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Full text of "The history and construction of the Potomac Dam at Great Falls, Maryland / by Constantine E. Lozupone."

THE HISTORY AHD CONSTRUCTION 
OF THS 

POTOMAC DAM 
MS 

GREAT FAILS, MARYIAHD 



BY 



CONSTANT INS E. LOZUPONS 



+/27/34 



-1- 

THE HISTORY AND CONSTHUCTION OF THE POTOMAC DAM AT 
GREAT FAIIS^MAHYLAND 



The romamce of the Great Falls of the Potomac embraces 
more thaa three eeaturles of American history. This spot of 
scemlc sple»dor, water supply, aad poteittial power has lomg 
beem a coveted prize, aftd title to the falls has beam a 
comstamt source of dispute. The earliest record of the falls 
is ia the gramt of Marylamd lamd to Lord Baltimore by Charles 
the First im 163S, The graat of the lamd imcluded the Potomac 
River of which the Great Falls are a part, im 1688 the gramt 
of Tirgimia lamd to Lord Culpeper by James II also imcluded 
the Potomac River. 

The real history of Great Falls begims with the close 
of the Hevolutiomary War whem Tirgimia gramt ed a charter to 
the '*Potowmaek Compamy" givimg it exclusive aavigable rights 
to the river. The presldemt of this compamy was George 
Washimgtom, The "Potowraack Compamy" built five eamals mear 
the falls but mever accomplished amythimg defimite Im the 
lime of mavigatiom* 

Om Jamuary £7,1824 the virglmia legislature revoked the 
charter of the "Potowmaek Compamy" amd gramted a mew ome to 
the Chesapeake amd Ohio Carnal Compamy, This charter provided 
that the water of the Potomac should forever be reserved to 
maimtaim the compamy 's carnal. The compamy had first rights 
to the river. The water which the carnal compamy did mot re- 
quire for mavigatiom purposes could be used by the govermmemt 




Great Falls of the Potomac, Maryland, 15 miles from WashlnBton, D. C. 



1 




Government [Vd n, Careat Falls of the Potomac, Maryland, 15 miles from Washington, D, C, 




The X'6 mark +he bouncloflet» o-f +Ue cl«t^ 




-3- 

or other emterprlses. The peculiar thimg about the charter was 
that virglmia had mo jurisdictiom over the Potomac amd hemce 
oo-uld mot give amy compamy rights to the river » Owmership of 
the river was defimitely settled betweem liarylamd amd Virgimla 
by agreememt. The gramt of torylamd lamd by Charles I im 1632 
to Lord Baltimore was held superior to the later gramt of 
Virglmia lamd by James II to Lord Culpeper. It was defimitely 
deteraimed that the Potomac River is part of the state of 
Marylamd, the state lime beimg low -water mark om the Tirgimia 
side. 

But the fact that Virgimia im reality did mot have Juris- 
dictiom over the Potomac mever bothered the Chesapeake amd 
Ohio Camal Compamy. This eomcerm wemt over iato Marylamd amd 
om Jamuary 31,1825 had its Virgimla charter approved by the 
Old lime State, Later it had its charter approved by Pemasylvamia 
amd om K'lay 3,1825 had the agreememt to which three states amd 
the camal compamy were parties, approved by act of comgress. 
This is where the carnal compamy gets its perpetual rights to 
the Potomac. Its charter has be em held by the Supreme Court 
to be am agreememt betweem states which the Comstitutiom 
protects from impairmemt. No power save am ememy who might 
oomciuer the matiom cam take that right av^/ay from the compamy. 
Fortumately there has beem amd still is suffioiemt water to 
rum the camal amd supply the District of Columbia as well. 

The mext eomcerm imterested im the Potomac was the Great 
Balls Mamufacturimg Compamy, This corporatiom was chartered 
by Virgiflia om February 4,1639, It acquired about 750 acres 
of lamd om the Virglmia side of the river, just below the 



-3- 

falls a»d also about 61 acres of Coma's Island im the river, 
beimg the islamd across whose southern point the present dan 
exteads, Oa April 2, 1895 the Great Falls J/Iaaufactiiriag Co. 
sold Its fraachises, rights, aad real estate to the Great 
Falls Power Coapaay which had beea chartered by Virgimia ia 
1894, Neither of these oompaaies accomplished aaythiag, their 
sole object seemiag to be holdiag the laad -uatil the goTerameat 
would aeed it for water works aad thea demaad aa exorbitaat 
price for it. 

ia 1853 the IJaited States first attempted to use the 
water of the Potomac by acquiriag iaterests at Great Falls, 
It obtaiaed the coaseat of Marylaad to tap the river for water 
supply that year, aad decided to use the lower ead of Coaa's 
Islaad for a dam exteading from the Maryland shore. At this 
time the Great Falls Maaufacturiag Compaay did aot owa Coaa's 
Islaad. It purchased the Islaad ia 1854 aad whea the goverameat 
started to put its water supply plaa iato operatioa it had to 
settle with the maaufaeturing eompaay, A jury assessed the 
daaages at $150,000, The award was atrocious whea it is coa- 
sidered that the Uaited States bought 130 acres about the falls 
for oaly $3,720, The laad ia quest ioa was a sn^ll strip across 
a sterile islaad 600 feet wide, it is sigalfieaat that from 
1839 to 1853 the compaay had displayed mo sigas of actirity. 
As sooa as the goverameat begaa making plans for use of the 
river for water supply, the maaufaeturing compaay got busy 
buyiag Coaa's Island aad demaadiag aa exorbitaat price for the 
part of it the Uaited States had to have. The government refused 
to accept the award of the jury and for aeariy ten years the 



-4- 

oase was im litigatio*. Fi»ally, ia 1862, by agreemaiit, It 
was t-uraed orer to a oommissioa of fire lawyers, who rec- 
oameaded several plaas oae of whicti Involred tlie paymeat of 
$15,692 aad gave the goverameat the right to build a dam at 
Great Falls. The maaufactttriag compaay refused to accept the 
decisloa, but the Uaited States weat ahead aad built the daa 
aayway, completing it ia 1867, The compaay sued for $500,000 
ia the Court of Claims aad la 1880 was giTea ^15,692, the 
e^Act amount of the award uader the plaa of the connlssioa. 
The maaufacturiag oontpaay appealed this case to the Supreme 
Court of the uaited States aad lost. The plaa adopted gave 
the Uaited States the right to build a dam across the ^larylaad 
Chaaael to Coan's islead, aad gave it the use of all the water 
the daa diverted, Prom 12,000,000 to 24,000,000 galloas per day 
were used from the time the dam was completed la 1867 uatil 
1882 whea it was proposed that the Uaited ^states acquire add- 
itioaal water rights at Great flails to iacrease the water supply 
of fMshiagtoa. 

Ia 1882 Coagress passed a bill providiag for the acquisitioa 
by coademaatioa of sufficient laad to extead the dam from Conn's 
Island to the Virgiaia shore. The maaufacturiag compaay again 
put ia a big claim and tried to stop the work. The exteaded dam 
was completed ia 1886, but ia the meaatime, the maaufactiiriag 
compaay had filed a claim for $1,000,000, This was a soxirce of 
coatroversy for tweaty years aad was pressed by the Great Palls 
Power uompaay after that coacera took over the property aad 
fraachises of the maaufacturiag company ia 1895, This claim 
was fiaally settled ia 1902, the uaited States payiag damages 
of $63,766, The total sum which the governmeat has paid for 



-5- 

water priTileges at Great i-'alls, exclTisiye of its purchases of 
real estate, is as follows: 

Arbitratlo* iacpeases $ 12,761.84 

Great ifalla Aamufactxirlag Co. 15,69 2.00 

Great Fails I'ower Co. 63.766.00 

Total $ 92,219,84 

These paymemts, it must be co&sidered, were to eomcerms that 
had meTer dome aay of the thimgs for which they were ia corpora ted; 
that had Mever developed am o\mee of Great rails power diiriEg 
sevemty years of life; that had never performed a single public 
service. Yet whe» the govermmeMt wanted to utilize some of the 
water it had to pay them nearly $ 100,000, 

Previous to December 3, 1863 the aoiirce of water for the 
District of Col-ombia came from wells aad springs, very early it 
became apparent that such a supply would not be adeqiiate for the 
rapidly growing oity in coming years. Studies were therefore made 
of possibilities of using the Potomac River as a source of water. 
Surveys to ascertain the best method of supplying water to the 
city of Washington were ordered by President Pillmora. In February 
1853, the report of Captain M.C.Meigs, who had been assigned to 
this work, was forwarded to Congress by President Killmore, The 
report recommended a gravity supply from the Great Falls of the 
Potomac some fifteen miles above "/Washington, by a conduit nine 
feet in diameter, capable of delivering more than 67,000,000 
gallons per day. The population of Washington at that time was 
about 50,000 and of Georgetown, now west Washington, about 8,000. 
At that time Boston had a supply of 10,000,000 gallons per day. 
New York of 30,000,000, and Philadelphia of 15,000,000. 



CaptaiB. Meigs' orlglaal plan had to be modified 'several 
times because of legal obstacles, but finally bids were opemed 
Ik May, 18 58 for a riprap dam to extend from the hlaryland shore 
to Conn's Island. The contract was awarded to Dexter Belknap of 
New York on June 10,1858, The following was included in the 
speolfioations: 

1. The dam is to be an embankment of rubble stone with a 
top width of SO ft., a slope on the upper side of one 
to one, and on the lower side of five to one. 

2. It will be made with large stones, the spaces filled with 
smaller ones, so as to form a compact mass, 

3. The eastern end of the dam (on the i-^ryland shore) will 

be connected with the head wall of the feeder. The western 
end will terminate against a ledge of rook. 
The terms of the contract were as follows: 

1. For clearing trees, brush, and logs from the 
space flooded by the backwater of the dam 

and occupied by the dam $ 50 per acre 

2, For the rubble stone deposited in the dam, 
including the cost of placing and packing 

in conformity with the specifications $ 1,30 per ou.yd. 

3, ?or broken stone , including the cost of the 
stone, of breaking it, and depositing it in 

the dam $ 1.00 pet cu.yd, 

4, Gravelling, including cost of depositing in 

the dam in accordance with the specifications 0.50 per ou.yd, 

5. For excavation of rock in the boat channel 

above the dam or under the site of the dam $ 1,00 per cu.yd, 

6. For excavation of gravel, earth, and loose 
stone in the boat channel above the dam or 

under the site of the dam $ 0.15 per cu.yd. 

This riprap dam was begun and built almost to the island. 
Difficulties in obtaining land rights on Conn's Island prevented 
Its completion. 



-7- 

Om June 16, 186S Comgresa traasf erred the aqueduot from 
the War Department to the Department of the iaterior. The 
Secretary of the Interior put William H, Hut ton in charge of 
the work and he was succeeded the following year by Silas 
Seymour. Seymour inunediately expressed his disapproval of the 
riprap dam and finally succeeded in submitting the question 
of replacing it with a masonry dam to Congresa, On July S, 1864 
Congress appropriated funds for the erection of a solid masonry 
dam to extend from the Maryland shore to Conn's Island, The 
contract was awarded to Dunbar, Sherrlll, and Bangs on July 30 
and work was started Immediately. Great difficulty mas encount- 
ered In obtaining laborers, owing to the high prices paid for 
substitutes to enter the army and to the fear of incursions 
from guerilla parties of Confederates, Considerable progress 
was made In spite of delays caused by the CItII War and the 
work was eompleted September 30, 1867, During actual construction 
riprap diversions were used to fiirnish water, Exerpts from the 
specifications follow: 

1. Foimdation to rest on rock wherever practicable. 

S, The masonry in the foundation Is to extend from the 
rock foundation up to the level of low-water mark of 
the river. The lower face will have a slope, either 
in steps or batter, of two feet base to one foot rise, 
and upper face in steps of one to one. 

3. The lower or front face of the superstructure will be 
vertical, the rear or downstream face will batter in 
the ratio of four inches to the vertical foot, 

4. The top of the dam will be 7 ft, thick and it is to 
be of rubbla cement masonry, 

5. The ooplng will be of Seneca sandstone. 

6» The rear angle formed by the back face of the dam and 
the bed of the river will be filled with good coarse 
gravel or broken stone, extending from the top of the 
daTO with a uniform slope not greater than 3 ft. horiz- 
ontal to 1 ft, vertical until it reaches the bed of the 
river. 



.B- 



The terms of the eo» tract were as follows: 

For cleari»g & grubbing the entire work ^ 1800 

For exoaTatiom i» foundations 2,50 per cu.yd. 

For concrete & grout in foundations 6,00 per cu.yd. 

For foundation nasonry 14,00 per cu.yd. 

For superstructure masonry 14.00 per cu.yd. 

For coping 20.00 per cu.yd, 

J?'or wrought iron in bolts & olamps 0.15 per lb, 

For back filling 3,50 per cu.yd. 

The crest eleTatlon of this dam was 147,0 feet with mean low tide at 

the Navy Yard in Washington as a datum. It was completed at a total 

cost of ^ 50,000, 

A rapid increase in the water consumption of the city of 

Washington soon made it apparent that this solid masonry dam was 

not high enough to Impoimd the necessary water to meet the new 

requirements. In 1881 it was found that for 257 days of that year 

the water at to eat Fills was below the leTel necessary for adeqiiately 

supplying the District of Columbia, Temporary dans at the head of 

Oonn'8 Island were built to meet the emergency but these, besides 

being washed away each spring, did not meet the situation. The 

problem was submitted to uongrese repeatedly and finally, on July 

15,1862, an appropriation was made to finance the raising of the 

existing dam to an eleration of 148. Q and to extend the whole 

structure to the Virginia shore. The contract was awarded for this 

work on Not ember 7,1883 to the Chittenden Bros. The old dam across 

the Maryland channel was raised by putting a coping on it 15 inches 

in thickness. The length of the old dam was 1034 feet. The extension 

included a length of 669 feet across Conn's Island and 1174 feet 

from Gonn*s Island to the Virginia shore. The new dam was to be a 

masonry structure composed of large cut stone for the facing and 

backing , with concrete filling, A flood which occurred the night 

of October 29 and 30,1885 destroyed the coffer dams which had been 

built and submerged the entire work. When the coffer dams were 



-9- 

restored, it was fo-u»d that the flood had tora out from the dam 
10-j^ ou.ydB, of eoaorete, 27f on, yds, of out stoae, aad 33^ ou.yde. 
of eopiag which had Just beea put la place but act bolted. No 
damage whaterer was doae to aay portloa of the completed dam im 
which the mortar had had a ehaaoe to set. The damage was repaired 
aad the work was fialshed oa August 31,1686 at a total cost of 
$ 140,4B5.48, The completed dam had a total leagth of 2877 feet 
amd raried ia height from 4 to SO feet, the deepest part belag 
Im the Virgiaia chaaael. The width of the dam la the Marylaad 
ohaamel was 7*- 9** while across Coaa's Islamd aad the Tirglala 
chaaael it was 8'- 3**. 

Ob Juae £,1889 a great flood occurred and the water rose to 
a height of 16 feet above the crest of the dam. 1103 feet of eopiag 
was washed off aad deposited ia the pool below. The damage was 
repaired duriag the fayorable seasoas of 1890 aad 1891 at a cost 
of $ 9000. The stoaes were replaced aad fasteaed with iroa bolts 
fire feet loag aad two laches la diameter with heads oa them of 
Buffioieat stremgth to preTeat the stoaes from sllppimg off. 

Whea the dam had beea ezteaded to the Ylrgiaia side It was 
thought that it would Impouad eaough water to supply the city of 
Washiagtoa for all time. This was sooa fouad to be a mistake. 
Prom 1886 to 1894 coasumptioa rose from 25,000,000 galloas per 
day to 49,000,000 galloas per day while the populatioa lacr eased 
oaly 30?&. The eleyatioa of the dam was partlcxilarly fouad to be 
laadequate duriag low stages of the rirer. Oa Uareh 2,1895, a 
sum of $ 185,000 was appropriated to raise the eleratloa of the 
dam to 150.5 feet. This was doae by remoTiag the stoaes, iaoreasiag 
the height, aad replaclag the eopiag. The ooplag was fasteaed 
with bolts 2" ia diameter aad about 7' ia leagth. This work was 



-10- 



eaupleted i« NoTember 1896 at a total cost of $ 101,373, This 
was tlie last masomry corns true tiom dome om the dam. There has beem 
mo serious damage slmce them, the omly repairs belmg replacememt 
of the loose riprap baokimg which is partially carried away by 
the ammiial sprlmg freshets. 

After the hydro-electrlo plamt at Bale carl la was placed Im 
serTicft im 1928, the Tclmae of water meeded was more tham doubled. 
Flashboards of Douglas Fir were used to solve this problem. These 
plamks are 12" high amd 2" thick. They are held im place by 2" 
black Irom pipe stamdards set im holes drilled la the coplmg four 
feet om cemter. The cost of this work which was completed im 1930 
was $ 2,394.47. These flashboards brought the elevatiom of the dam 
to 151.5 feet which is Its presemt elevatiom. Today the dam stamds 
im perfect oomditiom with every imdieatiom that it still possesses 
years of good service. The presemt value of the dan based om cost 
of reproductlom is $ 450,000, A summary of the cost of the dam 
follows: 

Cost of lamd amd water rights $ 112,275.96 

Cost of oomstruotlom 311,321.77 

Total cost of aquisitlom $ 423,697.73 

Source of fumds: 

limited States I 289,168,87 

District of Columbia 134.428.86 

Total ¥ 423,697,73 



-11- 



TYPlC^L SEICTION OF DAM AT GREAT FALLS 










icaie 



I" = 4- 



WidtW o^ dam across Marylan4 CKani-iel - 
WiclH\ across Conn's Is lamd K \/a. CKannel = 

HeigM o-f do.rr' va»-ics ^vowvi -4^ ■" 2.0' 
Average Wel^U-t ■= 15' 



7'- 9" 



Len9i"W of dann ■• 

Across Marv^^Qnd Cho^v^^r^et 
Across Conn's Islav^d 
Acf'oss Vit-ginia CWannel 
To4al Length 



I0 34- f+. 



Eleva + ioi^ of +op o-f -flavin- \ooards = 1 5 (. 5 fl. above 
VTaeairt low -Vvdie. at tUe Wavv^ Yord \vi VV a^U vk^gt on ,\), C, 




i^ 



/ 









Xhe new m^ake a^ Gre<\^ Fftl\s,Md. 










^Tt. 





A view o-f tlie ci 



Owi 



'^^^e ol<i i.^4ak( 





i/ 



\ ; I 




23 



A pat-V o-f +tie Cc O CaM< 



-12- 



WaTER-SEED of the POTOMAC AT GREAT FALLS, MARYLAND 




The dral»age area of the Potomac RiTer at Ureat l?*all8 
Is equal to 11,460 square niles* 



-13- 



YEARIiY DISCHA.HGE OF THE POTOMAC HIYER AT GHSAT ?ALLS 



soar 


uazlnnn 


MlKln^ra 


M«am 


1897 


202,000 


2300 


13.700 


1898 


12S»000 


1870 


11,500 


1699 


132,000 


1,790 


15,500 


1900 


58,900 


1,200 


7,730 


1901 


169,000 


1,150 


14,300 


1902 


248,000 


1,470 


16,100 


1903 


123,000 


1,840 


17,300 


1904 


43,300 


1,520 


7.980 


1905 


76,500 


1,070 


8,270 


1906 


94,500 


2,120 


11.400 


1907 


131,000 


2,970 


16.600 


1908 


161,000 


1,770 


17.000 


1909 


82,400 


1,440 


7,750 


1910 


172,000 


1,020 


9,240 


1911 


119,000 


828 


7,690 


1912 


94,800 


1,940 


13.800 


1913 


143,000 


848 


9,500 


1914 


77,700 


653 


12,200 


1915 


141,000 


775 


11,800 


1916 


14R,000 


1,310 


12,400 


1917 


133,000 


923 


9,480 


1918 


126,000 


1,060 


11,200 


1919 


72.400 


1.280 


10.000 


irg« for 


t^® 248,000 


653 


11,900 



All discharges 
giv»M ia cuble ft. 
per seooad. 
Dralaage area of 
the Potomac RiTor 
at Great i<alls Is 
11,460 eg.. mis. 

The discharge of 
the aqued-acts at 
Great ^alls Is 
seldom greater 
tham 400 e.f.s. 



23 year period 

The above flgxires show that the average discharge of the Fotosiae 
OTer a period of 23 years was 11,900 cable feet per seooad. Srea the 
mialrn'oii of 653 c.f.s. is more thaa what is used by the aqueducts. 



-14- 



Am iaterestimg report submitted by the U.S. Geological Survey 
im 1913 reveals some decisive figures. The data follovs. All figtires 
beyomd 1912 are estlinatds. 



lear 


Popnlatlom 


Average Daily 
Comsunptiom 


Mazlmiim Dally 
Com STimpt lorn 


1906 


323,000 


68,700,000 (gallomsl 


1906 


326,000 


67,400,000 




1907 


330,000 


66,900,000 


80.290,000 (gallons) 


1908 


339.000 


64,910,000 


80.380,000 


1909 


343,000 


61,470,000 


78,930.000 


1910 


343,000 


54.190,000 


78.600.000 


1911 


348,000 


60.360,000 


78.320,000 


1912 


354,000 


62,120,000 


92,720,000 


1915 


378,000 


66,000.000 


86,000.000 


1920 


406.000 


70,000,000 


91,000,000 


1930 


460,000 


79,000,000 


103,000,000 


1940 


515,000 


89.000,000 


116,000.000 


1950 


570,000 


99,000,000 


129,000,000 



The discharge of the Potomac rtlver from fifteen years observation 
varies froBi 600,000,000 to 84,000.000,000 gallons dally. As the 
predicted maximum daily consumption in 1960 is only 129.000.000 
gallons, it may be stated that the ir'otomac Hiver at Great Palls can 
furnish for all time a sufficient water supply to the District of 
Columbia. 



-15- 



BIBLIOGRAPEY 

AmBxial Reports of the tJ.S.Office of the Washimgtom Aqueduct 
Com^esslo»al Reports om DeTelopmemt of Power at Great F&lls 
Report of Major Tyler om Derelopmemt of Power at Great Slalls 
Differ emt Issues of the SmglmeerlKg News 

Imformatiom was also obtaimed from the Uaited States 
Coast amd Geodetle SuTTey, the Umlted States Geological 
SuTTey, the Corps of Emgimeera of the Umited States Army, 
amd from people lirim^ mear the Great i^alls. 

Corns ider able Imformatlom was obtaimed from Ur. Eardy 
who Is Im charge of the Dale carl la Reserrolr amd flltratiom 
plamt amd who also has dome mueh work om the dam, 

I am Indebted also to Mr, Moffeems,who is im charge of 
the McMillam Park Reservoir im washimgtom, for much imformatiom.