fighting. Standpipes were used to provide pressure for a water distribution system as well as protecting against water hammer from pumping.
The earliest American reference to a "standing column" was by William J. McAlpine in his 1850 report on the Albany water works, in which he refers to similar columns in England. The first known installation of a standpipe in America was one built in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1851, and operated until 1872. A picture was taken of this standpipe being raised. Three other standpipes were built in Philadelphia, including one at Fairmount works in 1852, Schuylkill works in 1855 and West Pennsylvania (24th Ward Works in 1855). Another was built was built by McAlpine in Chicago that began service in 1854.
|Early Standpipes for American Water Works|
|1851||Germantown||PA||120||60||On August 13, 1851 the completed pipe was hoisted and set up in place by means of derricks and capstans. Photograph. Sold and removed in 1873.|
||Fairmount water works|
||24||Replaced in 1869
||Schuylkill water works, tapers to 42 inches at the top.|
||24th Ward (West Philadelphia) water works. These works were abandoned in 1870 and the standpipe was moved to Spring Garden water works in 1882..|
|1868||Eire||PA||217||60||Later extended to 233 feet.|
||Rebuilt after 1890 tornado, still exists.|
||Survived 1871 Chicago fire, still exists.|
||Roxbury water works, taken out of service in 1909, still exists.|
As steam engines improved, the value of standpipes in absorbing water shock diminished and their value as water storage reservoirs was lessened by improved storage. Standpipes were eventually replaced with elevated reservoirs, tanks, or direct pressure pumping. Many standpipes from this period remaining standing.
|1859||Chestnut Hill||PA||125||Not strictly a standpipe, but a 40,000
gallon wooden tank on top of a brick tower.
Purchased by Philadelphia in 1873, the wooden tank damaged in a 1917 windstorm and removed, while the tower remains in a park.
|1860||Louisville||KY||183||Louisville Water Tower, destroyed by tornado in 1890 and was rebuilt. Retired in 1909.|
Water Tower is 154 feet tall, covering a 138-foot
|1870||Boston||MA||70||Roxbury Standpipe, taken out of service in 1909.|
|1874||Milwaukee||WI||175||North Point Water Tower Taken out of service in 1963.|
Avenue Water Tower ("Old White"), retired in 1912
Street Water Tower ("Old Red"), retired in 1912
|1887||Harper||KS||125||Historic place nomination|
|1897||Bangor||ME||50||Thomas Hill Standpipe. Still in service, enclosed in a wooden tower 110 feet tall.|
Hill Water Tower, retired in 1929.
Other systems used elevated tanks and above-ground reservoirs to store water. Elevated tanks became very popular as technology improved.
|Early Elevated Water Storage Structures for American Water Works|
|1755||Bethlehem||PA||Wooden tank located 70 feet above pump.|
|1775||New York City||NY||26 feet square
12 feet deep
|1,200,000||Christopher Colles Water Works. Reservoir to be constructed of a good bank of earth surrounded with a good brick or stone hall|
|1799||New York City||NY||10,600||Manhattan Company cistern|
|1800||New York City||NY||41 feet diameter
15 feet deep
|123,354||Built by Robert McQueen for Manhattan Company. Later enclosed in a building. Demolished sometime after 1914.|
|1801||Philadelphia||PA||20,855||Two wooden tanks above the Centre Square steam engine, Disused after Fairmount pumping station came on line in 1815.|
|1801||New York City||NY||100,000?||31-33 Chambers street, abandoned after 1842?|
|1803||Bethlehem||PA||Stone tower with a wooden[?] tank|
|1820||Cincinnati||OH||40 by 30 feet
6 feet deep
|Water pumped by horses into an elevated wooden reservoir.|
|1823||New Orleans||LA||Benjamin Latrobe proposed wooden tanks to hold water pumped from the river, but no details are known.|
|1831||New York City||NY||43 feet diameter 20½ feet deep||233,169||13th Street Reservoir, Built by the City of New York for fire protection|
|1836||New Orleans||LA||320 feet square
9 feet high
|10 million||The reservoir was built on a mound. The walls and bottoms forming the reservoir, are built with brick, and plastered with hydraulic cement|
25 feet square
8 feet deep
|37,500±||Two elevated wooden tanks were proposed adjacent to pumping plant, unclear if second tank was ever built.|
|1842||New York City||NY||420 feet square
36 feet deep
|20 million||On 5th Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets|
|1854||Chicago||IL|| 60 feet diameter
28 feet deep
|500,000||South side reservoir at Adams & LaSalle, damaged in 1871 fire and abandoned|
|1858||Chicago||IL||60 feet diameter
28 feet deep
|500,000||North side tower at Chicago Avenue at Sedgwick street.|
|1858||Chicago||IL||60 feet diameter
28 feet deep
|500,000||West side tower at Morgan and Monroe streets|
|1859||Chestnut Hill||PA||40,000||Wooden tank on top of brick tower, purchased by Philadelphia in 1873, wooden tank damaged in a 1917 windstorm and removed, while the tower remains in a park.|
1850 Report made to the water commissioners of the city of Albany, August 1, 1850, on the proposed projects for supplying the city with water by William J. McAlpine
Page 32: In many of the Water Works in England, situated similarly to the one under consideration, the water is elevated in a vertical standing column at the pumps and the distribution pipes are connected directly with this column.
There are several advantages connected with this plan, but it is believed that they cannot be rendered available to their full extent in this place without an expenditure that the circumstances would not warrant.
If this plan is adopted, it will be a subject for future consideration, whether a considerable portion of the lower part of the city cannot generally be supplied by means of a standing column, the effect of which would reduce the cost of elevating the water.
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 Proposed Stand Pipe for West Philadelphia Water Works
Water Works," Gleason's Pictorial Drawing Room Companion,
4:201 (March 26, 1853)
Stand Pipe of the Philadelphia Water Works
1854 "Ornamental Stand-Pipe for the West Philadelphia Water Works," by H. Howson, C.E., Philadelphia, Designer, Birkinbine and Trotter, Contractors, from Civil Engineer and Architect's Journal 17:337-338 (September, 1854)
1854 "Water Pipe at West Philadelphia," from Scientific American 10(8):61 (November 4, 1854)
1854 "The Philadelphia Water Works Ornamental Pipe," from Scientific American 10(10):74 (November 18, 1854)
1855 "Stand Pipe of the West Philadelphia Water Works," by Birkinbine & Trotter, from Journal of the Franklin Institute 59(3):210-211 (March, 1855)
1888 "Stand-Pipes for Water Works," by B. F. Stephens, Report of Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Meeting of the American Water Works Association 8:102-113
1888 "Stand Pipes for Water-Works," by B. F. Stephens, Engineering News, 20:271-273 (October 6, 1888)
Partial List of Stand-pipes of the United States," from Manual
of American Water Works, Volume 1. [Note: this list is
not included in any known electronic version of this volume.]
Their heights, diameters, thickness and other details of construction. Classified first in order of diameters and secondly in order of heights.
1893 Water Tower, Pumping and Power Station Designs
1895 Stand-pipe Accidents and Failures in the United States: A Chronological Record of Accidents to and Failures of Water-works Stand-pipes in the United States, by William David Pence.
accidents and failures," by Prof. Wm. D. Pence, Engineering
News 33:267 (April 25, 1895)
1901 Towers and
tanks for water-works: The theory and practice of their design and
construction, by James Nisbit Hazlehurst
1904 Metal structures : water towers, stand pipes,
tanks, girders, bascule bridges, turntables, Chicago Bridge
and Iron Works
1914 The Water
Tower, volumes 1-4 bound together, published by the Chicago
Bridge and Iron Works | volumes
1980 The Architecture and Engineering of
Elevated Water Storage Structures: 1870-1940, by Carol Ann Dubie,
M. A. Thesis, George Washington University. Thanks to the author
for allowing this valuable resource to be scanned and included in this
1982 The Architecture of Water Towers: A Bibliography, December, 1982, by Donald H. Dyal. A-869 in Architecture Series: Bibliography
1988 Water Towers,
by Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher
1989 "Tanks and Towers: Waterworks in
America," by John S. Garner, from American
Public Architecture: European Roots and Native Expressions,
edited by Craig Zabel and Susan Scott Munshower, Papers in Art
History from The Pennsylvania State University, Volume V
Spiral Standpipe: A Monument to Industry, Innovation and . . .
History, by Ken Finkel, August 26, 2016, PhillyHistory Blog
© 2016 Morris A. Pierce