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DEC 2 1988 


WORKS .;. 

ioF tk: city cf 

1630 - 1978 




'Tis a little thing 
To give a cup of water; yet its draught 
Of cool refreshment, drained by fevered lips 
May give a shock of pleasure to the frame 

More equisite than when nectarean juice 
Renews the life of joy in happiest hours. 

Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd (179A - 185A) 

As one who long in populous city pent, 
Where houses thick and sewer annoy the air. 

Paradise Lost. Book VIII, Line 4A5 
John Milton (1608 - 1674) 


A. Raimcnd lye. Chairman 

Michael J. Rotenberg, Vice Chairman 

J. John Pox, Ocrttnissioner 

Francis W. Gens, Executive Director 

ThorBS J. O'Neil, Project Director 

The author is deeply grateful to the Carmission for the 
opportunity to carpi le histories of two Wbrks that are as historical 
as they are vital . He could not have progressed en the vork, let 
alCTie finished it, without the generous help of the staff of the 
the Research Department of the Boston Public Library, the 
Massachusetts State Library, and the Boston City Council. 

JULY, 1981 


Oopyright (c) 1981 by the Bostcxi Water and Sewer Ccsmissica:! 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be 
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or 
transmitted in any form by an electroiic, mechanical, 
photocopying, recording means or otherwise, without 
prior written permission of the Ocrmiissiai. 

Chapter 1 

Governor John Winthrop of the Massachusetts Bay Colony 
and his fellow iininigrants had been eighteen weeks out of Salem 
following the irregular coast line in search of their permanent 
place of settlement in the New World when they landed at 
Charles town in June of 16 30. Death debarked with them. 

Ill provisioned because they believed the glowing reports 
of the land's ability to support them, and having neither the 
experience nor knowledge to properly set up their encampment, 
scurvy and dysentry overcame them and soon almost every household 
would count one dead and in some more . They lived from the 
offerings the sea over which they had arrived gave up - mussels , 
lobster and clams. But what they needed most and without which 
there was no hope of survival was a supply of pure fresh water. 

Charlestown had water, but it lay still in ponds. The 
Puritans trusted only water that was in motion, believing that 
its movement purified it. They were told that the White settler 
who had preceded them. Rev. William Blackstone, had an "excellent 
spring" near the place where he lived, on the slope of one of 
the hills across the Bay in Trimountaine. So they crossed the 

salt water to find fresh, and found a copious and pure supply in 

a spring near what is now called Dock Square. 

1. The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, April, 1907, 
p. 295. 

2. Ibid. p. 297. 


On the 7th of December, 1630, in the well practiced 
terseness that was their style, the members of "The Court of 

Assistans holden at Charleston (Charlestown) ordered that 

"Trimountaine shalbe called Boston, Mattapan, Dorchester; & 
the Towne upon the Charles Ryver, Watertown."^ Thus the followers 
of Winthrop changed the name which described the hills that 
dominated that place of river, inlets, streams, islands, and 
peninsula to that of the place from whence many of them had 
come - Boston in Lincolnshire, England. 

It was not the first time the name had been changed. Its 
Indian inhabitants called it Shawmut, the place of living springs. 
Blackstone's excellent spring lay quite close to where he lived 
on the slope of Beacon Hill near Louisburg Square. (Ultimately, 
Mr. Blacks tone was invited to join the Church, but demurred, 
saying: "I came from England because I did not like the Lord 
Bishops, but I can't join you because I would not be under the 

Lord-Brethern," and abandoned his home, and the Puritans were 

convinced, his soul, fleeing to the wilds of Rhode Island) . 

As the Town of Boston began its slow growth, people settled 

further from the spring and carirying water became a burden. In 

1650, several inhabitants of North Street approached William 

Tynge, already one of the richest merchants of the Town, and 

1. The Records of the Colony of Massachusetts. 

2. Cotton Mather, Magnalid (1702) book xxiii, p. 7, 


asked if he would supply them water from the spring behind his 
house. On June 1st, 1652 the Great and General Court incorporated 
Boston's first water works - "for the dayly use of fresh water 
for their several families, and especially the eminent danger 
i-f any scathfier should happen amoungst them (which God forbid)." 
The water rents were to be paid to Mr. Tynge - twelve pence a 
year - and the Corporation was to meet annually on the first 
of July - "if not the Lord's day, or if it be, then on the 
second" to elect two wardens to serve for a year and no more. 
The wardens were to see to the works, had authority to seize 
property of those who did not pay for the water and to prevent 
anyone who was not a member of the Corporation from taking water 
by first warning them and then if they persisted, taking from 
them the vessel in which they had intended to carry away water. 

The wardens were also authorized to give license to draw 
water to those too poor to pay for it, and anyone was authorized 
to break into the works at any place in case of fire.^ 

The conduit was a large reservoir about twelve feet square 
holding water conveyed from wells and springs by wooden pipes. 
Over the reservoir a wooden building was constructed for storage, 
but later the well was covered with planks rising to a level oQsout 
two feet high with sloping sides. The pipes had been laid some 
time earlier and the length they travested North Street 
became known as Conduit Street. 

1. Massachusetts Colony Records, Vol. Iv. Part 1 p 99 
(June 1, 1652) 

2. Ibid. 


As the years passed and the Town grew, watersheds were 
destroyed, springs covered over and built upon or dried up. 
Slowly a dependence grew for the needed supply on dug wells or 
cisterns used to catch rain water. And it was becoming apparent 
that the quality of such water was not that of the springs. 

In 179 3, B. J. Ferron, who held the imposing title of 
"Surgeon-Major of his Most Christian Majesty's Squardron under 
Maetanay's Command in North America, and His Majesty's Marine 
Hospitals at Boston and in Rhode Island" experimented with several 
samples of well water taken in different parts of Boston to 
determine its quality. The analysis of water in those days was 
an inexact science at its best. Nevertheless Ferron wrote: "From 
the various experiments, may we not conclude that the water of 
Boston contains sea salt with a base of mineral ackali in small 
quantity of oil, perhaps a little tal catharticus amarus. There 

are besides some which contain farther a superabundance of earth, 

suspended by means of an undue proportion of air." 

Toward the end of the eighteenth century, some of Boston's 

"capitalists" as they proudly called themselves in those days, 

became convinced that there was a market for the sale of water 

to the inhabitants of the Town. But there was no large supply 

to be found in Boston. They turned to the neighboring Town of 

Roxbury and to its Jamaica Plain section where was located a 

1. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and 
Sciences - 179 3 in English and French. 

2. Ibid. 


Pond of approximately seventy acres with a depth, in some sections, 
of up to sixty or seventy feet. 

In 169 8 the rights to the waters of the Pond had been 
granted by the Town to one Joseph Belnap with permission to 
draw water for the operation of a grist mill to grind corn for 
the inhabitants of Roxbury and Brookline. In 1739 the Selectmen 
decided to regulate the amount which could be drawn. In October 
of 1780, the Grist Mill was diverted to other uses and in 
February of 1784, because the surface of the Pond had fallen, 
it was ordered that the drain be entirely stopped six feet to 
the eastward of the Gate "until the season would admit to a 
good look at the source."-^ 

In 179 5, the backers of the proposed water works petitioned 
the Great and General Court for a charter to proceed with the 
project. In their petition they proclaimed that they had 
purchased the rights to the pond from William Marshall (he 
had purchased them the previous year) and that they were 
convinced "great quantities of water can be drawn the greater 
part of the year" and pointed out that it was "impossible to 
maintain the health of the people without washing sheets in 
Summer and in Autumn" (which was the only times each year that 
they were) , and further raised the spectre of "other Cities 
ravaged by fire - at great expense. "2 

1. Drake's History of Roxbury. 

2' Records of the Proprietors of the Boston (Jeunaica 
Plain) Aqueduct Corporation 1795. 


The Act of Incorporation was passed by both branches of the 
Legislature on February 26, 1795 and signed the next day by 
Govenor Seunuel Adauns. The first meeting of the Corporation 
was to be "holden at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston"^ on the 
same day at 12 noon. In attendance were Laommi Baldwin, Jr. 
who was to be the Engineer for the construction of the works 
and Charles Bulfinch, its architect. 

To raise funds, the Incorporators sold, or attempted to 
sell, 100 shares at $1,300 per share. Two mains were originally 
laid. There later would be four, two of four inch bore and two 
of three inch and made of pitch-pine, laid into Boston in a 
subterranean txinnel there to be connected to the lateral pipes, 
one and one half inches in diameter, of the subscribers. Both 
the Towns of Boston and Roxbury had free access to the hydrants 
the Corporation built, in case of fire. 

The Boston Aqueduct Corporation, more commonly known as 
the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct, had its problems from the beginning. 
Shares were hard to sell, revenues from water rents (set by the 
Legislature) proved inadequate to cover expenses and assessments 
were repeatedly laid on the shareholders. At one point the 
selling price of the shares fell to $500.00. No dividends 
were paid for ten years. The works were in constant need of 
repair as the wooden pipes often broke, especially where one 
length was connected with the next. (This was done by 

1. Ibid. 


dovetailing the narrow end of one length into the wider end of 
the next and sealing the joint with an iron ring. Wear often 
caused these joints to separate. The Works long time Chief 
Engineer, Mr. Thomas Dexter, developed an extraordinary skill 
at locating the leaks without excessive digging. Forcing an 
iron rod down through the earth until he hit the top of the 
pipe, he would strike the rod and listen, with his ear against 
it, to the resulting sound. Its tone would tell him how far 
away the break was. The method was most effective and left 
Mr. Dexter deaf. 

Waste was, as it is now, a great problem for the water 
works. Rates were charged by the size of the family (with 
different rates for hotels, manufacturies and commercial houses), 
The users of the water were very careless, often not turning 
off their stop cocks. But despite all its problems, the Jamaica 
Pond Aqueduct brought a supply of water, albeit not always sure 
and steady, to several sections of Boston (the Pond was not 
elevated enough to supply the high sections of the Town by 
gravity flow) for over fifty years and at its demise was 
supplying between 1,500 and 1,600 hundred households and other 
users, including the Massachusetts General Hospital, and homes 
and business far up Washington and Tremont Street in the City. 
By 1844 it had 55 large (50,000 gallons) and 9 small (25,000) 
reservoirs in the City. The fire hydrants when, in reality, 
plugs in the pipes which the fire companies (over most of the 
life of the Aqueduct, private companies which dashed to the 


fire hoping to be the first there and if they were not, prepared 
to fight it out with whomever was) could pull out so that water 
might be pumped. 

Chapter II 

Although many were reluctant to see it happen, the growth 
of Boston had been such that it was forced to abandon the rather 
cumbersome and informal Town Meeting form of government and 
petition the General Court for an act incorporating it as a 
City. The City charter was accepted by the Town on March 4, 
1822. The names of two illustrious citizens of the new City 
were proposed to be its first Mayor - Harrison Grey Otis and 
Josiah Quincy, but support for each was so evenly divided that 
a compromise choice was made, John Phillips. The ascent of 
Quincy to Mayor was to come in 1823. He would be called by 
many the "Great Mayor." 

In his inaugural address, Quincy turned, with his usual 
optomistic enthusiasm to the question of a supply of pure water 
to all sections of the City. He urged that a supply be brought 
in and suggested as potential sources the Charles and Neponset 
Rivers. It would be twenty-five years later, a quarter of a 
century of surveys, controversies, elections, legislation, 
petitions, remonstrances and argument, sometimes, of a gentlemanly 
character, and sometimes not, before his son. Mayor Josiah 
Quincy, Jr. , would pull a lanyard on Boston Common to allow the 
water to flow into the Frog Pond and through the newly laid 
pipes of the City. 


Mayor Quincy's plea for water, while not immediately 
heeded, did set the project into intellectual motion.. By 1825, 
the City Council (Common Council and Board of Aldermen sitting 
jointly) appointed a Committee to look into the acquisition of 
a supply of water. Mayor Quincy was its Chairman. The joint 
Committee hired Daniel Treadwell to conduct a survey. As the 
project would stir the passions of the City, it also would, 
through its history, attract men outstanding in themselves and 
in their professions. 

Treadwell, an orphan at eleven, had been apprenticed 
to his older brother as a Silversmith. He eventually became 
successful in that craft on his own. Yet, like many men of 
quality who lacked formal education, he had a thirst for 
knowledge and spent much time in available libraries reading. 
Treadwell 's desire for learning was matched by his love of 
invention. He created a machine to produce screws, one to 
make hemp, and a printing press that was operated by the weight 
of the pressman's foot using an ingenious combination of levers 
and a toggle joint. His press was later improved to print on 
both sides of the paper simultaneously and eventually was 
operated by steam power. Treadwell was early on interested in 
the ejnbryonic railroad system of America and his sketches 
illustrating a system of turneibouts allowed the construction of 
single track railroads. He shared his self-gained knowledge 
through a series of lectures to working men on the application 


of scientific principles to their IcQjor. In 1834 he was appointed 
Riimford Professor and Lecturer on the Application of Science 
to the Useful Arts at Harvard College. 

Treadwell began his report of November 4, 1825 with a 
determination of just how much water the City needed. Assuming 
the population of Boston would be approximately 50,000 when the 
water arrived and using the consumption figures of the Cities 
of Philadelphia and London, he reckoned by interpellation 
that the City ought to have 1,458,000 gallons daily. But he 
was dissatisfied with that figure on the grounds that the pattern 
of consumption of the citizens of Boston might not be the same 
as that of their counterparts in Philadelphia and London. 
So he devised his own formula. 

He began by assuming the 50,000 people in the City were 
gathered in 8,000 families. Giving each family 100 gallons 
a day for cooking and washing and other uses, would require a 
supply of 800,000 gallons. But not all citizens would find 
the same day propitious for washing either themselves or their 
clothes. He assumed, therefore, that 6,000 would coincidently 
wash each day using 60 of their hundred gallons and those not 
cleaning up would use 40 for "other purposes" thus making a 
daily total use of 680,000 gallons. Add another 500,000 gallons 
for watering horses and streets and leakage and 1,180,000 was 
needed, rounded off to 1,600,000 to provide for the growth of 
the City. (Treadwell did not provide any extra for the fighting 


of fires, assuming that at the sounding of the alarm, all other 
uses of the water would stop and there would be enough water 
available to supply eight engines which could pump it high 
enough to reach the top of the City's tallest building) . 

Having thus satisfied himself as to the amount needed, he 
turned to the source. If the water was to come from the Charles 
River, he would draw it from above the falls at Watertown, 
through two round wooden trunks, 2 1/2 feet in diameter buried 
at a sufficient depth under the earth to prevent freezing. The 
water would run to a pumping mill on the Mill Dam in the City. 
There it would be pumped up to a Reservoir on Beacon Hill, and from 
the Reservoir through mains of iron to all parts of the City. 
He estimated the mains laid on the level and constantly filled 
and subject to small pressure would last forty years. One pipe 
would be sufficient for the City's supply but by laying two, 
repairs to either one could be made without interrupting the 

The Reservoir, he stressed, was very important. Treadwell 
estimated 800,000 gallons would be used during five hours in the 
morning and 800,000 during the twelve succeeding hours. Water 
would be shut off from the Reservoir during the remaining seven 
night time hours. The average hourly use during the day would 
be 66,666 gallons, but at times the use would reach 160,000 gallons 
an hour. If the water were kept running into the reservoir during 
the night, the larger amounts used during peak hours would always 


be available from it. If not, the 160,000 gallons would have 
to be taken directly from the machinery (pximping mill) , which 
he considered a disadvantage, even if the velocity of the water 
would be less from the reservoir than directly from the machinery, 

His reservoir would be 30,000 superficial feet, 8 feet 
deep with a capacity of 1,800,000 gallons when two-thirds full. 
That amount could be obtained by working the engines ten hours 
each day, during the night-time. 

Treadwell now turned to Spot Pond in Stoneham, eight miles 
distant from the City as another possible source. Both from 
observation and gauging, he was easily convinced that the large 
amount of water available from the Charles River would be more 
than enough to supply the needs of the City even in the dryest 
years. Unable, however, because it was surrounded by bushes 
and meadows, to survey Spot Pond Treadwell wrote that that would 
have to wait until the Pond was frozen over, and relied on a 
previous survey of the 220 acre Pond laying 8 miles from Boston. 

During the dry summer of 1822, the Pond had been drawn down 
eight feet to a level eight feet below the waste way to supply 
the mills built around its perimeter, but by the following 
winter, it had filled to such a degree that its water flowed 
over the waste way. That fact, and the estimate that 800,000 
gallons daily were leaking out through the gate which could be 
repaired, convinced Treadwell that the supply at Spot Pond was 
sufficient. Yet, to make perfectly sure, he urged the Committee 
to direct some person to put a water measure on the Gate and let 
it register over a sufficient period of time. 


Unlike the Charles, Spot had the advantage of gravity flow 
into the City and would need no pumping. The surface of the 
Pond two feet below the waste way was 140 feet zdaove the level 
of the water in Boston Harbor at mean tide. Beacon Hill was 90 
feet above the Harbor level. Spot 50 edsove Beacon Hill. 
Treadwell would bring the water in in a line of Iron pipe which 
would run from the South End of the Pond, 80 rods east of the 
Andover Turnpike, southerly, following low land to the Mystic 
River, cross it near the Shipyard in Medford, thence, after 
crossing the Middlesex Canal, keep near Craige Road from Medford 
to Craige 's Bridge. Here it would cross the Charles River to 
the Boston Shore, and then up to the Reservoir on Beacon Hill. 
There would, under his plan, be a second reservoir on Copp's 
Hill, supplied from the Beacon Hill Reservoir. He also gave 
an alternate route, somewhat longer, but perhaps making the 
crossing of the Charles less difficult. 

This alternate course would be more westerly. The water 
would flow as before out of Medford, continuing until it passed 
between the Powder House in Charlestown and Prospect Hill, 
through Cambridge Port to a point of land opposite the Mill Dam, 
and there crossing the Charles to the Dam where the River was 
comparatively shallow; over the Dam to Beacon Hill. The first 
route would be seven miles and 16/52s of a mile long, the second 
eight and one-quarter miles. There would be twenty-two miles of 
pipe in the streets of the City (counting mains only, not service 
pipes to the houses) . The total cost of the works (excluding 


the cost of the land for the Reservoirs and with a caution that 
"the expense of crossing the ((Charles)) river ((was)) not likely 
to be accurately estimated, as it is a worlc of a kind altogether 
new") and that the estimate did not include the cost of acquiring 
the Pond, would be $615,469 from Spot on the westerly route, and 
$558,353 on the "Craige's" route. The cost of procuring the 
water from the Charles would be $514,842, and included two men 
in constant attention to the machinery plus the capitalized cost 
of repairs for one year. 

Treadwell attached the chemical analysis of the two waters 
done by Dr. Charles T. Jackson to his report. They showed both 
of an acceptable purity, taste and color. 

What was done with the Treadwell survey was what was to be 
done with subsequent surveys over the years — nothing. 

By 1834, calling for the introduction of a supply of pure 
water into the City had become a standard part of the inaugural 
address of each incoming Mayor. Some wished it done at the 
City's expense. The Capitalist wanted a private, profit making 
(they hoped) Corporation. Mayor Theodore Lyman (1834-1835) 
insisted something be done. Another survey was ordered, this 
time by the City's Engineer, Laommi Baldwin, whose family name 
is borne by the apple his father discovered . Baldwin was a 
lawyer and author. But his greatest prominence was as a Civil 
Engineer. Indeed^ he is called by some, the "Father of Civil 
Engineering in America." His accomplishments in that field 
were many, Fort 


Strong on Noodle's Island in Boston Harbor; the Bunker Hill 
Monument; the extension of Beacon Street below the Conunon; the 
great Dry Docks in Charlestown and Norfolk; the surveying of 
the Erie Canal. He begins his report from Charlestown on 
October 1st, 1834, with an unnecessary apology: 

(The report is) — "far from being so full, definite, and 
so much in detail as the important object demands." He then 
proceeds to submit a survey exquisite in detail which runs, 
with the chemical analysis of Dr. Charles T. Jackson attached, 
to over one hundred pages. 

The well ordered mind of Baldwin required that he first 
list all the sources of water existant in the City. He lists 

1. By collecting rain water in cisterns on the roofs 
of house, etc. 

2. By raising it from wells in the common way. 

3. By boring into the earth and tapping springs below — 
(Artesian wells) . 

4. By conducting it from high and distant sources by 
aqueducts, conduit pipes, or pumps. 

The first method is in common use, he pointed out, in 
Boston and other places where no supply of pure water can be 
obtained from the earth; the second method is also common; to the 
third he devotes much detail, tracing the history of Artesian 

1. City Document No. 12-1834. 


wells from the Artois Province in France to a magnificant one 
he himself had built at the Norfolk Naval Yard. And 9s far as 
Aqueducts are concerned, he describes the better known ones 
from the Appian Aqueduct (B.C. 312) to the Agua Virgini, restored 
under the Pontificate of Nicholas V, and completed during the 
Reign of Pius IV in 1568; then details that method of supply in 
the Cities of Paris, London and Edinborough. On page thirty 
six he comes to the point reached by Treadwell on page one of 
his report: How much water does the City actually need each day? 

First, he reasoned, he would find out how much water the 
City now had, at least from its major source, wells. To determine 
that he sent out one Eben A. Lester to make a careful investigation 
of all wells in the City. Baldwin found the results of the 
investigation very curious. (Not as curious, however, as some 
in later years would find the methods used by Lester in his 
herculean task) . 

Of the total of 2,767 wells Mr. Lester had located, the 
water was drinkable in 2,085 of them, but of the same 2,767, 
2,760 were hard and not used for washing. It was easier to quench 
ones thirst in the City than to remain clean, it seemed. 

Baldwin then estimated that the population of the City would 
be 80,000 by 1840. (It actually would be 84,400, This was not 
the first entry into the field of population estimates by Baldwin. 
In 1809 he published a paper warning against extensive immigration 
impairing the national character). If one were to take Treadwell' s 
figure of a need of 1,600,000 gallons a day and divide the 


population of 80,000 into it then the 100 gallons a day Treadwell 
said was the need for each person would only be 20; not enough. 

Turning to potential sources, Baldwin begins by listing 
no less than thirteen Ponds ranging in size from Spot with 260 
Acres to Morse's Pond in Needham, 20, and in distance from the 
City, Learnard's Pond in Framingham, 27 miles, to Baptist Pond 
in Newton, nine miles, (he included the Charles River) then 
he proceeds to shoot down all but one of his ducks. 

He dismisses Treadwell 's Spot Pond since his measuring 
of its discharge was 1.67 cubic feet per second, while in order 
to produce Treadwell 's 1,600,000 the discharge would have to 
be 2.41 feet per second (and besides, of course, the 1,600,000 
was now inadequate in view of the increased population. ) 

Some of the remaining ponds were dismissed because the supply 
was also inadequate; some because the water was impure and others 
because the route over which the aqueduct from them would have 
to travel was too high for gravity flow. The Charles River, 
although more than an adequate supply, was removed from 
consideration because of the analysis of its water. Some samples 
were taken by Jackson at the Falls at Watertown. Jackson found 
the water there to be impure. (A great irony. For years the 
River water there had been used in the manufacturing of paper 
and cotton cloth. The discharge of the Mills so discolored the 
water that the firm of Bemis and Eddy, manufacturers of a high 
quality paper much used for the correspondence of the well-to-do. 


and for legal docijinents, had been forced to bring in clear water 
from a distance at considerable expense. Also, the factories 
using the water to bleach cotton found that their product, 
rather than been bleached white, was being taking on a reddish 
tint. Both early exaunples of the self-defeating nature of 
pollution) . 

Baldwin now turned to the more distant sources in Framingham 
and Natick. Long Pond, he stated, from a calculation made during 
surveys by the Commonwealth, was 600 acres and its surface 127.91 
feet above marsh level. He found an outlet which fell into the 
Concord River near a Cotton factory and used the mill race just 
above the mill to gauge the discharge, while the machinery was in 
motion, August 16, 1834. Using six tests and the mean from 
those results, he determined the velocity of the top of the surface 
along the middle of the current to be 18 1/2 feet in 18 seconds. 
Using Dubuat's formula he found the possible discharge to be 2 8.89 
cubic feet a second and with Prony's simpler formula: 26.35. 
Taking 25.00 as the mean of the two results, he calculated the 
discharge to be 2,160,000 cubic feet or 16,156,800 gallons in 
24 hours. Thus, he concluded, this source was sufficient for a 
supply, but held off judgment as to whether it should be the 
supply because of its height and relative expense of effecting 
a discharge from it. He then turned to nearby Farm and Shakum 
Ponds in Framingham. If they could not offer the needed supply, 
he would recommend Long. 


He found Farm Pond 196 acres and 149.37 feet above marsh, 
21.46 higher than Long and Shedcum. Shakum, which had the 
appearance and the character of being a collection of clean, 
pure springs(but which had not been analyzed), he found to be 
&9 acres in size and 155.00 feet above the marsh level, 5.64 
eibove Far and 27.10 higher than Long. He could not measure the 
discharge from Shakum since the outlet had been stopped up to 
allow farmers to get their hay from the extensive meadows below. 
Farm Pond and Shakum together, with springs indicated everywhere 
for several miles, would offer a sufficient supply. But, he 
added, "Long Pond is abundant, though the excavation will be 
deeper. " 

His final conclusion as to the source was that the most 
eligible was a combination of Farm and Shakum, together with 
incidental strecims dependent upon them, and on Long Pond and 
suggested that the water be brought in by an aqueduct, without 
the use of pipes, to the nearest point of sufficient height in the 
City to allow it to flow through cast-iron pipes to the highest 
land in the City. 

For that purpose, he proposed to build a reservoir near 
the road "leading from Roxbury to the Brush Hill Turnpike, by 
the rocks on the west side of the road north of R. G. Amory's 
house, or someplace in that neighborhood." His reservoir would 

1. City Document 12-1834. 


be such that when full, the surface of the water would be 110 feet 
above marsh level. The aqueduct would bring the water to the 
Reservoir by gravity, and be capable of delivering five million 
gallons a day, should that amount be required, but could be 
easily restricted to a lesser amount. The distance from Farm 
Pond to the proposed reservoir was 23 and 3/4 miles and from the 
south end of Long Pond, through Dug Pond to the same point, 21 
miles and 3/4; from the East side of Long Pond, nearly 22 miles. 

As to the form of the proposed aqueduct, he began his usual 
thorough discussion of the sv±»ject and came to an innovative 
decision. There are four forms of Aqueducts, he said. The first 
is an open canal, like a common navigable canal, but on a smaller 
scale. Such an aqueduct has supplied parts of London with water 
for two centuries. But only its inexpensiveness recommended it 
if the water were going to be used for any other purpose but 
domestic use (washing, cleaning but not drinking) . 

The second was like the first, but with stone walls four 
or five feet high, thus protecting the canal from filling and 
choking by the bank's washing in, and lessening the encroachment 
of weeds and aquatic plants along the border. The next type of 
construction would be to lay stone walls up on each side without 
mortar or cement, two or three feet apart, three or four feet 
high, with flat stones to cover the top, an reach laid over the 
whole, so to effectually conceal the works from sight, and to 
protect it from mischief. 


The fourth type of aqueduct would go beyond the third in 
construction, being built in regular masonary, laid in hydraulic 
cement, or in common mortar, and lined with cement. The bottom 
would be of stone, the top covered with the same and the whole 
work laid underground, or where the foundation would be too low, 
covered with an embankment. A construction, which taken in toto, 
was unique at that time. 

Baldwin then went with some detail into the forms of aqueducts 
he had previously outlined, showing in each the area of cross 
section, the slope in inches to the mile, the velocity of discharge 
a second in cubic feet and the same each twenty-four hours. He 
calculated the cost of the open canal at 15 cents the cubic yard 
or $2,288 a mile; and the open canal with sides of stone to be 
$7,746 per mile if it were to be five feet wide and three deep. 
The excavation would have to be six feet deep and eleven feet wide. 
He then points out that such an open canal will be exposed to 
frost and ice which will cover it in winter, lessening the discharge 
about one quarter. 

All in all he lists and describes seven possible kinds of 
aqueducts (three merely variations in dimensions) and comes at 
the end to the type he obviously favors, the completely enclosed 
aqueduct of stone and hydraulic cement or masonary. He points 
out that in order to deliver 5,000,000 gallons daily the aqueduct 

Baldwin took Treadwell's 100 gallons a day, multiplied it 
by his projected population of 40,000 and added an additional 
1,000,000 gallons a day for future growth of the City and non- 
domestic uses. 


should be two feet wide and four feet deep, a cross section of 
eight feet. Ironically, despite his statement that "a close 

stone aqueduct is the most proper construction.", he would 

begin the line of the works, which he divides into eight sections, 
with an open canal for the first three miles. 

Farm Pond, he notes, is 149.3755 above the marsh and 39.375 
above the basin in Roxbury, and 2 feet 11 inches above Sudbury 
River on the North, into which it has a natural outlet. By 
digging 5 or 6 feet deep for about a mile or a mile and a half, 
the whole of the Sudbury River, with all its rain, may be 
intercepted and conducted through Farm Pond to the Charles, 
instead of pursuing its natural course to the Concord, thus 
making those waters available. 

His canal would take the water from the Pond a distance of 
three miles to the left bank of the Charles River in South Natick 
and terminate at the commencement of the low ground and meadov; 
separating the main from Dedham Island, a total distance of 
13 miles, 7 quarters and 9 3 rods. Here the water would enter 
that part of the aqueduct, constructed on the bank of the Charles 
River. The aqueduct would cross the river to its right branch on 
a bridge with two arches of 50 feet span and 20 width. The point 
of crossing would be the old abutments of a bridge, now removed, 
a few rods below the present bridge at Spring Street to Dedham. 

The aqueduct would then run east of Spring Street to the 
Meeting House, crossing the Dedham Turnpike to the east of the 


Halfway House, and then to the Providence Road. It would pass 
over the Boston and Providence railroad on a bridge with two 
accommodation bridges. The remaining distance to wheffi he found 
ground suitable for a basin or reservior was two miles, 3 
quarters and 55 rods. He found it difficult to estimate the 
cost of this section, since the land was broken and much of it 
Brescia ledge (Roxbury pudding stone) . He brought his line to 
T. K. Jones' or the Grove Hall in Dorchester and mentioned that 
adjacent lands admitted of even a higher line and the aqueduct 
and reservoir might be advanced a half mile further toward Boston. 

From the reservoir to the State House (the floor of the 
State House was used in every report as the height to which the 
water should flow since this point was higher than any other 
in the City), the distance would be 2 miles, 3 quarters and 
12 rods. The fall from the top of the Reservoir to the floor 
of the building would be 14 feet, and a pipe of 18 inches in 
diameter would discharge, at that level, upwards of 2 million 
gallons daily; a similar pipe would discharge into a Reservoir 
at Washington Square at Fort Hill, a little less than four millions 
of gallons. 

The cost of the canal and aqueduct to bring the water to 
the basin or reservoir in Roxbury would be $500,000 and to bring 
it into the City and to the reservoir at either the State House 
or Washington Square at Fort Hill, would be an additional 
$250,000.00. This cost did not include the cost of right of ways 
or the purchase of the Ponds suggested as the supply. Baldwin 


added a final caution as was his wont. Should any doubt exist 
that Farm and Shakum Ponds, with their numerous Springs were 
sufficient for the supply he envisioned, there was always the 
waters of Long Pond which could be had for between only 
20 and 30 thousand dollars in addition. 


Chapter III 

As nothing had become of Treadwell's 1825 report, nothing 
was to become of Baldwin's of 1834. The question of bringing 
in to the City an adequate supply of pure water was far from 
dead, however. One could run for Alderman or City Council 
taking one side or the other in the controversy; a call for 
Water seemed institutionalized in almost every new Mayor's 
inaugural address. The protagonists formed several sides. 
Those who wanted the water brought in by the City; those who 
wanted it brought it, but by Capitalist. Those who wished a 
lot, those who felt a little was enough, those who saw 
no need at all. The Water Party was fragmented and thus 
unable to prevail. But neither did their opponents have the 
strength to be rid of the scheme. 

On January 14, 18 36, Mayor Armstrong forwarded to Engineer 
R. H. Eddy, instructions from the Joint Committee for the 
Introduction of a Supply of Pure Water into the City, reaue sting 
that he make a survey as to how that could be accomplished. 
The directive restricted Eddy's investigation to the Horn and 
other Ponds emptying into Mystic Pond in Medford and to Spy and 
Fresh Ponds in Cambridge. A subsequent letter on April 21st, 
expanded the potential sovirces to be considered to the waters 
of Spot and Mystic Ponds. An interesting expansion of Eddy's 
mandate in light of subsequent events. 


Mr. Eddy begins his report gently protesting that he had 
entered on his task with much delicacy, since he supposed it 
had met with such thoroughness by Mr. Treadwell and his esteemed 
friend, Mr. Baldwin. He then, like Baldwin before him, apologizes 
for the little time he was ahle to devote to the report. Neither 
his report nor his defense of it in future years were to suffer 
from any delicacy or apology. 

Eddy first sets down an economic principal, which was to 
become the basis for upcoming debates. If, he reasons, we build 
a Works of sufficient size to provide for a great future need 
when the City has grown, we are misusing capital, for the income 
from the beginning will only be in proportion to the use of the 
Works, and the interest on the unused pipes, pumps and paraphenalia 
will soon exceed the principal necessary to construct them. Thus 
having opted for economic caution, he proceeds to sources. 

Eddy dismisses rivers rather sximmarily, pointing out that 
Lakes and Ponds are fed by pure springs, but Rivers are used 
to dump the unused product of mills, dye houses, cotton mills 
and other factories. Besides, he states in contradiction to 
both Treadwell and Baldwin, there is not enough water in the 
dry season in the Charles River. Nor in the Neponset he adds. 

He reverts to economics to dismiss Baldwin's Farm, Shakum 
and Long, pointing out that these bodies empty into the Concord 
River from which is taken the water for many mills - Brown's, the 
Framingham Carpet Factory, Saxonville Factory in Saxonville 
Village etc., - and if the City were to use the Ponds recommended 
by Baldwin, it would become engaged in long and expensive 


litigation for damage brought by the owners. 

He then, seemingly out of order, points out that since 
the introduction of Anthracite, eliminating the use of pine 
wood for fuel, the cost of steam power is down (two shillings 
per horse power, per an eleven or twelve hour day) and when the 
price per ton of the coal is down to $8.00 the ton, one would 
be able to have 50 horse power per the twelve hour day for only 
$15.50. Thus he concludes, by the use of machinery, the City 
could be supplied with an abundance of pure soft water from 
resources with five miles in any quantity which may ever be 

He lists seven potential sources - Spot Pond in Stoneham, 
260 acres; Horn in Woburn, 102.83 acres; Edge in Woburn, 20.63; 
Winter and Little in the same Town in combination, 19.07 acres; 
Mystic in Medford, 227.89 acres; Spy and Little in West Cambridge 
and in combination, 140.57; and Free, Cambridge, 180.57. Eddy 
points out that since three of the Ponds discharge into Symmes 
River which in turn discharges into Mystic Pond and Fresh and 
Spy run into Alewife Brook, which discharges into the Mystic 
Pond outlet, by raising a dam where the Middlesex Canal crosses 
the Mystic River, the waters of all the Ponds might be united. 
But the results of his survey indicated that the quantity of 
water in the Mystic Pond as it stands alone is so great as 
never to render it necessary to resort to either (sic) of the 


Eddy compliments Treadwell's prudence in estimating the 
supply available at Spot Pond, i.e., enough to give the City 
1,600,000 gallons a day, but his own estimates of the capacity 
of the Pond with the sixty additional acres he would add by 
damming, he felt that indicated the Pond could provide, on the 
average, 2,500,000 to 3,000,000 gallons a day. 

As the season was unfavorable to gauge the quantity of 
water wasted from the Mystic Pond, he relied on the testimony 
of Mr. T. F. Mayhew who had resided at Bacon's Mills for many 
years. Mayhew said that in the Spring Freshets when the water 
was highest, the head was about 8 feet; that is two feet above 
the top of a six foot dam, 20 feet long. When the Springs 
are lowest in the summer or autumn, two gates, each one foot 
square, will reduce the head of water, in 12 or 14 hours, to 
about four feet; two feet below the top of the dam, but that is 
not frequently the case for any length of time. Two gates 
under that circumstances would deliver about 20 ciobic feet per 
second. He reckoned from this and other information that the 
Pond received, in dry seasons, 40 cubic feet, or 300 gallons 
per second, equivalent to 121,961,000 gallons per day, enough 
for the Mystic to supply any quantity the City might ever 

Eddy went on to develop a rather unique scheme, one which 
would become controversial, and aspects of which he would be 
forced to continually defend. He would initially use the waters 
of Mystic, and when needed. Mystic and Spot. 


An examination of a map of Boston, Eddy said, would indicate 
that one fifth of the City lay above a horizontal plane, 20 feet 
above the highest tides, and the remaining four fifths below 
that plane. The portion above the plane he designated high 
s'ervice , the portion below low service . He continued that since 
that portion of the City in the high service area was much 
developed, most of the future growth of the City would be in 
low service portion which he assumed would always be occupied 
by "tradesmen, mechanics, artisans, and a portion of the community 
devoted to manufacturing pursuits." Consximption thus would 
be much greater in low service than high, which he assumed would 
not in any future period exceed 1,000,000 gallons a day. 

He then fixed the height the water should be raised for 
the low service to 60 feet above highest tides or 40 feet above 
the divisional plane. The expense of raising one million gallons 
60 feet over a twenty hour day - (the other four hours to be 
taken up in oiling and repairing the machinery) , since it would 
take 16 horse power and the rate per horse power was 33 cents, 
for 11 hours, and the fuel would cost 60 cents for 20 hours 
would be $9.60 per day. 

Eddy then illustrates the economic feasability of raising 
one, two and three million gallons a day for the low service 
from Mystic Pond. Allowing each tenant the generous amount of 

1. Boston City Document No. 10-1834. 


200 gallons a day (average usage in Philadelphia was 187 gallons 
and in London 180 gallons), and charging each $5.50 a year as 
the water rent, he computes the total rents at each level of 
supply and the cost to raise it assuming coal to cost $8 dollars 
a- ton, then he translates those figures into the capital required 
at 6% interest. Adding to those figures the cost of building 
the Works from Mystic Pond to the City will give the total 
expense of the amount of supply agreed on for his low service, he 

As to the mode of bringing water from Spot Pond into his 
high service, Eddy notes that the terrain around Spot Pond is 
extremely hilly and abounds in ravines. Pointing out that the 
Mountain Brook branches off into two valleys, one running east 
and the other west, and the eastern branch runs nearly to Spot 
Pond, he recommends the raising of a dam across the valley at the 
branches of Mountain Brook, thus creating an immense addition to 
the Pond to where the Brook cuts into the valleys. This scheme 
would add 60 acres to the Pond and the evaporation from this 
natural reservoir would be replaced by the water of the brook. 

Eddy would run a conduit from the dam he proposed to 
build, to the Andover Turnpike, through the Turnpike, then follow 
the general direction of the Brook, along the low ground to 
Mystic River, a short distance below the bridge at Medford. 
Crossing the stream there, it would curve south to the Medford 
Turnpike, until it crossed the Middlesex Canal at the Toll House 


of the Turnpike. From there the line would proceed in the road 
to the foot of Bunker Hill Street and then up to a Reservoir on 
the Summit of Bunker Hill. Since the Reservoir on the top of 
the Hill would be 98.961 feet above the coping of the Dry Dock 
in the Navy Yard, and Spot Pond, at the surface of the water, was 
138.161 above the same mark, the fall from the Pond to the 
Reservoir would be 40 feet. Because he intended to rocike a 
Reservoir out of the whole of the Pond and draw it down as much 
as eight feet if necessary, he listed some of the depths below the 
level of the Pond of some principal points in the City ranging 
from the floor of the State House 30.261 feet below to the upper 
step of Purchase Street Meeting House — 82.801, thus illustrating 
that there would be no place in the City the water from his 
high service would not be available. (The figures he used in 
this calculation were first given by Baldwin in a report to the 
Jamaica Pond Aqueduct Company. At the time of his 1834 Survey, 
Baldwin was Engineer for both the City and the Aqueduct Corporation) 

Somewhat abandoning his exortations about the economic 
uncertainties of building a Work to supply more water than will 
be immediately taken, Eddy advocates a pipe not only large enough 
to guarantee the delivery of two to two and one half millions of 
gallons a day, but one that would be capable of delivering four 
million. The distance from the Pond to the Reservoir would be 
exactly five miles, and using Prony's formula, he concludes that 
the pipe should be 22 inches in diameter. To get the water from 


the Town of Charlestown to the City of Boston, he would lay two 
mains, each 18 inches in diameter, through Eden and Main Streets, 
to the Warren Bridge, and cross that Bridge to the City. The 
reason given for his choice of two pipes is interesting and based 
on a letter he had received from the Superintendent of the 
Philadelphia Water Works, Mr. J. F. Graff, Esquire. 

"Mr. Walker of London" (Graff writes) calculated that under 
a head of 56 feet from our reservior to the summit of our city, 
8,000,000 gallons would flow through a 20 inch main in 24 hours. 
No do\ibt this result would take place, if the pipes was allowed 
to be open the whole time, and the flow be constant for the 24 
hours; but this is not the case with water works where the water 
only gains an increase of velocity in the pipes in proportion 
to the quantity used" . 

Graff goes on to explain that he has seen instances where 
the water when first turned on to fire hoses was very tardy, 
three hoses being needed to supply one engine when the water 
first ccime, but one proved sufficient after the water in the 
main gained its speed. Graff also states that the calculations 
and formulas fail because they fail to take the useage at any 
various amounts of particular time into consideration. Often, he 
says, when the use in London is 4,000,000 the main calculated 
to produce 8,000,000 gallons fails. To obviate the difficulty, 

1. Boston City Document No. 10-1834 


an additional main of 20 inches was laid. Graff also warns against 
trying to save money in laying too small pipes from the one 

"This is generally done," wrote the Superintendent, "by 
mistaken calculations that if a main be 40 inches, four branch 
pipes of ten inches each must be sufficient, as they are equal 
in area to the main, when perhaps to these latter pipes of 10 

inches, there may be 40 or 50 lateral pipes attached of double 

the area of the main." Large feeds from the main to the distant 

lateral pipes should be used, he cautions. 

Anticipating an objection, Eddy turned his attention to 

the fact that at extreme high tides, salt water slightly affects 

the water of Mystic Pond at its lower extremity. His solution 

would be to raise a dam at the outlet, preventing the admixture 

of fresh and salt water. He also noted that Dr. Jackson's 

analysis of the water at the outlet of the Mystic Pond showed 

that 27.397 grains yielded one grain of solid matter, while the 

same amount was yielded by 41.666 at Spot Pond, 16.826 at the 

Croton River (New York City's source) and 6.666 grains in the 

Verulam and Wandle Rivers in London. 

♦Graff, who built the Philadelphia Water Works and was 
its Superintendent until his death, was quite helpful to the 
City of Boston during the years it spent examining the possibility 
of a supply of pure water and while Eddy was pleased to quote 
him in Eddy's 1836 report, a subsequent quote of Graff's - "if 
you can get the water without machinery, I urge you to do so.", 
was telling against Eddy's plan to pump the water. 

1. Ibid. 


(The tibiquitous Dr. Charles T. Jackson had done the water 
analysis for Baldwin in both his survey for the Jamaica Pond 
Aqueduct Company and for the City; for Treadwell in his report 
and now for Eddy. A man of considerable brilliance and controversy. 
Dr. Jackson received his preparation for Harvard Medical School 
with Doctors James Jackson ((one of the School's founders)) and 
theequally eminent Walter Channing. He received his M.D. from 
Harvard Medical in 1828 having won the Boylston prize for his 
Dissertation. Jackson developed an interest in mineralogy and 
went to Paris the year of his graduation to study medicine at 
the Sorbonne and geology and mineralogy at the Ecole Des Mines.) 

(Always a man of expanding interests, he secured, while in 
Europe, a large number of electrical instruments and apparatus. 
On the ship carrying him home, he became friendly with Samuel 
F. B. Morse who shared his interest in such equipment. When 
Morse announced his invention of the electric telegraph, Jackson 
claimed to have pointed out to Morse the underlying principles 
of such a device which he had previously perfected in a working 
model, but then abandoned as having no commercial value. Jackson 
later claimed to have invented guncotton when its discovery was 
announced by F. Schonbeing) . 

(But his most noteworthy controversy was his insistance that 
it was he, not W. T. G. Morton who had determined that ether 
would cause unconsciousness to such an extent that it could be 
used safely in human surgury. It is known that Jackson had a 


working model of a device quite similar to Morse's telegraph, 
but he discarded it. It was also known that he had given ether 
to Dentist Morton to use on a patient during the extraction of 
a tooth. But the anesthetic properties of ether were already 
known to science, and if the experiment had proven fatal, and 
there was no certainty that it would not, Jackson probably would 
have been the first to condemn Morton. ) 

(Despite a lifetime of controversy ((insanity overcame 
him in 1873) ) . Dr. Jackson was recognized as a brilliant 
geologist and mineralogist, being geologist for most of the 
States of New England) . 

Eddy's dam at Spot Pond would increase its acreage from 
227.89 to 857.89. His route for the water from Spot would 
commence at the dam near the road to West Cambridge; run to the 
Mystic Pond outlet West of the Middlesex Canal, cross these 
waters in iron pipes under the bed of the stream, then to the 
Middlesex Canal, through it, and under the Lowell Road. 
Continuing parallel with the Canal, it would cross the Medford 
Road to Winter Hill, enter the Medford Turnpike at the foot of 
the locks of the Branch Canal from Middlesex to Medford River, 
then to Main Street in Charlestown, curving around the Base of 
Bunker Hill to the well of the steam engine house on a wharf 
proposed to be built at that point. The distance would be 26,500 
feet. The construction of the conduit would be brick masonry, 
laid in hydraulic cement, three feet in diameter. 


The genius of Eddy's plan was this. He was, in effect 
proposing two water works. One was an aqueduct to bring water 
from Spot Pond by gravity to a Reservoir (he called it the "upper") 
on Bunker Hill. The other an aqueduct to bring water from the 
Mystic Pond to the foot of Bunker Hill and then pump it up to a 
second (the "lower") Reservoir on the Hill's summit. 

The water from the upper (Spot Pond) Reservoir would 
supply low service, those buildings below the imaginary plane 
Eddy had drawn on the map of Boston. The lower (Mystic Pond) 
Reservoir would service the high service, those buildings above 
the plane. This was possible, of course, because the water of 
the low surfaced Mystic Pond now flowed from a Reservoir on Bunker 
Hill sufficient in elevation to permit the necessary head. 

Eddy reasoned that only one service would be needed 
immediately. He would cause the waters of Spot Pond to flow 
into the Mystic Pond and have the water from that supply piomped 
up to the Reservoir on Bunker Hill, flowing out of it to the 
main pipe of the high service, and by a connecting pipe, to the 
main for the low service also. 

When the demand had outstripped the supply from Mystic, 
or when the dryness of the season prevented the water from Long 
Pond flowing into the Mystic, he would cause the water from Long 
Pond, now stopped at the Reservoir on Bunker Hill, to flow into 
the low service main. 

Confusion arose as to why he did not do it the other way 
'round, since the Spot water could supply the high service through 


gravity. Upon reflection, it can be seen that it made no difference, 
since machinery would have to be used to pump the Mystic water. 
The use of machinery - pumps and engines - of which Eddy would 
passionately defend in later years, was finally the undoing of 
h-is plan, put to death by his friend Mr. Graff's aversion to 
pumping. Perhaps Eddy sensed that an objection would arise to 
his use of pumps, for after listing the estimated expenses of 
the project, he spends considerable time at the conclusion of 
his report giving examples of pumps and engines used successfully 
in both the London and Philadelphia works, and mines in England 
and Wales. 

Eddy's estimate of cost, without considering pipes for 
distribution in the City, would be $388,74 7.76 from Spot Pond 
and $218,130.00 from Mystic, a total (which he did not choose 
to add up) of $606,077.76. Less than Treadwell for much more 
water, and much less than Baldwin for the same amount. 

(Eddy had the foresight to inquire of Mr. George Odiorne, 
who claimed to have the title to Spot Pond, on which he and the 
others operated mills. Mr. Odiorne traced the title back to 
an unconditional grant of the General Court of Massachusetts Bay 
in 1640, and then recounted a running battle between the mill 
owners and abbuters for many years. The first mill, a corn mill, 
was erected the same year as the grant - 1640. At that time, 
Stoneham was a part of the Town of Charlestown) . 

While Mr. Eddy was busily at work determining that the water 
should come from Mystic and Spot, a group of enterprising gentlemen. 


William Sullivan, Daniel P. Parker, Caleb Eddy, and others, went 
to the Legislature and, in one day, April 16, 1836, had passed 
in the House, passed in the Senate, approved by the Governor's 
Council and signed by Governor Edward Everett, an act incorporating 
the Boston Hydraulic Corporation for the purpose of supplying 
water to the City. Beside the expected clauses, i.e., authority 
to take land, water to the City for fighting fires, there were 
several interesting additions. One would give the City the right 
to purchase one third of the shares of the Corporation, or all 
of them upon completion of the Works if it so desired, provided 
the price would return the investors a profit of ten percent. 
Fireplugs (hydrants') would be built into the system, but the 
City would have to pay for the water used as it would have to 
pay for that used in the two ornamental fountains the Corporation 
proposed to build. There was also a clause requiring a vote 
of the Citizens of the City accepting the provisions of the Act. 
The vote would have to take place after the City Council itself 
had accepted the proposals contained in the legislation, and 
within four months of the effective date of the Act, or the 
Company's Charter would expire. There was no doubt as the 
source the Hydraulic Corporation would look to. It's Charter 
restricted it to bringing the water in from "within ten miles 
North of the mouth of the Charles River" - Spot Pond. 

It seemed now, for the first time since Mayor Quincy's 
call for water, all elements necessary to heed that call were 


present. Three extensive reports and surveys were in the hands 
of the City Council's Committee on Water, each done by a 
distinguished engineer and two agreeing on Spot Pond as the 
best source; a vehicle existed to carry the work through in the 
Boston Hydraulic Company; and a compromise between the Capitalist 
and those who wanted the City to do it by means of the Act 
which created the company allowing City participation or eventual 
ownership. And a growing and more recognizable need for the water. 

The City Council did not, as required to let it to continue 
to exist, act upon the Boston Hydraulic Company by the prescribed 
date, August 16, 18 36. The forces who favored the City bringing 
in the Water at its own expense, called for a meeting of the 
inhabitants of the City for the 26th of August at Faneuil Hall. 
Over two thousand packed the Cradle of Liberty where so much 
of the History of Boston had been made. The debate was acrimonious, 
with much shouting, challenging of facts and figures, shoving and 
hissing. The question to be voted up or down was: "It is expedient 
for the City to bring in a supply of pure soft water at its 
own expense" the vote , 2,107 yeas and 135 nays. Having thus dedided 
by whom one would have hoped that they then would have addressed 
the question of from where, but they did not. 

On December 19, 1836, the Common Council met and noted the 
results of the vote, stating that in order to carry it out, the 
City would have to petition the Legislature for the necessary 
authority. That was not done subsequent to the Public Meeting, 
they said, since the Legislature was not then in session, the 


next session to be on January 1, 18 37. They alluded to the fact 
that the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct Corporation had Baldwin do a survey 
which indicated that the Jamaica Pond could provide up to ten 
times the amount of water it now did; but if the City was to go 
ahead with its own works, the proprietors would offer the 
Corporation for sale to the City. 

Evidently feeling the rising tide of criticism, the Council 
pointed out how diligently they had been in identifying the potential 
sources of water; the Ponds at Framingham, the Spot, Jamaica 
Pond. When they made a decision, they claimed, "there will 
doubtless be general contentment among the people." They caused 
a survey, and many researches and inquiries, they protested, and, 
"whatever of delay may seem to have attented their operations, 
they know that nothing savouring of negligence is justly charged" . 
They then concluded by referring the whole subject to the next 
City Council, which, in its own turn, passed an order on 
January 5th, 18 37, to appoint a "suitable nximber of Commissioners" 
to look into the whole matter. 

The water just would not flow. 

1. Boston City Doc\iment 7-1836 

2. Ibid. 


Chapter IV 

Although the argument would be raised again, the vote at 
Fanueil Hall had effectively ended the possibility that the water 
would be brought in by a private company. The sticking points 
now were from where, and to a lesser extent as the years passed 
and the City grew, how much. 

There could be no compromise as to source, the water could 
only come from one. But there could be compromise as to who 
was going to meike that decision, and the names of the three 
water Commissioners appointed on March 16, 18 37, spoke of that 

Daniel Treadwell who first suggested Spot Pond and who was 
for a lesser amount; James F. Baldwin who favored a large amount 
brought from Farm and Shakum and perhaps Long, and brother of 
the ailing Laommi; and, the one to be persuaded by one or the 
other .Nathan Hale. 

One of the City's most prominent men of the day, Nathan 
Hale, nephew of the Revolutionary war hero, earned his A.B. 
from Williams College and an A.M. from Dartmouth, and was admitted 
to the Suffolk Bar in 1810. But he soon abandoned the legal 
profession for journalism, and purchased the Boston Daily 
Advertiser, the first daily newspaper in Boston. He used his 
newspaper as a means of swaying public opinion and was one of 
the first American editors to introduce editorial comment as a 


regular feature. Hale held a high place in the history of the 
American Railroad System and was a founder and first President 
of the Boston and Worcester Railroad. Also a founder of the 
North American Review, his stereotype maps of New England became 
a standard geographical reference. 

The Commissioners were to be paid $8.00 each day they 

About this time, someone got around to asking how the 
project would be paid for. A Committee was appointed to look 
into the matter. The first paragraph of their report is worthy 
of quote, just for its language. 

"The Committee entered upon the performance of the duties 
devolving on them with a degree of diffidence which the importance 
and magnitude of the subject referred to them seemed naturally 
to inspire. And while they regretted that the subjects embraced 
in the order had not been referred to the Committee of Finance, 
whose particular province it is to direct the financial operations 
of the City, and to recommend from time to time, such measures 
as they may deem expedient; to facilitate them, they felt bound 
by a high sense of duty to consider, somewhat in detail and to 
the extent, they were enabled to, from the time which they could 
devote to the subject and the sources of information which were 
open to them, the subject matter which had been referred to 

1. Boston City Document No. 9 - 1837. 


They reported: 

1. That the project was so worthy, the City ought to 
borrow the money. 

2. They couldn't because of the state of financial 
affairs both here and in Europe. 

3. In a year things would be better and they could 
borrow the money at low rates without recourse to a foreign 
source . 

4. That the City owned enough property, aside from public 
buildings for collateral. 

5. Although the City debt had risen from $100,000 at the 

inception of its Charter, to one million five hundred at 

present, not to worry, it had enough property to liquidate 

the debt and leave a handsone balance. 

6. That the City advance the money initially needed for 
the project, repaying itself by the sale of land and that the 
same procedure be used for paying the interest on the money 
that would be borrowed as needed. 

On December 8, 1837, the Commissioners were to produce a 
6 3 page plan for the supplying of the City with pure water. Only 
Hale and Treadwell would sign it, Baldwin refused. 

**The City owned much land which it sold as the City and 
the demand for land grew. 


Going back once again over the feuniliar (to anyone who read 

the previous reports) ground, they first compared the supply 

provided the citizens of London (measured in wine gallons) and 

Philadelphia (significantly measured in beer gallons) . They 

concluded that in five years the City would need 2,500,000 gallons 

and 3,000,000 in ten. Now the need was for 1,600,000. (Treadwell 

prevailed here, somewhat unscientifically one would presxime 

since it had been twelve years since he first proposed that amount 

and the City's population certainly had shown great growth). 

Lining up eighteen of the usual ducks, they began as before, 
to knock over the ponds. Some for being too distant, some for 
lack of supply. They ended up with seven Ponds and two Rivers 
and then used the analysis of the by now water logged Dr. Jackson 
to further refine their list. 

Dr. Jackson disappointed them by declaring all the prospective 
sources nearly pure. "Chemical analyses," they countered, 
"however, is not yet sufficiently perfect to determine several 
important qualities of the foreign substances found in water" . 
They would form their own opinion by taste and color. In order 
of clarity, they concluded were the following candidates: Spot, 
Long, Punkapaug Pond, Mystic, Charles River and the Neponset 
River. But there was no marked differences in taste, all being 
nearly insipid. 

*A wine gallon is equivilent to the United States four quart 
gallon - 231 cubic inches. A beer gallon, used in some o£ 
the surveys and reports, equalled 282 cubic inches. 


Since the structure necessary to bring the water in from 
Punkapaug would be as expensive as that from Long and Long had 
more water, Punkapaug was out. Neponset lost out to the Charles 
because, although they were the same in distance, the Charles 
water was more colorless. Of the four finalists , Spot and Long 
were to be preferred if the water were to be brought in without 
artificial means, and Mystic and the Charles River, if it were. 

They then proceed to go through the by now familiar examination 
of all aspects of each; distance; area of water, height over 
marsh, head; available supply. They list the finalist, not in 
order of preference it turns out, as five possible plans. 

1. Pump the water from the Charles River to a Reservoir 
on Corey's Hill in Brookline, 117 feet above tide water in 
Boston, and bring it into the City in an iron pipe. 

2. Pump it from the Mystic Pond to a Reservoir on Walnut 
Tree Hill near the Royal Farm in Medford, through Cambridge to 

3. Bring the water from Spot Pond to the reservoir on 
Walnut Tree Hill in Medford in conjunction with a plan to pump 
water in from Mystic Pond if the quantity from Spot falters, 
thence into Boston by iron pipe. 

4. Bring the water in from Long Pond by a closed conduit 
to the proposed Reservoir on Corey's Hill in Brookline, then 
into the City by iron pipe. 

The Commissioners apologize that the amount of time they 
were forced to spend on the Long Pond plan, prevented them from 


making the estimates for the other three plans as accurately as 
they would have liked, but they were, they said, sufficiently 
near the truth to be relied on. 

The water from the Charles would be pumped up near the 
■falls in Watertown, forced through a 21 inch pipe to the Reservoir 
on Corey's Hill, which would hold 5,000,000 gallons, two days 
of the supply needed in future, which would allow for breakdowns 
and repair of the equipment and other interruptions. From that 
Reservoir, the water would be taken by an iron pipe 21 1/2 inches 
in diameter to a Reservoir to be built on the Bowdain estate on 
Beacon Hill. Using, as before ,Prony' s formula, they estimated 
the discharge on the Hill would be 4 cvibic feet per second, or 
2,592,000 gallons a day. Whole cost of the works: $465,039.00. 

Then, by rather strange logic, they established a premise, 
which would prove to be a flaw in their plan for raising the 
needed water by pumping it. Since, they said, they knew of no 
Engine in use in America that produced the same results as the 
so called Cornish engines in use at the mines in Cornwall, they 
would use the results of that engine to determine how much coal 
would be needed to claim the amount of water needed. They 
established a formula. What amount of coal would be necessary 
to raise one pound of water one foot? Calling the result the Engines' 
"duty", they used as an example the most efficient of the Cornish 
Engines. The results of those Engines ranged from as low as 
22,000,000 pounds one foot with one bushel of coal to a high of 
91,959,596 with a bushel. They settled on 60,000,000 pounds one 


foot with one bushel of coal. With the then cost of coal, that 
would amount to $11,808 annually, which they capitalized at 5% 
to be $236,160. Thus the total cost for the water from the 
Charles would be $701,199 plus the usual 10% for contingencies 
or $771,318. 

From the Mystic Pond they would bring the water to a Reservoir 
on the top of Walnut Tree Hill, at an elevation of 126 feet 
above tide water, 1.562 m.iles from the source. The Reservoir, 
like the one proposed for Corey's Hill, would hold two days' 
supply, 5,000,000 gallons. From that point it would be brought, 
in an iron pipe of 22 inches, through Cambridge, west of the 
colleges, to Charles River, which it would cross on a permanent 
stone bridge, constructed on the side of the existing bridge 
between Ccunbridge and Brighton, cross the Mill Dam to the 
Reservoir on Beacon Hill. The whole distance would be 7.52 miles 
and cost $554,622. Add in the aforementioned cost of pumping 
and the 10% contingency allowance, the cost totaled $869,860. 

As far as Spot Pond was concerned, they were convinced 
that that source would yield 2,100,000 gallons a day, never 
less than 1,600,000, which, they said, was the amount which would 
be needed for the next four years. Then, they supposed, the 
populations of the City would have grown to 87,000, necessitating 
a supply of 2,500,000 and, if the population continued to grow at 
the assumed rate, it would be 105,000* at the end of another six 

♦They could not, of course, have anticipated the flood 
of immigrants that were soon to come. 


years, requiring 3,000,000 gallons a day. Following Eddy's 
reasoning, they averaged out the daily need over those periods 
to be 2,750,000, 2,100,000 from Spot and an additional 650,000 
a day from Mystic. The Commissioners would construct the Works 
from the Mystic to a degree that it alone could supply the daily 
need if Spot Pond should fail during years of drought. 

The water from Spot would come in a 22 inch iron pipe starting 
at the southern end of the Pond east of the Andover Turnpike, 
to Mystic River, above the upper shipyard, cross the river on 
a permanent stone bridge, to the Reservoir on Walnut Tree Hill, 
a total distance from the Pond of 3.18 miles. From the Reservoir 
in iron pipes of the same diameter, 22 inches, it would follow 
the same plan as the route of the Mystic water, across the Charles, 
over the Mill dam and up to the Reservoir on Beacon Hill. 

Here they hesitated, for they were unsure of what the City 
would have to pay to acquire the rights to Spot Pond. They asked 
the owner. 

Mr. George Odine's reply was rather uncivil. He protested, 
quite strongly, that he and his brother Thomas of Maiden, were 
the sole owners of the Pond and of the bed of the creek leading 
from it to the Mills in Maiden. The property also included a 
mansion house, barn, out buildings, a rolling and splitting mill, 
machine shop etc. Since the City had, for so many years, been 
dawdling along unable to make up its mind as to where its water 
was to come from, if indeed it ever was to come, they had hesitated 
to expand or improve their holdings. But, if the City could 


make up its mind by September 1st next, they could have one moiety 

of the Pond for $65,000 but if they continued their procrastination, 

it would cost them $70,000 until the first day of January, 1838. 

In calculating the price, Mr. Odiorne, noted that it included 

the value of an exceptionally large daily supply; and a consideration 

of the fact that it would put him out of a business he had been 

engaged in for 30 years and had hoped to leave to his son. 

Too much, the Commissioners concluded, $60,000 would be 
more than generous. Thus the cost of getting the water from a 
combination of Spot and Mystic Ponds, including the pumping and 
10% for contingencies, would be $850,006. 

As to Long Pond, its distance from the City, 18 miles combined 
with its limited elevation, would make bringing in its water 
directly to the City by iron pipe too expensive, so they looked 
to an aqueduct, along the straightest line from the Pond to a 
Reservoir on Corey's Hill in Brookline. The conduit, of brick 
or stone, would be closed, thus eliminating the possibility of 
it being contaminated by bathers or by substances thrown into 
it by the residences along its banks. 

The Commissioners offered two possible constructions. One, 
a close conduit of stone, consisting of a floor nine feet wide 
and one foot thick; upon this two walls would be placed 2 1/2 feet 
high and 1 1/2 feet thick; leaving a clear space of 4 feet between 
them. This water-course would be covered by a semicircular arch 
1 1/2 feet thick, the whole being of rough stone without cement, 
designed to be surrounded with a puddle of clay and gravel to 
prevent leakage. 


The second would be laid in hydraulic cement and designed 
in the form of a cylinder, 8 inches thick, having a clear passage 
for the water, of 4.6 feet in diameter. Both structures, of 
equal areas were calculated to convey the water at a slope of 
3 inches to the mile; and deliver 11 cubic feet per second. 

The plan was quite elaborate. The Water from Long Pond 
spilled into the Concord River, which supplied the Middlesex 
Canal. Thus any dimunation in the supply would affect Mills 
as far away as Billerica and Lowell. The Commissioners assumed 
that that would not be a problem, the supply was so large, 
except in dry season. Nevertheless, they proposed to form two 
Reservoirs from several small Ponds in the vicinity of the 
Concord River, where water might be reserved in winter and used 
as required in dry seasons. They disbelieved, as they did Odiorne's, 
the estimate of the damages by the Mill owners, and used their 
own. To bring the water from Natick, through Needham and Newton, 
where it would cross the Charles near the Lower Falls, then to 
Brighton, terminating at the Reservoir at Corey's Hill, and 
thence, in a pipe 21 1/4 inches to the Beacon Hill Reservoir. 
Thus the estimated cost for the four proposals , including the 
ever present 10% for contingencies, were: 

1st plan - Charles River $ 771,318 

2nd plan - Mystic Pond $ 869,860 

3rd plan - Spot and Mystic $ 850,006 

4th plan - Long Pond $1,118,294 


Now the elimination. Since the 2nd plan was certainly not 
superior to the 3rd, and it would cost more, that was not the 
plan to be adopted. By adopting the 1st plan in preference to 
the 3rd, a savings of $80,000 would be achieved, but as this 
plan (Charles) required machinery "which implies some shade of 
uncertainty" (although they were convinced, since they had 
recommended two machines either of which could pump up the 
necessary supply by itself made the uncertainty almost non- 
existent) out went that plan. 

Long and Spot-Mystic were left for consideration. Noting 
that the Long Pond scheme would cost $268,288 more than Spot-Mystic, 
they nevertheless pointed out that Long had the advantage of 
being able to supply a large surplus of water to the Reservoir at 
Corey Hill which would be available at a future day, by laying 
a new main from the Reservoir to Beacon Hill when needed. They 
then proceeded to do in the Long Pond plan arithmatically . 

The extra supply available from Long Pond would not be 
needed for ten years, and then require the laying of a second 
main from Corey Hill to Boston. If they took the extra present 
cost to build the works from Long Pond, and capitalized it at 
5% interest for ten years, and added in the cost of the new main, 
and compared these figures with the cost of increasing the works 
at Mystic Pond in ten years, Spot-Mystic would be less than the 

1. Ibid. 


cost from Long Pond. Projecting their calculations twenty years 
into the future, they concluded that the Spot-Mystic Plan to be 
$117,302 less for the same amount of water. On the second point 
of comparison, sufficiency of supply, they "believed" both 
sources were adequate so when they arrived at certainty of supply, 
Treadwell and Hale lost their previous certitude about the 
accuracy of their estimates and Baldwin. 

In their attack on Long Pond, while^ Hale and Treadwell, 
said, the construction proposed for the aqueduct to bring in 

the water from Long Pond; "shall be as much beyond the reach 

of interruption in its operation, as any work of h\iman art can 
be beyond the reach of accident we cannot pretend that the 

cost given in our estimate, is sufficient to produce a work of 

this permanent and perfect character ". And they didn't 

think any more money should be expended to make it perfect. To 

the counter argument that the Spot-Mystic Plan would require 

the use of machinery, always capable of breaking down, they 

pointed out that if that were to happen, the supply from Spot 

Pond, coming by gravity to the City would be large enough at 

all times to provide the full supply, during any period of 

occasional interruption " even should it be to the extent of 

II 3 
bursting all steam boilers, or burning down the engine house...." 

1. Ibid. 

2. Ibid. 

3. Ibid. 


As to the quality of the water. Spot-Mystic, they said, 
was more pure than Long. Which was not to say that Long was 
not pure enough, but if it had to be brought in an aqueduct of 
a construction they described, a cement which would not dissolve 
in the water had to be used, otherwise lime or other foreign 
matter would make the water disagreeable to the taste, and be 
injurious to its softness. English Roman cement might be used, 
but that would increase the cost substantially. The majority 
of the Commissioners, all things considered, recommended the water 
be brought in by the Works from Spot and Mystic Ponds. 

Turning then, to a plan for distribution within the City, 
they recommended in addition to the Reservoir on the summit of 
Beacon Hill, one under the summit of Fort Hill. The first would 
be a hundred and four feet above tide water, and the latter fifty 
feet above it. The water would flow into these Reservoirs during 
the latter part of the day and at night when usage was at its 
lowest, so that there would be sufficient water in the Reservoirs 
to supply the service pipes each morning when the usage would be 
greatest. Beside providing for an ample supply at all times, 
this plan had the added advantage of allowing the pipe from the 
Reservoirs in the City to the source at -Walnut Tree Hill to be of 
much smaller dimensions and less expensive. 

The Commissioners would lay iron mains in various directions, 
of from six to twenty inches diameter, through the principal 
streets of the City to a length of approximately eight and a 


third miles. By the side of the mains they proposed to lay 
small iron service pipes, three inches in diameter, from which 
the water would be taken by small leaden or wrought iron pipes 
to the houses. By laying this double line of pipes, flow would 
not have to be interrupted when a new home was tied into the 
system, and extensive digging would be unnecessary. The service 
pipes, on both parts of the streets, would run eleven and one 
quarter miles. 

In those streets which the mains did not run, the distribution 
would be made by single pipes of three or four inches in diameter, 
communicating with the principal mains and with each other. 
This would require twenty six miles of pipes, thus the total 
length of streets travelled by the works would be forty-two and 
one third miles, "being all the streets, and lanes, laid down 
upon Smith's map of Boston, after deducting therefrom five and 
three quarters miles for streets laid out but not built upon as 

There was to be four hxindred and forty seven fire plugs in 
communication with the mains and pipes. These fire plugs could 
receive a supply of in excess of thirty gallons from the source 
without the City and whatever was in the Reservoir on Beacon 
Hill. Since the height of the source was at least a hundred and 
four feet above tide water, the water could be played directly 
to the top of any common building situated in a low part of the 

1. Ibid. 


City. The cost of distribution, including an additional 5 1/2 
miles to bring the water to South Boston, would be $657,554 or 
a total for the completed works of $1,507,560. Feeling, it 
seems, some compunction to further justify such a large expenditure 
of money, the Commissioners concluded their report with a passionate 
presentation of the value of such Works from the viewpoint of 
health, growth, commerce, increased wealth and protection from 
dreaded fire. 

Commissioner Baldwin appended the reasons for his non- 
concurrence to the Commissioners' report. It was the necessity 
of using machinery to pump the water up from the Mystic Pond. 
He stated that the manpower, machinery and maintenance would 
require great expense; fires that must never go out, a supply 
of coal which might be interrupted by acts of our Government 
or foreign powers. He scoffed at the savings supposedly 
available in the Spot-Mystic scheme as opposed to the Long and 
the fact that the former would require an addition in ten years. 

"And what, sir, are 10 or 11 years, or what are $117,000 
dollars, in a work of this description? Population is increasing 

and will continue to increase, whether the work goes on or not 

and if we go in this piece-meal way, we shall ever be at work 
and never fully satisfy the wants of the citizens." 

Mayor Samuel A. Eliot, to whom Baldwin's remarks were 
submitted, wrote back to Treadwell and Hale and asked them if 



they wished to rebut their fellow Commissioner. It took them 
eleven pages to Baldwin's four. Their argument against Baldwin's 
objections was a vigorous re-statement of their reasoning for 
choosing Spot-Mystic in the first place. Although they thought 
Baldwin's contention that erecting a dam across the Mystic 
River so that salt water would not enter the Mystic Pond at 
extremely high tides (Baldwin maintained it would cause silt to 
fojrm in the River and damage its navigability) unworthy of a 
response, they gave it one, since they felt Eddy had unnecessarily 
raised concern among the citizens of Medford. They cited 
several rivers where such dams existed harmlessly. 


Chapter V 

In an ordinance passed by the City Council on March 20, 
1837, the powers of the Water Conunission were expanded to include 
the necessary authority, including the letting of contracts, to 
bring in the water, and on the 29th, the Standing Committee 
on the introduction of pure water felt that the: 

"...time has arrived when a decision can be made by the 
City Council upon the great question which has so long 
interested the public..." But before they made the decision, 
they once more, perhaps for emphasis of the answer, addressed 
the question; Should the water be brought in at the City's 
expense, or by a private company? They decided that the City 
should do it, explaining, in a rather radical statement for 
those days: "...They (Councillors and Aldermen) believe that 
it is too important a business to be suffered to be affected 
by the calculations of private interest...." 

The Committee on Water agreed with the majority of the 
Commissioners that the water should come from Spot-Mystic. 
They then took formal votes that it was expedient for the City 
to bring in the water; that it should come from Spot and Mystic 
Ponds ;^ that the work should begin as soon as the City received 
the necessary powers from the Legislature; and that those powers 
should be sought immediately. 

1. Boston City Records - No. 4-1838. 


Nothing, it seemed now, stood in the way of the Water Works. 
Nothing but fate, and fate intervened. 

The percarious, powerful, shaky and sometimes dishonest, 
banking industry of America came down with a thud. Fortunes 
were lost in a day, factories closed without notice, great ships 
idled in the harbor, not loading or unloading, but only seeking 
its shelter. The great Crash of 1837, in some ways worse than 
the Great Depression of the 19 30 's, had come. There was little 
money available, and certainly none to be borrowed for such an 
ambitious business as the City proposed to undertake. 

But by this time the project had born a life of its own 
and those involved with it could not leave it alone. 

Eddy submitted a document to Mayor Lincoln on February of 
18 38, revealing himself as a bit of a culprit in the long delay 
of the project. Disagreeing with Laommi Baldwin's report of 
1834, he whispered into the ear of then Mayor Lyman and several 
members of the Water Committee of the City Council, that the plan 
submitted by the renowned Baldwin was impractical and too 
expensive, and that given permission, he might submit one of 
his own, which, of course he did. His communication of 1838, 
was essentially a re-hash of his original proposal (he takes 
pains to point out that the plan finally adopted by the City - 
Spot-Mystic was originally his) but takes issue with the plan 
to bring the water across the Charles on a permanent bridge. 


Instead he proposes a ttinnel, which, he adds, could also 

accommodate a pipe for the gas works. 

Several Petitions for and Memorials against the Introduction 

of the Water were submitted to the Council signed by prominent 

and obscure men of the City. The one which bore the signatures 

of William Appleton, Charles P. Curtis and Abbott Lawrence ended 

with the demand "LET THE THING BE DONE." 

Lucius Manlius Sargent, Esq.*,* sent by a series of answers 

to questions he had proposed of Mr. Eliphalet Willieuns, Esq., 

President, relative to the Boston (Jamaica Pond) Aqueduct Company 

Mr. Williams was quite down in the d\imps about the whole affair. 

What was he to do? If the City was going to bring in water, he 

dare not expand the Jamaica Pond works, and if they were not, 

he would like to get on with it. In despair, he threw in the 

towel, and offered the works for sale to the City (if the right 

price were offered) . 

Abbott Lawrence, who took a continuing and keen interest 
in the water question, was a wealthy merchant of the City, 
having made fortunes in cotton and the China trade. He was a 
Whig Congressman and Ambassador to Great Britain. As Commissioner 
representing the Commonwealth in 1842, he settled the question of 
the Northeastern Boundary of the State with Lord Asburton 
who represented Great Britain. His gift of $50,000 to Harvard 
in 1847 estedslished the Lawrence Scientific School there. 

1. City Document No. 9-1838. 

** Lucius Manlius Sargent, was a well known author of the 
day and an expos tulator for the water power. He also devoted 
his effective pen to the crusade for temperance and against the 
Coolie trade. 


A Mr. Austin sent along some Minutes of Evidence taken and 
Papers laid before the Select Committee of the House of Commons 
and the Commissioners of the Supply of Water to the Metropolis 
(London), in the years 1821, 1828, and 1834, for the edification 
ol all who would plow through them. 

On March 15, 1838, Mr. Shattuck siibmitted to the Council 
a resolution to direct the not so defunct Boston Hydraulic 
Company to do the job. If that resolution were not to pass, 
then Shattuck in his next resolution, revived the Long Pond 
scheme by directing the City to adopt it and then proceed to get 
the necessary legislation. He then killed the whole thing again 
by requiring that the legislation be approved by two-thirds of 
the City's voters and, if that by any chance happened, by two- 
thirds of each branch of the City Council. 

On December 20, 1838, the Committee of Water answered an 
inquiry as to the possibility of paying a bonus to any incorporation 
which would bring the water to the City. They thought little of 
the idea since the City could do it cheaper, having the ability 
to borrow money (if there were amy) for less interest. 

Almost as if to take up its time while it waited for the 
financial cloud to lift, the Council sent the Commissioners 
back to look once more into the subject. The Commissioners 
confirmed their previous assumptions on the quantity of water 
available from Spot-Mystic and lowered the estimated cost by 
$10,200 because of a drop in the price of iron pipe. This factor 


also lowered the cost from Long Pond by $57,810. Mr. Treadwell 
and Mr. Hale signed the report. Mr. Baldwin dissented. The 
City Council wanted to know why and Mr. Baldwin sent in his 
reasons to them on January 22, 1839. Nothing had changed but 
the level of his hyperbole. He still opposed getting the water 
by machinery. 

"The pumping of water by steam power, the best and most 

ingenious mode man can devise, must be attended with a vast deal 
of care, trouble, perplexity and risk, not only to this generation, 
but to all succeeding ones, and should be avoided in all cases. "^ 

By March of 18 39, the financial situation was beginning to 
brighten, and it was believed that element of the three needed; 
source, financing and legal powers, was no longer a detriment to 
the commencement of the project. The City petitioned the 
Legislature for the requisite power, which held hearings, conducted 
in the manner of the examination of witnesses in a court of law. 
The first hearing was on the 21st of March, and by the 25th, this 
fair but rather cumbersome procedure led the Legislative Committee 
to conclude that there was not sufficient time left in that year's 
session to complete its work on the Act. 

A report to that effect was made to the Senate, which on 
April 4th, ordered the Committee to report a bill, and on the 
discussion which arose, they were directed to bring in a resolve 

1. Ibid. 


for the appointment by the Governor of Connnlssioners to examine 
the whole vastly examined subject. The appointments by the 
Governor would come upon the application of the City. The City 
authorities made little attempt to hide their anger, seeing 
the Legislation for what it was, an attempt to put the whole 
subject back to its beginning, as they themselves so often had. 
Since communications between two governments is usually couched 
in the most genteel language, especially in the nineteenth century, 
the response from the City can only be described as written in 
venom . 

The fourteen years of controversy since Quincy first called 
for the water, the surveys, reports, petitions and agitations, 
both for and against the project, its size and source, seemed 
to have wearied the combatants. In September of 18 39, the 
Committee on the Introduction of Soft Water Into the City of the 
City Council, issued a low keyed and well thought out review of 
the proposed project, lamenting that there "has been less public 
interest displayed in it than in other years, and it has appeared 
almost forgotten by others, (but) they are themselves more than 
ever impressed with the propriety, the expediency, and within 
a few years, the necessity of the measure." 

They blamed the Engineers , since they could not agree as 
to the source. The friends of the project were divided, weakening 

1. Boston City Records - Docviment 29-1839. 


their efforts. They also felt that the large quantity the 
Engineers called for, was difficult for the public to digest 
and fear of the cost of such a massive works, hurt the cause. 

Continuing in a concilatory vein, they forgave the proprietors 
o-f the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct their opposition, pointing out that 
no one could blame them for using all honore±»le means to preserve 
the value of their franchise. The Committee then proceeded to 
cut back the project. Assuming that the need at present and for 
the foreseeable future would be 2,000,000 gallons per day and 
1,700,000 was available from Spot and considering that source, 
for the first time, 300,000 would be available from Jamaica Pond, 
they would combine those two sources. This elimination of the 
Mystic Pond would eliminate the necessity of the second Reservoir 
and they would also eliminate the Reservoir on Walnut Tree Hill 
in Medford and reduce the size of the pipes bringing the water to 
the City. The cost of their proposal would be $650,000, which 
price included the purchase of the Jamaica Pond Works for $100,000. 
The cost for distribution within the City they believed to be 
$600,000. The interest on this money for the time before it 
would be paid back, at 5% would be $62,500, immediately reduced 
to $50,000 by the rents from those customers who were already 
taking the water from Jamaica Pond. Five thousand tenants at $10 
per year would cover the interest and they felt that 5,000 (or 
6,500 including the 1,500 now using the Jamaica Pond water) out of 
City with 13,500 families was an easily attainable goal. 

The Committee instructed the Mayor to apply to the next session 
of the Legislature for the authority needed by the City to finally 


bring in the water and also to negotiate for the purchase of 
the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct. 

But petition was never made and that sober and well reasoned 
report by the Committee on Water became the projects lamentation. 

In 1843, James Odiome asked leave to bring water into the 
City from Spot Pond. He never received it. 


Chapter VI 

The affairs of men are not always theirs to manage. With 
each passing year the water supply in the City dwindled. Wells 
dried up, the drilling of new ones caused nearby wells to fail. 
Cistern water grew ever more contaminated from the growing City's 
pollution. Fires were a constant threat and too often a disastrous 
reality. And a blight was to strike at a distant island's stable 
crop and the trickle of immigrants from that unhappy land who 
had heretofore come to the birthplace of America's liberty to find 
their own, was soon to be a flood of men and women fleeing death. 

In 1844 a new Water Commission was appointed, retaining 
Nathan Hale and James Baldwin but replacing Daniel Treadwell with 
Patrick Tracy Jackson. Jackson had amassed a large fortune in 
the Indian trade and used it to enter into cotton manufacturing 
with his brother-in-law Francis C. Lowell. In 1821 he purchased 
a large track of land on the Merrimack River for his manufacturing 
plants and thus laid the foxindation for the City of Lowell. In 
1835 he completed building the Boston to Lowell Railroad, but 
the crash of '37 wiped out most of his fortune and he became 
Superintendent of the Locks and Canal Company of Lowell. 

While the Committee on Water had been cautious and concilatory 
in their last report of 1839, the new Commissioners were not 
and the project took a quandum leap. Based on the fact that 
the City's population had more than twice do\ibled in the last 


fifty years and was now near 110,000 they proposed to get enough 
supply for 250,000. Again using as their measure that daily 
supplied to the Citizens of Philadelphia, 28 1/2 beer gallons, 
they projected a need of 7,125,000 gallons a day. Without 
Treadwell present to protest, they quickly abandoned Spot and 
Mystic-Spot (without even mentioning them, since, one supposes, 
they felt those sources could not supply the huge amount they 
now felt to be needed) and turned to Long Pond in Natick. 

Using their own measurements and those of Mr. Knight who 
owned a woolen mill and cotton mill there, they determined that 
the supply was sufficient and, could be made even more so if 
the dam would be raised five feet, expanding the already 600 
acres of existing surface. This would result in a Reservoir 
of 128,502,000 cubic feet of water, enough to sustain a 
continuing draft of 12 feet a second for a period of 124 days, 
or seven feet for 212 days. Certainly enough to supply their 
proposed Reservoir at Corey's Hill in Brookline with the eleven 
feet per second they wished, in the driest of seasons. 

Turning then to the mode of bringing the water to the 
Reservoir, they travelled to New York to examine the newly 
completed Croton Aqueduct which was to supply the City of New 
York. In comparison to the New York Water Works, even the 
eunbitious plans of the Commissioners were dwarfed. The Croton 
Aqueduct could supply water to two reservoirs one of 20,000,000 
capacity and one of 150,000,000; over twice the length of the 


one they were proposing and built through some very rugged terrain, 
necessitating much tvinneling. The conduit was 7 feet, 5 1/2 inches 
in width and 8 feet, 5 1/2 inches at its greatest height. The 
Commissioners were convinced of the excellence of its construction 
and felt assured that the same would be, on a smaller scale, best 
for the Boston Works. 

The Long Pond Aqueduct, to bring enough water to the 
Brookline Reservoir for a day's supply (7,000,000 gallons), 
would be of brick, laid in hydraulic cement, of oval construction, 
five feet in width and six feet in height. The brick work would 
be eight inches thick and the whole structure covered with an 
embankment of earth, four feet in depth. The water would fall 
three inches a mile, and the necessary 11 feet a second to be 
delivered to the Reservoir could be attained by filling the Aqueduct 
to a depth of three feet ten inches, leaving a space of more 
than two feet empty. 

These dimensions were, of course, larger than the Aqueduct 
proposed in 1837, but the additional supply and the wish for 
added height so that more satisfactory distribution could be 
made to all sections of the City, justified the extra cost, the 
Commissioners reasoned. 

The line of the Aqueduct would initially follow that of 
Baldwin's out of the Pond, but then as directly as was possible 
to the Reservoir on Corey's Hill. The Commissioners saw no 
problems arising along the route, and thought the only two 


obstacles of note was the crossing of Valleys of the Charles River 
Lower Falls and Lime Cove, beyond Brighton Valley. They would 
cross these by two iron pipes, each 30 inches in diameter, the 
total length of pipes would be 2,437 feet. 

If the water were taken from the Pond at a height of 124.86 
feet, and about four feet were allowed for the inclination of the 
Aqueduct and 15 inches for fall at the two valleys, the surface 
at the Reservoir, when filled, would be 119.61 feet above marsh 

They recommended four Reservoirs in the City; Beacon Hill, 
Fort Hill, Dorchester Heights; and Copp's Hill in the North part 
of the City. The Reservoirs could be dispensed with if pipes 
of a sufficient size came in from Corey's Hill, but to maintain 
an uninterrupted delivery of water at a high level, the Reservoirs 
were best. 

The pipes from Brookline, two of iron 30 inches in diameter, 
would rxon to Tremont Street near the Roxbury boundary; a branch 
of 12 inches would run to Dorchester Heights to supply South 
Boston; then one of the two mains would continue through Tremont 
Street to Boy Is ton Street, and branches would be carried from 
there to the Reservoirs on Beacon, Fort and Copp's Hill. The 
water would arrive on Beacon Hill at the height of 111.61 feet 
above marsh level; 4.6 8 feet above the level of the State House 
floor and 60 feet above the foot of the columns "in the Piazza 
in front of Tremont House". 

1. Boston City Documents - No. 24-1844. 


The cost for the 7,000,000 gallons daily - $2,118,535.83, 
including the 10 per cent for contingencies. 

The Committee on Water responded to the report by adopting 
three resolves. That the supply should come from Long Pond, 
that it is expedient that the City begin as soon as possible 
and that the City Petition the Legislature for necessary powers. 
The resolutions were joined questions which were to be put 
before the voters as part of the municipal elections on the 
second Monday of December, 1844. The voting Citizens of the 
City showed a more decisive attitude toward the project than 
had some of their leaders over the years. To the question of 
the water coming from Long Pond - 6,260 yeas to 2,20 4 nays. 
The questions of the City bringing the water in and the Petition 
of the Legislature for the power were passed with equally large 
margins. The two questions that the opponents had placed on 
the ballot - to bring the water in from Spot Pond and to have 
it paid for only by those who used it, were defeated. 

It had been twenty years now since Treadwell first listed 
the mecuis and matter necessary to procure an adequate supply of 
fresh, sweet water. The battle which had engaged the City and 
all of its Citizens in greater or lesser measure for those two 
decades was now marched up Beacon Street to be fought, and finally 
concluded many prayed, under Bulfinch's Golden- Dome. 

The first session of the Joint Special Committee of the 
Legislature was held on January 6, 1845. It was one of some 


joviality as the many proponents and opponents smiled and shook 
hands and filed their appearances, briefs, petitions and remonstances. 
The City of Boston and those who supported its Petition; the 
opponents of the project per se» t he Tovms of Framingham, Natick 
and Newton, resenting the pillaging of their communities to fulfill 
the needs of a greedy City; the owners of the Mills on the Pond 
and beyond, the proprietors of the Middlesex Canal; the Boston 
Medical Community which had long fought for the Water, knowing 
it would help them in their so far generally successful effort 
to spare the City from the ravages of awful plague and the people 
of East Boston, who, if they were not to have the water, knew not 
why they should have to pay for it. 

The implications of the project had grown over the years, 
in proportion to its size. Some were apparent, some would only 
be realized in the passing of time. 

The Bankers were, as was their wont, cautious, on the one 
hand the enormity of the financing of the Water Works, astonished 
them. On the other, if proper terms could be gotten from the 
City, there was profit to be made. 

Talk was about of the possibility of filling in the putrid 
marshes of the Back Bay. And the immigrants had to live somewhere. 
There was much unused land in South Boston. A never ending supply 
of water to those two sections of the City attracted the 
speculators. There were pockets to be lined. 

Nathan Hale, Jr., recorded the proceedings, but strangely, 
only wrote down the answers and not the questions. 


Gentlemen of breeding disagree with each other only in 
circumspection and nuance, the more to woxind your enemy. But 
such methods take time and the hearings droned on as one side, 
then the other, rehashed the twenty year effort to get water 
from Pond to pipe, in excrutiating detail. 

Pity the witness who came unprepared, he would have his 
testimony thrown back into his face. Or one with unclean hands 
to suggest that the digging of more wells would suffice, if it 
were learned that he was in the business of manufacturing p\imps. 
Perfidy was denounced when detected (there had been, over the 
years, some switching of sides as one plan then the other seemed 
in ascendancy) . 

The testimony was technical, thorough and sometimes lurid, 
as the minute detailing of the poor wrenches living in filth 
and in hovel, waiting in all sorts of foul weather for the man 
who had the key to the padlock on the common well to appear 
(which, it was implied, he often did not) . 

By the first of March, the legislators were growing weary, 
and warned the combatants that time for the introduction of 
legislation was growing short. On March 13th, 1845, after 
twenty-six sessions, the Joint Committee reported out favorably 
a bill which would give the Water Commission of the City of 
Boston almost unheard of broad powers to bring water into the 
City. The Commission could hire whom it pleased, pay them what 
it thought just, commit the City's money in any amount it deemed 
necessary, award, with or without bids, contracts large and small, 


take property, private or goveminental, by eminent domain, 
negotiating the price to be paid, or if it could not, bringing 
the matter to Court. 

The Act, passed by both branches of the Legislatiire and 
signed by the Governor, was a total victory for the City and 
its Water Commissioners. Clause 20 provided that the Act could 
not take effect until approved by the voters of Boston balloting 
within sixty days. The caunpaign began immediately, with the 
usual arguments, for and against in the City's newspapers, on 
broadsides, pamphlets, in meetings and rallies. Realizing that 
it was their last chance, the opponents united and worked 
diligently emphasising as their strategy not the merits of the 
Water Works, but the unchecked power of the Water Commissioners. 
The Water Party mounted their campaign with great confidence, 
remembering that they had won handily the last time a question 
pertaining to the project was placed before the voters. 

They lost. The Legislative Act was defeated, 3,999 nays to 
3,670 yeas. (The vote was quite close in most Wards of the 
City, the glaring exception being the vote of Ward 12 (East Boston) 
where the measure was defeated 421 to 88. The insistance that 
the Noodle Islanders pay for something they could not enjoy, 
proved fatal) . 

The City Council, quickly recovering from its shock, moved 
to keep the now seemingly defunct project alive - by calling for 
another survey. But this one would be different. They removed 
the three sitting Water Commissioners - Hale, Baldwin and Jackson 


and replaced them with John B. Jarvis and Walter R. 

Jarvis' qualifications were obvious. It was he who had 
built the enormous New York City (Croton) Water Works. Starting 
out as axeman on the survey teaun for the Erie Canal, Jarvis 
eventually became Superintendent of fifty miles of that water 
way. In 1827, while serving as Chief Engineer of the Delaware 
and Hudson Canal, he was directed to do the planning for its 
railway. At that time there was no railway worthy of the name 
in America and little was known of the primitive system in 
England. Having no knowledge of the svibject he had been assigned, 
he was forced to look into every aspect of a railway, exploring, 
accepting, rejecting. In addition to building the railway, 
Jarvis trained all the personnel and drew up the specifications 
for all the equipment, including the first locomotive to run in 
America, the famous "Stourbridge Lion." 

While employed as Chief Engineer of a Canal in New York 
State which used reservoirs to supply the upper levels, Jarvis 
did considerable experimentation of the total rainfall required 
to replenish reservoirs. In 1836 he was hired as Chief Engineer 
of the Croton River Water Works. 

Adding to Jarvis* expertise on Water Works was the other 
new Commissioner, Walter T. Johnson of the Philadelphia Water 
Works . 

While Jarvis and Johnson were busy investigating a subject 
that it seemed humanly impossible to find out something heretofore 


hidden, the Proprietors of the Spot Pond Aqueduct Corporation, 
who thought they had won and were now not so sure, busied 
themselves trying to sell $500,000 of Capital Stock. They could 
manage only about two thirds of it, so they petitioned the City 
to buy the other third, promising in turn to make the Mayor and 
Aldermen members ex-officio of the Board of Directors, and giving 
them the right to set the water rents (provided they guaranteed 
a 6% annual profit to the sxabscribers) . They also promised any 
number of hydrants the City wanted and three orneunental fountains, 
but no free water for them. 

The Committee of the Aldermen who heard the petition, 
accompanied by one hundred signatures of some of the City's most 
prominent men and largest property owners thought the idea 
delightful and suggested that the City put the proposition 
in the form of a ballot question and let the enlightened Citizens 
who had turned down the City's plan accept the Capitalists. 
The City Council would not be moved. They found it "inexpedient". 
It would be their project or it would be no ones. 

The Jarvis-Johnson report was submitted to the Committee on 
the Introduction of Water on November 18, 1845. One hundred and 
twenty seven pages long with six appendices, it investigated the 
oft looked into Spot and Long Ponds and resurrected the Charles 
River into contention. But with a new element. Since the last 
investigation, navigation on the Charles had been extended. If 
the Charles water were to be used, it would have to come from 
further upstreeun and more pipes would be necessary. 


The two new Commissioners turned first to the quantity 
available in the sotirces they were considering, leaving the question 
of quality for later examination. The ultimate quantity of water 
available from any source, they reasoned, reflecting Jarvis' 
training, was a question of annual rainfall less evaporation. 
Here they were aided by three years of observations by Dr. Hale 
who had determined that the average rainfall in Boston was 43.34 
inches and the average evaporation 11.62 leaving 31.72 of water. 
With other considerations that they did not list, the Commissioners 
concluded that from one third to one half of the annual fall of 
rain may be collected into the reservoirs (Ponds) . 

Continuing to discuss, in intricate detail, the quantity 
of water available from each source. Spot, Long and the Charles 
River, and taking into consideration the effect on each supply 
by dry seasons, evaporation, wastage and drainage; the cost, 
advantage and danger of pumping; they presented the City Council 
with three alternatives to deliver the water to the Reservoir on 
Beacon Hill: 

1. From Spot Pond, 1,500,000 wine gallons a day 
at a cost of $636,896. 

2. From the Charles River 7,500,000 wine gallons per 
day at a cost of $1,993,536. 

3. From Long Pond, 7,500,000 wine gallons a day at a 
cost of $1,346,599. 

They further reduced the equation to the cost of bringing 
in 1,000,000 gallons per day. $424,598 from Spot, $329,373 from 


Charles River and $354,320 from Long Pond. They then weakened the 
case for Spot Pond by stating that their estimate lacked the 
degree of certainty they felt about Long Pond because of the 
crossing of the Mystic and Charles Rivers, and did the scime for 
the supply from the Charles because of the estimate of the work 
that could be performed by the Engines necessary to raise the 

Although, they said, the cost of repairs on the Long Pond 
Aqueduct might be more than on the Works from Charles River, the 
cheap cost of coal brought on by severe competition then 
prevailing could not be expected to last, so, all in all, the 
Long Pond Aqueduct would ultimately be cheaper. They felt that 
the estimate of the cost for distribution in the City listed by 
the Commissioners in their 184 4 report was reasonable. That 
figure, $740,044 was sufficient they believed, for the City's 
present population of 115,000 and any increase in that population 
(which they estimated would be 220,000 in 20 years) would see 
the extension of distribution at the cost of $4.50 for each new 

If their projections of population growth were correct, a supply 
of 5,250,000 gallons a day would be necessary in ten years and 
6,600,000 in twenty. Thus, if one were to take into consideration 
adequacy of supply for the future and the cost of obtaining it. 
Long Pond was obviously the best source. As an added 
measure of caution, they pointed out that the supply from Long 
Pond could be increased to 7,500,000 gallons for the additional 
expenditure of $75,000.00. If this were done, they predicted, 
(quite inaccurately as the future would prove) , the City would 


have a Water Works sufficient for its needs for the ensuing thirty 
years. Unable to leave it at that, they went one step further. 
For an additional 2,500,000 gallons or a total of 10,000,000 it 
would cost only an additional $65,000 to increase the size of 
the iron pipes that would cross the Charles River Valley and 
Brighton Valley and those from Corey Hill Reservoir to the City. 
The proposed Aqueduct and Reservoir were already of sufficient 
size for that amount of water. 

Thus, the project to bring a supply of water in the City of 
Boston had grown in twenty-five years from 1,600,000 gallons 
at a cost of $641,000 to 10,000,000 gallons at a cost of $2,651,643. 

(Here it would be of importance to note the history of the 
examinations of the quality of the water from the various sources. 
The science of such analysis, as the Commissioners stated in their 

1837 report, was infant and inexact, but such analysis went on 
nevertheless, from Ferron's one in 1773 to the one by B. Silliman, 
Jr. , attached to the Jarvis-Johnson Report. The majority of these 
examinations were done by the acrimonious Dr. Jackson, but some 
of importance were done by Professor Eben Norton Horsford. 
Although by academic training a civil engineer, Horsford became 
a prominent chemist. After studying in Germany at the Giessen 
Laboratory under the renowned Liebig, Horsford returned to the 
United States to become Rumford Professor at Harvard. It was 
his influence which caused Abbott Lawrence to found the Lawrence 
Scientific School at Cambridge. He also developed marching rations 
much used by General Grant's troops during the Civil War. 


Horsford's father had been a missionary among the Seneca Indians 
and Horsford published a reproduction of the Indian language in 
English, German, Iroquois and Algonquin. He was devoted to 
archeological research and was convinced that he had found the 
s'ite of Leif Erickson's ancient City of Norumbega along the banks 
of the Charles River) . 

Chemical evaluation of the purity of water was, in essence, 
restricted to its chemical contents, taste and color. In this 
respect, the analysis done by Dr. Stillman for the Jarvis-Johnson 
report was typical. Using thirteen samples from such diverse 
sources as Mystic Pond, the Croton River, Spot and Long, the 
Schuykill in Philadelphia, and a well at No. 20 Beacon Street, 
Boston, Stillman tested each for their specific gravities, carbonic 
acid in a standard gallon, solid matter in 100,000 parts by weight, 
grains of solid matter in one gallon, grains volatile in redness. 
Anhydrous solid matter, sulphuric acid and lead desolved. He 
also, previous to his analysis, made notes of "Sensible Properties 

In observation he found one sample from Spot Pond to contain 
a few small white floes, inodorous, sapid. From that Section of 
the Pond between "the island and the southeast shore at a depth 
of 8 and 13 feet, he found the water had a tint of color 
greenish yellow with scum on standing quiet for a time, odor 
unpleasant and by no means agreeable. 

1. Boston City Document No. 41-1845. Appendix page 10. 


The water at the outlet of Long Pond, he found transparent, 
entirely inodorous and tasteless. At a depth of 62 feet, he 
found it turbid, color reddish brown, and almost marshy in taste. 

His sample of the Charles River at Watertown, was transparent, 
but not perfectly so, inodorous, but slightly sapid, leaving a 
somewhat harsh or rough impress on the palate. And that from 
the same River in South Natick, he discovered to be brownish 
yellow in color, with no sensible turbidness, quite transparent 
and with a fresh odor. It was also insipid, leaving a pleasant 
taste in the mouth. 

The carbonic acid in the samples ranged from 0.999842 in the 
Charles River at Natick, to 1.000118 in the same river at Watertown; 
solid matter from Spot Pond at a depth of 26 feet, to 10.719 in 
Long Pond at the outlet; grains of solid matter in a standard 
gallon from 1.850 in Long Pond to 6.190 in Spot Pond; grains 
volatile at redness in one gallon from 0.6 3 at Long Pond to 1.58 
in Spot; Anhydrous solid matter per gallon from 1.22 in Long to 
4.62 at Spot; the water having the lowest amount of sulphuric 
acid in one gallon was the water in the Charles, (0.00137), 
and the highest 0.011 in Spot and the final analysis showed that 
the amount of grains of lead dissolved were lowest in the water 
(0.46) in both the Long Pond and Charles River and the highest 
in the water of Spot. (.215)). 

The response of the opposition to the Jarvis-Johnson Plan, 
was harsh, expected and quick in coming, as was the proponents. 


Messrs. Wilkins and Shattuck, hastily wrote and privately 
pviblished a pamphlet decrying the plan as needless, excessive 
foreboding of financial disaster and economic havoc. Nathan Hale, 
signing himself "a member of the late Board of Water Commissioners' 
responded in a point by point rebuttal of their objections and 
those of some who had testified before the Legislature at the 
time the City was petitioning for the necessary authority. 

On March 30, 1846, the House and Senate passed and the 
Governor signed, an Act again granting to the City of Boston, 
the necessary rights and privileges to begin to bring to life 
a project which seemed a year earlier to be still born - the 
Water Works of the City of Boston. 

This piece of legislation was, in its essentials, the same 
Bill which had been rejected the year before by the Citizens 
but contained some controls over the Commissioners. They could 
only serve for three years, or until the project was completed, 
whichever came earlier. But were eligible to be appointed for 
another three years if the project was still incomplete. The 
votors accepted the legislation. 


Chapter VII 

On August 20, 1846, the former President of the United 
States, Congressman John Quincy Adams, then approaching his 
eightieth year, joined Mayor Quincy and other dignitaries on a 
festive train to Natick to break ground for the long elusive 
Water Works of the City of Boston. 

The City Government had moved swiftly after receiving 
approval for the project from the voters. They reconstituted 
the old Water Commission, reappointing Hale and Baldwin and 
replacing Jackson with Thomas B. Curtis. The Commissioners 
moved no less swiftly lest foe or fate interfere once more. 

In their first monthly report of June 11, 1846, the 
Commissioners reported that they had hired a clerk and office 
space (having found none suitable in City buildings) at the 
corner of Tremont and Bromfield Streets; hired John Jarvis as 
Consulting Engineer for the sum of $3,000 per year; decided to 
hire two Chief Engineers, one to bring the Aqueduct from the 
Pond to the Reservoir either in Brookline or Brighton and the 
other to bring the Works into Boston. They had conferred with 
Mr. Knight about his rights to the Pond, and purchased a lot of 
land of John Hancock, -through the agency of Mr. Thomas Smith. 
The lot, land bound, was 17,39 2 square feet and was purchased, 
as the site of the Beacon Hill Reservoir at two dollars, two 
and nine tenths cents the foot. 


In September, the Joint Standing Committee on Water was 
able to report to the full Council that Mr. E. Sylvester Chesbrough 
had been hired as the Chief Engineer of the Aqueduct Division 
and Mr. William S. Whitwell, Esq., Chief Engineer of the City 
I>epartment. The gentlemen, each under a Resident Engineer, 
began immediately to survey for an appropriate line. For $150,000 
the Commissioners had purchased all of Mr. Knight's rights to 
Long Pond, his factories, mills, dwelling houses of operators and 
out buildings. Just to make sure that they had such authority 
(they did), they had the City Council confirm their actions. The 
Chief Engineer of the City Department busied himself with making 
plans and estimates of Cost for the Reservoir and constructing 
an accurate plan of the City from actual surveys. The Commissioners 
decided on what route the Aqueduct would take on the first five 
miles of its journey from the source to Needham. They had so 
far, they reported, expended $205,613.80. 

The Jamaica Plain Aqueduct Corporation, seeing its monopoly 
to deliver water going, and convinced that the City would sell 
its water at cheaper rates, and long ignored by the Water 
Commissioners, decided to go down fighting. They notified fifteen 
hundred of their customers that they would no longer receive water 
from Jamaica Pond. The Company intended to just deliver water 
to the low sections of the City in the hope that concentration 
there would decrease its expenses and make it competitive with 
the City Works. 

84 . 

Josiah Bradlee and other customers who faced a shut off, 
petitioned the City. Since they had long been supplied from 
the Aqueduct, they had no wells and unless they had the money 
to dig them, or indeed if any productive ones could be found, 
their property's would have to be abandoned with great loss to 
the City's Revenues. Could not the City tie one of its mains 
coming from the Brookline Reservoir into the Pond, or better 
still buy the Aqueduct Corporation? The problem they faced, was, 
after all, the fault of the City, they concluded. 

The Commissioners responded that they would be willing to 
buy at the right price, which they thought to be $80,000 knowing 
that after the introduction of their water, the rents of the 
Jamaica Plain Aqueduct Corporation would plummet or disappear 

By the time of their second quarterly report, January 2, 
1847, the Water Commissioners were able to report that most of 
the contracts had been let and that some of the excavation from 
Long Pond where the Aqueduct would sit had already begun. The 
Commissioners had determined that by tunnelling through two rock 
summits, one in the Town of Newton and one in Brookline, the 
line of the Aqueduct (by this time finally settled) could be 
shortened to a little less than 15 miles and the crossing of 
the Brighton Valley avoided. This change necessitated the 
abandonment of the long proposed Corey Hill site for the Reservoir 
and the substitution of a piece of land mainly owned by one 
John E. Thayer, Esq., on the south side of the Old Worcester 


Turnpike, near the Brookline Meeting House. To expedite the 
tunnelling, shafts were sunk less than 400 feet apart and men 
worked in each section, in three eight hour shifts, twenty-four 
hours a day. One tunnel would be of a length of 2,300 feet, the 
other of 1,150. 

The only pipes to be used from the source to the Reservoir 
in Brookline were two 30 inch iron pipes to take the water across 
the Charles River at Newton Upper Falls. 

For the Reservoir on Beacon Hill, the Commissioners took 
by eminent domain a lot on Derne Street to add to that purchased 
from John Hancock estate. It was proposed that the Reservoir 
would be 200 feet by 125 feet, covering an area of 25,000 square 
feet and capable of holding two millions of gallons. The depth 
of the Reservoir would be 15 feet and the height of the water 
20 feet above the level of Mt. Vernon Street, sufficient to 
convey the water to the second story of the highest dwelling 
house in the City. The contract called for the completion of 
the Work, containing 17,000 cubic yards of hydraulic masonary 
and concrete by August 15, the next year. 

Lest the Commissioners begin to think that they had put 
controversy behind and were going to be left alone to get on 
with it, one Silas B. Barnes (and others) soon removed that 
happy prospect. The gentlemen felt, and so informed the Mayor, 
Aldermen and Common Council that all was not as it should be 
with the project. 


Their complaiits were several in number Citizens of other 
States had been appointed to posts of importance at exorbitant 
salaries; contracts had been entered into with contractors from 
abroad; contracts were not being awarded, as promised, to the 
I'owest responsible bidder; and the Commissioners were, in general, 
"casting an imputation of incompetency upon our Boston mechanics, 
to the manifest injury of their reputation." 

The Commissioners replied on February 8, 1847. The authority 
given to them by the Legislature, they pointed out, allowed them 
to hire whomever they pleased, using their own judgment of their 
competency, and to let contracts out either by sealed bids or 
negotiations, whichever they thought best. And since none of the 
gentlemen whose names appeared on the Petition, had any interest 
in any of the contracts, and since most of them (contracts) were 
yet to be executed, the inconvenience that might result by 
publication of the contracts, precluded them doing so. 

To the main charge, that the contracts given out for the 
construction of the Reservoir on Beacon Hill were not given to 
local firms competent to do the work, the Commissioners could 

hardly believe itl It was a charge "unsupported by a particle 


of truth." They pointed out that on this particular contract 

the petitioners indeed had an interest, since no less than five 
of the Petitioners had submitted proposals. All of which, they 
pointed out, were higher than the contract awarded. While not 

1. Boston City Records No. 8-1847. 

2. Ibid. 


so to the petitioners, the Commissioners' response was sufficient 
for the Committee on the Introduction of Water of the City Council. 

By July of 1847, the Commissioners could report that, with 
the exception of a small section, construction of the Aqueduct 
was going on all along the line. The only delay that they could 
possibly encounter, was the available supply of brick keeping up 
with the work. 

It had been thought by the Commissioners, that by changing 
the original plans and tunnelling in Brookline and in Newton, thus 
avoiding having to cross two valleys, money would be saved both 
in construction cost and the length of the Aqueduct. But they 
were having trouble at both sites. The workmen were encountering 
an unexpected amount of hard rock and when it was removed the 
excavations soon flooded. The Engineers were forced to employ 
in its construction what the Commissioners had refused to in 
delivering the product of the Works - engines and pumps. They 
were constantly at work, while the miners toiled. The new route, 
the Committee was assured would still be cheaper. 

The water of Long Pond had been drawn down preparatory to 
the erection of the dam there; almost eight miles of pipe for 
distribution in the City had been laid, nearly all the land along 
the margin of the Pond had been purchased; the Commission had 
spent $659,856.13. As Eddy's machinery had been used, so had 
Treadwell's money. 

It must be said that the continuing increase in the cost of 
the creation of the Boston Water Works, was as much a function 


of the forward looking nature of its planners as their propensity 
to spend. That the size of the Works and the amovmt of water they 
would supply would not be needed for years to come, was not a 
function of needless spending, but rather theresult o£ 
j-udicial planning. In July of 1847, 1,711 Citizens of South 
Boston, petitioned the City to add enough land to that which 
it would take for the Reservoir, so that a suitable Public Park 
or Square could be built on Dorchester Heights. To the petition 
were joined the signatures of some of the City's most influential 
Citizens - Abbott Lawrence, Harrison Grey Otis and Stephen 
Fairbanks, who saw it as an opportunity to bring to fruition a 
proposal they had long been making - a proper park which would 
be a memorial to the Revolutionary War fortifications there. 
The proposal was to take 400,000 feet of land extending 
from G Street to Old Harbor Street, east to west, and from Seventh 
nearly to Fifth Street, north to south, "embracing the summit 
of the western-most of the hills known as Dorchester Heights, 
with the remains of the fortification built by Washington." 
The Reservoir would take 120,000 feet; and the additional 280,000 
feet would add $112,000 to the cost of the project. There was 
some objection, but a joint Special Committee of the City Council 
felt that South Boston, , although paying its share of taxes, did 
not get its share of benefits; the park would attract more people 
to live in South Boston, and the site of such historical 

1. Boston City Document No. 29-1847. 


significance ought to be under the jurisdiction and protection 
of the City. 

As if the long delays and troubles the project in general 
had was destined to contaminate each aspect of it, the City was 
having trouble coining up with the permanent financing, being 
forced to pay for the project as it was building from its own 
revenues or short term borrowing. 

In June of 1846, the Joint Standing Committee on Finance 
was authorized to borrow a sxim not exceeding one and one half 
million dollars. They were sure that the money could be procurred 
in Europe at a low interest rate, no higher than 4% per annum. 
They were to be disappointed. The Bankers of France, England 
and Holland, attracted to the excellent investments in railways 
and railway bonds and anticipating coming pressure on the money 
market, refused even to make an offer. (That failure was to 
put a stain upon American stocks) . When they turned back to 
the United States for the money, they ran into a significant 
offering by the Federal Government, which produced a premium and 
made it inpolitic to try to get the permanent loan,' >t that time. 

Those circumstances forced the Committee on Finance to 
continue to fund the project by short term borrowing. In April 
of the following year, on the 30th, they advertised for a loan 
of one million dollars. Each of $200,000 principal would be 
paid back at differing dates of maturity ranging from April 1st 
of that year (1857) to April 1, 1861 and bearing an interest rate 


of 5%. (They issued the paper in certificates as low as $500 
"such as would fit the convenience of the smallest capitalist." 

The City heavily advertised the offering both in the money 
markets of the United States and Europe. The whole eimount was 
sold, taken at an average of about 94 for 100. The Committee 
noted that the effective interest rate was more favorable to 
the borrowers than that they had received from the recent 
United States issue, but less than many had anticipated, and 
insisted that it got the money at the best rate, under the 
circumstances. They felt that they could not have taken any 
steps toward a permanent loan until a change had taken place in 
the financial condition of the country. 

The progress of the Works was aided substantially by the 
mild winter of 1847, so much so that the Water Committee in their 
semi-annual report of December, predicted that the completion 
target of late 1848 would be reached. 

Turning their attention then to Reservoirs in the City, the 
Commissioners pointed out that the start of construction on the 
Beacon Hill Reservoir had been delayed by the time consxamed in 
obtaining possession of the buildings which occupied the site. 
The Mayor had not been able to set the corner stone until 
November 22nd, 1847. 

It had been decided to increase the size of the Reservoir to 
40,000 square feet. The Reservoir's foundation extended from 
Hancock Street on the West to Temple Street on the East, and 
from Derne Street on the North to the rear of dwelling houses 
on Mt. Vernon Street on the South. In order to give a regular 


form to it, Derne and Hancock Streets were straightened and 
widened. The Commissioners were able to obtain all the land 
necessary by purchase (one sale being made to them after legal 
proceedings to take it had begun) . The land consisted of a lot 
of John Hancock, unoccupied by buildings, a house owned by the 
Commonwealth which was the residence of the Sergeant at Arms; 
the Bowdoin School House owned by the City, several tenements 
owned by Benjamin Adams and four dwelling houses. 

Much of the land had formerly been the estate of the late 
Governor Hancock, and included the most elevated part of the 
City. This hill received its name from a Beacon which was 
erected in the early years of the Town on its summit to welcome 
ships coming into the harbor. The Beacon was blown down in 1789 
and replaced by a Doric Column, 60 feet in height, commemorating 
events of the Revolution. When the summit of the hill was dug 
away and used for the making of lands reclaimed from the sea, the 
Doric Column was in danger of being undermined and was taken away, 
Had the Commissioners observed, only half of the summit of the 
hill had been left, their work would be less. As it was, 
they had to replace the dug land with a foundation of massive 

The site for the Reservoir on Telegraph Hill in South Boston 
had been selected, but no plans had been drawn up for it. The 
Commissioners had determined, however, to bring the water to the 
peninsular by a branch from the 36 inch pipe coming from the 


Brookline Reservoir to the corner of Tremont and Dover Streets. 
The branch, a twenty inch pipe, would pass directly by the route 
of the South Bridge to South Boston, either under it or beside it. 
It would be covered by earth to protect the pipe from erosion 
caused by the salt water and would be laid so low as not to 
interfere with the flow of the tide or the passage of vessels. 

The Commission had purchased the land for the Reservoir at 
Brookline from John E. Thayer, Joshua C. Clark, Charles Heath 
and the heirs of David Hyslop. The land, including the surrounding 
embankment, amounted to about 38 acres. The area of the water 
surface would be about 22 1/2. The work had already begun with 
the shaping of the embankment. The earth not impervious to 
water had been removed, and replaced by puddled earth. It was 
the plan of the Commissioners to so construct the Reservoir 
at Brookline, that water could be discharged into the pipes to 
the City either directly from the Aqueduct or from the Reservoir. 
In this way, the water could be brought into the City even before 
the Reservoir was completed, if need be. The same applied to 
the Reservoir on Beacon Hill. 

The tunnels in Brookline and Newton were still a problem, 
much more rock being encountered than anticipated and the water 
problem forced them to engage seven steam engines to pump it out. 
Nevertheless, 2,310 feet of the 3,59 3 had been excavated. 

Water seemed to be the enemy of the Water Works. Three 
pumps of a large size had to be used for removal of water in 


sections 1 and 2 of the excavation for the Conduit. Quick 
sand was found in certain places. However, nearly half of the 
masonary of the conduit, a little more than seven miles, had 
already been completed. 

Four large culverts and several smaller ones had to be 
built to convey the water of brooks or ravens which crossed 
the line of the Aqueduct and were built of substantial masonry 
laid in hydraulic cement. 

The dam at the outlet of the Pond, was nearly finished, 
they reported. The foundations of the piers and abutments for 
the arched bridge that would take the conduit across the Charles 
River at the Upper Falls in Newton were raised above the water, 
and a large embankment of puddled earth had been constructed 
across the valley near the Charles in Needham, forty feet in 
height, to receive the brick masonry of the Conduit. The lands 
bordering the Pond had been secured against use by man or animal 
which might contaminate it. 

Although most of the land over which the line of the Aqueduct 
was to pass had been purchased, the Commissioners were having 
difficulty negotiating the purchase of others. They attributed 
this to the fact that much of the line ran quite close to the 
Boston and Worcester Railroad, and the owners of such parcels 
had an extravagent idea as to its worth. "The progress of 
negotiations (despite their desire to do ample justice to the 


proprietors) has often been tedious and dilatory." All lands 
purchased have been paid for, they continued, as well as all 
work done. Total expenditures as of December 2, 1847 - 

Boston City Document No. 44-1847. 


Chapter VIII 

It has been said that at the time of the War of the 
Revolution, there were, proportionately, more educated men in 
Boston than in any other city in the World. The Puritan belief 
that if a man were to ably serve "Churche and Commonweale" and 
to avoid the importunities of the Devil, he should be educated, 
led the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony 
to degree, in 16 42, that parents were responsible to see that 
their children could read and write. Before that body made it 
obligatory, in 1647, that every Town with 100 families must 
have a "Latin Grammar School" Boston already had its, as did 
Roxbury . 

It was tradition that the graduates crossed the Charles to 
Harvard and in the early part of the Nineteenth Century, when 
some fortunes were settled, the tradition was expanded if one's 
field were medicine, to travel from Cambridge to the great 
Universities and hospitals of London and Berlin. When one 
returned, he was truly fit to serve his fellow men. 

The five members of the Board of Consulting Physicians 
to the City of Boston to whom the Water Commissioners turned 
to determine the best material for the service pipes in 184 8 
were distinguished men of that tradition. Dr. John C. Warren, 
Dr. George C. Shattuck, Jr., Dr. Jacob Bigelow, Dr. George 
Hayward and Dr. John Ware. 


Dr. John Collins Warren was the son of Dr. John Warren, 
who participated in the Boston Tea Party and at age twenty-two 
was appointed by General Washington as Surgeon at the Army General 
Hospital on Long Island. After the war, he became a prominent 
s-urgeon in the City and was one of the founders of Harvard 
Medical School. His brother. Gen. (Dr.) Joseph Warren fell at 
Bunker Hill. 

John Collins Warren had followed his father as Professor 
of Surgery and Anatomy at Harvard and became one of the best 
known and respected surgeons in America. When he was in his 
seventieth year he lent his considerable skill and unequalled 
reputation to W. T. G. Morton's first application of ether during 
surgery on a human. 

Dr. George Cheyne Shattuck was graduated at Dartmoxith 
College in 1803, and from the medical school there in 1806, receiving 
the degree M.D. in 1812. He was President of the American 
Statistical Association from 1846 to 1852, and received his L.L.D. 
from his alma mater in 185 3. He founded the Shattuck School at 
A Fairbault, Minnesota and gave liberally of his fortune to it, 
building the observatory there. 

Dr. Jacob Bigelow, like many of his peers, was a man of 
many interests - physician, inventor, botanist, writer. He was 
a moving force in the establishment of the rural cemetery at 
Watertown, Massachusetts - Mount Auburn - and a founder of the 
Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Bigelow was, for fifty years, 


Professor of Materia Medica at Harvard and from 1816 to 182 7, 
Rumford Professor there. At the time he and the others would be 
called upon to determine what material would be best to transport 
the water from mains to the houses, he was President of the 
American Academy of Arts and Science, of which he was a member 
for sixty-seven years. 

These distinguished men concluded that from the viewpoint 
of economy and flexibility, lead was the best material to use. 
But they had a problem with its effect on health. On the one 
hand, they had evidence of sickness ranging from light complaints, 
to a statement that "lead, received into the body, in certain 
quantities and for a certain period of time, is liable to produce 

alarming complaints among which are a species of paralysis." 

On the other hand, they had testimony from witnesses who were 
known to have drunk water delivered by lead pipes for many years 
without evident harm. 

They were convinced that some lead is quickly dissolved 
upon the first application of the water through the pipes, but 
that the amount of lead traceable on that material in the water 
soon becomes miniscule, leading them to conclude that the 
interaction of certain quality water and lead forms a coating 
on the inner walls of the pipes. 

In their decision that lead pipes are, with some exception, 
not injurious to the health of those who use the water through 

1. Boston City Documents No. 18-1848. 


which it runs, the Board of Consulting Physicians solicited 
the opinions of Drs. Hosack and Griscom who were associated 
with the Croton Water Works. Both doctors advered that, in 
their opinion, water from lead pipes would do no harm. 

There was however, r»ur»niinity among the Doctors whose 
opinion they solicited. Dr. J. W. Webster considered the lead 
produced in the water, used over a period of time, to be dangerous, 
Dr. Hayes believed that copper pipes, covered with pure tin 
would be the best. 

As in the Act passed in 1845, there was no provision in the 
one passed in 1846 to include a supply of water to East Boston. 
In May of 1848, the Commissioners replied to a petition from 
the Citizens of that section of the City praying for the water. 
They felt that water, as well as a gas main, could be brought 
from the Peninsula, under the bottom of the harbor to East Boston. 
It would be an arched gallery, six feet in internal diameter, or 
eight feet overall considering the brick masonry which would 
encompass it. At the location suggested by the petitioners, the 
crossing would be three thousand feet, and the depth of the 
water in the middle of the channel was thirty-five feet at 
ordinary high tide and forty-six at high spring tide. To the 
Commissioners those dimensions posed an unmanagable obstacle. 

Citing, as they had many times before in determining the 
cunount of water needed, the experience of London in attempting 
to bore a tunnel under the Thames so that a passage way could 


be obtained for Londoners to pass from one side of that river 
to the other, they concluded that the proposed East Boston tunnel 
would be too risky and too expensive. The cost of the Thames 
Txinnel, a project much less in dimension than the sought after 
one to East Boston, had risen from the estimated $860,000 to 
$2,660,000, took over nine years, and was finally abandoned. 
The petitioners believed that if the tunnel were to be dug at 
a depth of 80 feet, the hard clay which forms, in certain 
sections, the subterranian plate on which Boston lies, would 
provide suitable material to insure the safety of construction. 
The Commissioners disagreed, believing that only porous earth 
would be found and that, as was the London project, the 
construction would be plagued with continuing and perhaps fatal 
flooding. As to the petitioners statement that a party in New 
York had offered to enter into a contract to lay down an iron 
pipe of twelve inches in diameter, across the bed of the channel 
for the sum of $100,000, they must reject that in the absence 
of definite plans and in the belief that such a pipe would be 
impractical to lay in any manner which could be relied on for 

"The undersigned conceive that it would be irrelevant 
for them to suggest any other mode of supplying water to the 
inhabitants of East Boston, as the authority with which they are 
invested by their appointment, extends only to the introduction 
and distribution of the water of (Long Pond) . " 

1. Boston City Documents No. 22-1848. 


As the Citizens of East Boston had turned down the plans 
of the Commissioners by their vote in 1845, the Commissioners 
turned down their plea in 184 8. 

While the Consulting Physicians were investigating the 
best material for bringing the water from the mains, the 
Commissioners felt constrained to proceed on their own and, in 
fear that lead pipes would lose out in the considerations of 
the Doctors and Chemist, they procured iron pipes of one and one 
half inches which they laid down for carrying the water from the 
street mains to the sidewalks, and in part to the dwelling 
houses, so far as that branch of the work has been yet accomplished. 
It would be up to the house holder to bring it further. 

The instructions given by the City to its Board of Consulting 
Physicians was to determine the best material for the pipes to 
carry the water the final few feet to its consumers from the 
viewpoint of health, safety, repairability , strength, flexibility 
and economy. As often happens, the theoretical men of science 
disappointed the practical engineers. The Consulting Physicians 
report did not conclude that any one material was the best, but 
merely, albeit in great detail, pointed out the good and bad of 
each kind considered. 

The Commissioners, rather annoyed, pointed this out in 
forwarding the Physicians' report to the Water Committee of the 
City Council. But decisiveness was not the strong suit of the 
Commissioners either. They decreed that lead pipes should be used, 
unless of course, one wanted cast iron. 



To justify their decision, they quoted extensively from 
an exhaustive study of the subject by Dr. Horsford, a report 
which concluded positively that "Long Pond Water may be served 
from leaden pipes with iron mains, without detrement to health." 
The leaden pipes would be five eights of an inch in diameter, 
weighing three pounds to a foot in length, and conducted through 
such part of the cellar or foundation as to afford the best 
protection against frost. The pipes after having entered the 
house would run to the sink-room or to the kitchen, where the 
most constant supply would be assured. Since the water will 
rise and be available at any time, to any part of the house by 
perpendicular pipe, no tank or pump would be necessary, they 
pointed out. The pipe should be placed near the chimney, or 
in such position that it would be protected from freezing. If 
this could not be done, the pipe should be laid in an inclination 
so that it might be emptied by opening a discharge cock when 
danger of freezing was present. 

The Commissioners, with apparent pride, stated that with 
the above precautions and a skillful plumber to adjust the 
fixtures, water could be conveyed to any part of the house at 
the pleasure of the occupant. If one wanted to avoid the 
expense of such fixtures, they could receive the water from a 
single stop-cock at the place where the water is introduced 
into the premises, or preferably, at the sink-room or kitchen. 

1. Boston City Documents No. 32-1848. 


There should be in all homes, a sink with a pipe to carry off 
the waste water. To every stop-cock, there should be attached 
a piece of vacant pipe, or other air chamber, which, in the 
event of compression of air on a sudden shutting off of the 
water, may serve to relieve the pipe from the shock of water 
haunroer. If this isn't done, the pressure from so high a head 
of water will, the Commissioners cautioned, be liable to burst 
the pipes, or gradually expand them by repeated shocks. 

(The Commissioners then made a significant decision. It 
had, up to that time, been the custom for the water taker to 
pay for the pipes which carried the water over his property to 
his home. But the cost of the project was such that it was 
vital to the interest of the Commissioners, and the City's 
ability to pay the interest on its loans and eventually to retire 
the debt, that the water be taken by as many people as possible, 
the entire City if that could be managed. To induce people to 
take the water, the Commission voted to lay the pipes into the 
household at the City's expense, thus assuring an almost universal 
subscription to the water) . 

,'» ^S-^'Ma*'-3SL"'-"' 












'Tis a iitt].e thing 
To give a cup of water; yet its draught 
Of cool r ef re,-, iunent , drained by fevered lips 
May give a shock of yjleasure to the frame 

More equirite than when r.ectarean juice 
Renews the life cf joy in happiest hours. 

ION. ACT 1, SCl-NE 2 
Sir Thomas Noon Talfourd (1794 - 1854) 

As one who long in populous city pent, 
Where houses thick and sewer annoy the air. 

Paradise Lost. Book VIII, Line 445 
John Milton (1608 - 1674) 


Chapter IX 

What the City wanted by the fall of 184 8, was its water 
from Lake Cochituate, (at the insistance of Mayor Quincy, Jr., 
L'ong Pond and the waters which feed it were now called by their 
Indian name - Cochituate. Thus Quincy, with his fine sense of 
history linked the Sweet Spring of Shawmut, where the City had 
begun, to the splendid supply from Cochituate, which would 
sustain its life, two hundred and eighteen years later) , but 
what it was getting was sharp October rain, chill and 
penetrating. On the evening of the 2 4th, the Whig Party had to 
call off its planned torch light parade. The rain showed no 
signs of letting up as early morning of the 25th approached. 
Perhaps, thought Quincy, he should call it off, postpone the 
entrance of the water into the City. But his patience could 
hardly tolerate another delay after almost a quarter of a 
century of them. 

Then fate finally turned friend and presented the City at 
the dawn of October 25, 184 8 - perhaps in tribute to its 
Celebration - with the New England weather that comes closest 
to the divine, a pretty autumn day, not an Indian summer reprise, 
not a preview of winter, but a gentle warmth and coolness, 
brightly hatted in a cloudless sky. 

The din of the pre-arranged sign that all was well began 
with the rise of the Sun. First the massed cannons on the 


Common, 100 lined in perfect symmetry, boomed the message in 
close timed sequence. Then the church bells, from every church 
in the City and beyond, rang out in a deep metallic harmony for 
aj.1 to come to the Common. 

They did. The crowded trolleys could hardly move through 
the mass, most of them on foot since it would be a skittish day 
for horses. There was to be no commerce that day, nor business, 
nor banking, nor manufacturing in the City or the towns around 
it. People streamed over the bridges from Charlestown and 
Cambridge, walked up Washington Street from Roxbury, took the 
train from Dedham. The City's population would not reach that 
number for some years to come, but more than 300,000 came to see 
in fact a promise so long ago made. 

They were greeted with gay decorations, banners and flags, 
and with lettered signs, some crude, some fancily printed: 

At the corner of Park and Tremont - "PRAISE AND ADORATION 
BITTER WATERS BE DRIVEN OUT." And across the Frog Pond with 
its bright new gravel, the better to receive the water - "THE LORD 
Numb, xxi.16 and in triumphant exclamation, from Gen xxvi . 32 

The Grand Procession formed along the streets by the market 
built by the Mayor who had years ago cried out for today's arrival. 


Marching would be all the Governors of New England, all their 
Councils, Legislators, the Mayors of their Cities, and their 
educators and clergymen of prominence. Scores of units of 
Militia of every description and history, one uniform more colorful 
than the next, high ranking officers of the Army and Navy, aging 
veterans of the War for Independence, the Federal and State 
Judiciaries, the Congressmen and Senators. And a member of Her 
Majesty's Parliament from South Lincolnshire, England. 

(Whoever 's task it was to determine the order of march in 
each of the eight divisions, either out of frustration as to 
the proper protocol or an impish sense of humor, came up with 
some dazzling sequences. The Superintendents of the Lunatic 
Hospital marched three places before the members of the 
Massachusetts Legislature who were immediately followed by the 
Warden of the State Prison. All propriety was not lost to the 
gentleman, though. The President of Harvard, quite naturally 
one is to suppose, came before all the visiting Governors of the 
New England States.) 

No one was left out, all invited. Even if, in the natural 
order of the day the Masonic Organizations of the State came 
before them, in Division Three, no less than ten Catholic 
Societies followed in Division Four. In the last Division, 
their enthusiasm undiminished by the inevitable long wait those 
who are chosen to be the tag end of a great parade must 6ndure, 
came the School Children of Boston and surrounding communities. 


led by the pupils of the Public, Latin, High and Grammer Schools, 
and followed by the Children from the Orphan Asylums and a good 
Sister of Charity leading "children over eight years of age". 

The marchers were finally in their assigned places on the 
Common by one o'clock. Stands had been provided by the Frog 
Pond for those whose station in life was such as they deserved 
the honor, a plank over it set out for the Water Commissioners 
(Hale, Baldwin and Thomas Curtis. Poor Treadwell's name never 
passed one lip that day) and His Honor, Mayor Quincy, Jr. 

A song to be sung by all, had been composed by a fellow 
from the Franklin Topographical Society. He had titled it "For 
the Merry Making on Water Day" . 

"Away, away with care today 1 There's naught but joy before 
us; A gladsome shout from the mass goes out. And we join the 
chorus. Hail, hopeful streaml from thy bright gleam Our Hearts 
reflect the Omen, the water's want no more will haunt The thirsty 
man or women. " 

George Russell, a man who combined academic talent with 
business acumen, had also written a hymn for the occasion to 
be sung by the Handel and Hayden Society. Mr. Russell had 
recently returned from Honolulu where he had built up the very 
large and successful commercial house of Russell and Sturgis. 

"Let old and young, rich and poor, Join in one full 
harmonious song! And swell the Anthem loud and longl", it 


The opening prayer, given by the Reverend Daniel Sharp, D.D. , 
was unusually brief for Divines of that day given the opportunity 
of such a great occasion. Mr. Sharp was followed by a large 
group of specially chosen Boston school children who recited, 
more or less in unison, an Ode composed just for the event by 
James Russell Lowell. 

"My name is Water I I have sped - Through strange dark 
ways Untried before. By pure desire of friendship led, 
Cochituate's He sends four royal gifts to me. Long life, 
health, peace, purity." 

Nathan Hale spoke for the Commissioners. One supposes that 
he didn't mean to be truly literal when, while thanking everyone 
else concerned with the work, he added: "The City Treasury in 
aid of this work, has poured out its resources like water." 
(Mayor Quincy in his address later was to assure all that, even 
when the Beacon Hill Reservoir was completed in perhaps less 
than two years, the total cost of the project "probably would be 
not near to $4,000,000." Some wealthy citizens were seen to 
blanch. ) 

The time had finally come. "Do you want the water," Quincy 
shouted at the crowd. "YES," they roared back. He approached 
the lanyard to the gate blocking the sluice. As if to rid himself 
and the City of the long years of frustration, he gave it a 
mighty yank. A trickle of coppor colored, dirty water came 

1. Boston City Document No. 50-1848. 


weakly out. Then, before any disappointment could grow, a 
mighty gusher shot seventy feet into the air. The momentarily 
hushed throng gave out a mighty yell, hats flew, young boys 
rushed into the filling Pond, muskets were fired, the fire 
company's raised their banners in salute. Some women were seen 
to weep - and men too. 

HIP, HURRAY I The crowd yelled back. Then, from behind those 
facing the Pond from the Beacon Hill side of the Common came 
the whomp, whomp of scores of rockets filling the air. First 
a representation of Neptune, his fork in hand flashed across 
the sky, then a great waterfall with the names of the three 
Commissioners and the Mayor written across it. The spectacular 
display continued for some minutes and then, just as an exploding 
American flag was fading out and sinking, in sparkling bits and 
pieces to the ground, there came a shout from the crowd along 
Tremont Street. The buildings there seemed to explode as had 
the fireworks into sheets of light. In each window of the 
Tremont House there were three gas torches, and on the face of 
the Gas and Light Building, light after light, which seemed to 
become the building itself, burst out in a massive and intricate 


Chapter X 

In 1645, one John Dotten asked permission of the Select- 
men of the Town of Boston to enter his house drain into the 
"Common Shoar ". These Common Sewers, built by either a group 
of Estate owners or by the Town, took waste water from the homes 
and drained it into the canals, rivers, brooks and sea which cut 
through and surrounded the Town. They grew as did the Town, 
with no plan or pattern, at improper angles and in imperfect 
fit. And often in too low a grade for proper drainage. But 
the polluting effect on the water they discharged into was 
hardly noticable, if it existed at all. No human waste ran 
through the drains in those days before Hopper invented his 
flush toilet. 

Yet, there were sources of filth in the City which 
escaped into the Common Sewers. On the first Monday in November, 
1832, a Suffolk County Grand Jury indicted the City of Boston. 
The charge was the City's failure to abate a nuisance at the 
scavenger's depot on Merrimack Street. The aptly named and 
officially recognized scavengers were waste collectors, taking 
away the carcasses of dead animals, offal and rotting vegetable 
matter. They would cart the offensive material to the depot 
where they would heat it and drain off the liquid content before 
they proceeded to take what remained out and bury it. As the 
Town grew, so did the Depot, emitting a noxious odor which 
forced the closing of windows in the neighborhood even in the 
warmest of weather. But their worst offence was the draining 
of the putrid liquid into the Common Sewer. It was supposed to 

Boston Town Records - 1645 


be carried down a canal to the Bay, but filling of the canal 
had stopped its flow, and when it rained, either the liquid 
itself or its odor would flow back up and into the houses of 
the area. 

Hearing the testimony ascribed to be twenty-five of 
the City's most prominent physicians that "the affuvia arising 
from such sources are prejudicial to health, often prove to be 
the fomes of fevers and a medium favorable to the propagation 
of contagious diseases of every description", the Court found 
the City guilty and ordered it to have the Depot removed. 

The City had begun to pay better attention to its sewers 
before that. In 1822 it had ordered a study by the Surveyor of 
Highways on the State of Common Sewers which led from the public 
streets and which may have made an encroachment of the Town slips. 
It also placed the opening and repairing of Common Sewers under 
the jurisdiction of the Surveyor of Highways, with authority to 
issue permits for such work. 

The Board of Health whcih had been established when the 
Town accepted its new Charter as a City on March 4, 1822, was, by 
the following year, becoming concerned with the condition of many 
of the drains and sewers and the inability of some of them to 
properly discharge all the waste water entering them, and the 
state of their repair. Some permits required that the Common 

■''Interesting Trial, Proceedings Of the American Statistical 
Association, March 31, 1899. 


Sewer could not be used unless the waste was first run through 
a cesspool. In July of 1823, the City Council's Committee on 
Drains appointed one Reuben Hastings as Superintendent of 
Drains. Among his duties was to make sure that drains were 
completed in conformity with the City direction and to the 
Superintendent's satisfaction and that the owner of the Estate 
constructing the drain used only workmen licensed by the City 
to assure their competance in such construction. 

From the very beginning of its formalization of supervision 
over drains and sewers, the City had much difficulty collecting 
the assessments it had levied on the property of those who had 
joined their drains to a common sewer that the Town had built. 
In 1824, the Joint Committee to appoint someone to keep and 
collect accounts due from sewer assessments, decided to split 
the responsibility between the City Auditor (who would compute 
the assessment) and the City Marshall (who would collect it - or 
try to) . 

Later, in order to better control the construction of 
common sewers and connecting drains, the Joint Committee on 
Drains, Mayor Joshua Quincy, Chairman, reported out an ordinance 
which gave to the City Marshall the general superintendancy of 
Common Sewers. Whenever the City was to build one, the City 
Marsahll was to observe how it was being built, and record its 
depth, breadth, mode of construction and general direction 
in the book of plans of Common Sewers. After determining the 


the valuation of any adjoining estates that might enter into 
the Common Sewer from the Assessor's Book he was to report the 
proper assessment to the Auditor of Accounts who was to report 
forthwith to the Mayor and Aldermen. 

But the collection of these assessments remained 
difficult. For one thing, many believed that the City should 
bear the whole cost since it was its duty to look after the 
general good health of its citizens. The lien that was placed 
on the property assessed ran out after one year and if one 
could duck the City Marsahll for that length of time, he had 
not to pay. Debts far exceeded collections and by 1882, a Joint 
Committee was formed to look into the matter and was pleased to 
report that the party they had hired to adjust and collect the 
past due accounts had made much progress. His good fortune 
did not last for long. In 1840, Robert G. Shaw and others 
sued the City claiming it had no authority to make an assess- 
ment against them, for the priviledge of entering a common sewer. 
After three trials, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that 
the City had authority to make such a charge, but not against 
the Estate the drain ran from but only the land it ran under, 
thus lowering the assessment. The Court also ruled that when the 
City built a main sewer across vacant land, the amount of the 
assessment to be charged when the land was built upon and a drain 
constructed, should be set when the main sewer was constructed and 
not when the building on the lot was completed. 


It is ironic but true that the arrival of the Cochituate 
Water, in combination with the availability of the flush toilet, 
not only can be counted as the beginning of the system of sewers 
the City now has, but also of the massive pollution of the once 
biue-green rivers and bay. Now to the waste v/ater was added 
human excretion (night soil as it was called in polite circles) . 
Also the availability of the water made possible development of 
areas of the City which heretofor were unliveable because of their 
lack, creating the need for more sewers. 

By the time that the last half of the nineteenth century 
began, the Superintendent of Sewers was a firmly established 
department of the City's structure. The first large work of 
the Superintendent was a system of drainage, executed at great 
expense, for the southwest part of the City bordering on the 
Back Bay. Because of the building of the Mill Dam, a portion 
of the territory had not been graded to a proper height to admit 
of a natural drainage to the sea and to abate this nuisance it 
had been necessary to direct the sewage into the tide water. The 
Main Sewer was laid in Dover Street and Tremont from Castle 
Street to near the Roxbury line, which intercepted all the 
drains which then had termination in the Back Bay. To protect 
the low land and cellars from inundation, it was necessary to build 
the sewer with self acting tide gates. These gates were worked 
to stem the tide twice each day. The rest of the time the sewer 
was used as a cesspool or reservoir where the drainage was 
retained until the falling of the tide. 

More accurately, human excretion used for fertilizing. 


The increased use of the rapidly expanding sewer system, 
however, poised a problem. The drainage from the high, y:'"" 
of the City was being run through the mains in the lower section, 
thus it was ending up in the Dover Street Main which was not 
large enough to hold it when the tide gate was shut. As a 
consequence, the sewer frequently filled up and flooded basements 
and cellars. To alleviate the problem, several weirs were built 
to cause the water to drain into the empty basin (Back Bay) 
during high tide. 

The solution, unfortunately for the Superintendent at 
least, proved to be only temporary. As the Back Bay was being 
filled in to re-claim land for the City's expansion, the weirs 
had to be continually extended ^nd eventually all were closed 
save one. The City Engineer's solution was to recommend the 
immediate construction of a large main sewer to commence at the 
Channel in the South Bay, and to extend to Dedham Street to 
connect to the main sewer now laid in Tremont, thereby diverting 
all the drainage south of Dedham Street from passing through to 
Dover Street Main. The proposed sewer would be about 2,600 feet 
long in the last section across South Bay lands about 1,000 feet 
to be built of lumber six feet square and placed on stilts to support 
it. That section would be available for the drainage of South 
Bay lands were they to be built on. A second section from 
Tremont Street to Harrison Avenue, being in original land, could 
be built of brick laid in cement of a circular shape six feet 
in diameter or an internal area of about twenty-eight feet. The 


third and last section would include the building of a gate 
chamber with its tidal gates, and the required alteration of 
the sewer at Harrison Avenue at its junction with Tremont 
Street. The Superintendent further suggested that the continuing 
complaints of nuisances in vacant lots and abandoned buildings 
would not be cured until the City required owners to build their 
houses at sufficient height to allow for proper drainage. 

In January of 1860, the Board of Alderman passed an 
ordinance requiring an annual report from the Superintendent 
of Sewers, the first to be submitted no later than April 30, 1860 
for the year 1859. The Superintendent reported that his appropria- 
tion for that year was $35,000 and that he had expended from May 1 
to December 31, $39,398.18 and had income of $15,279.62 of which 
$4,408.62 was from sewer assessments. 

There had been built 24 new sewers in Boston proper and 
fourteen in South Boston. Three land depots had been built in 
the developing South End of the City. The amount of pipe in the 
City proper was 8,275.5 feet and 8,856.5 in South Boston with 
1,087 feet laid in East Boston and 2,130 for the Public Land 

Of the total number of feet laid, 3,214 was to replace 
old pipes. The dimensions of the pipes ran from 12 inches wide 
by 16 inches high, to four feet by five feet; shapes from 
rectangular to square and material from timber to brick masonery. 
The major construction was a new sewer in Prince and Causeway 
Streets, and the diverting of a great part of the sewage of the 
District between Charter, Hanover, Charlestown and Medford 


Streets, to discharge under the Charlestown Bridge. 

The Superintendent pointed out the constant problems he 
was having with the continuing filling of the Back Bay by the 
Boston Water Power Company (despite its name, a real estate 
development company) . Since the Company was now ready to fill 
in the Bay between the Boston and Providence Railroad and the 
Worcester Railroad (between the lower ends of Fayette and 
Providence Street) and several sewers which drained into that 
part of the Bay took the drainage from a section bounded by 
Church, Treraont , Providence Streets and the water, a new route 
would have to be found. The choices were two, he reported. 
The sewers could be extended through the filled in land, or 
the drainage could be diverted into the Church Street Sewer. 

The streets in question were on such a low grade that they 
could not be drained into the Church Street sewer unless the 
grade was raised, a proposition the Superintendent and his 
successors were to advance for many years in other sections of 
the City. If he were to extend the sewers, he would wish to 
build suitable steam pumps and a building to pump out the water 
which would accumulate while the water was trapped by the closed 
tidal gates at high tide, and discharge the drainage directly into 
the Charles River. Or else put a covered basin near the outlets 
of sufficient capacity to receive the surplus drainage from the 
sewers during high water and retain it to the fall of the tide. 


The Superintendent posed this question regarding the 
building of sewers by the Water & Power Company in their reclaimed 
but still vacant land. "If the sewer being built on private 
streets which now drain into the Bay, who is to assume the expense 
of placing buildings and land in proper condition from drainage?" 

Superintendent Simeon B. Smith then turned to a problem he 
knew to be growing and over which he felt much apprehension. 
"Within a few years, since the introduction of the Cochituate 
Water, there has been a considerable change in the substances 
introduced into the sewers from the universal use of water cabinets, 
and the carelessness of the inhabitants in neglecting to keep 
their drains and cesspools in order, and permitting filth and 
subject of improper nature to enter them. The manner of disposing 
of the night soil through the sewers and discharging the same upon 
the border of the City and its affect on the health and character 
of the residents and the formation of deposit in the Harbor, Docks 
and Sewers, have been slightly considered in other reports, but no 

practical result has followed, nor has the question received that 


attention from the Community which it demands. " 

As in the plea for water, nothing would be done for years 
about the problem until the Harber and River were almost irrever- 
sibly polluted. 

Smith suggested an idea to solve the problem that was then 
being entertained in Europe. To separate the night soil from 
ordinary house drainage, retaining the solid mass upon the premises 

Boston City Document No. 11-1860 


of the occupant in suitable tanks, causing it to be deodorized, removed 
periodically, and finally sold for agriculture purposes. He 
wanted a State Conmiission set up to investigate the problems and 
potential solutions of this method of disposing with human waste. 

In subsequent reports, the Superintendent observed that the 
triparize (triparte) agreement among the City, the Commonwealth 
and the Water Power Company called for the sewers of each street 
in the filled-in Bay to drain into one main which would discharge 
sewage directly into the Charles. He very much objected to this, 
feeling that such a volume could not be absorbed by the River 
at one location. Better, he said, to have a sewer at every other 
street discharge into the River, so that the reduced amount could 
be carried to the middle of the stream and then out to sea on the 
falling tides. 

The remaining years of the 1860 's were taken up with the 
acquisition of drainage rights in the new sections of the City, 
the constant replacing of old wooden pipes, and of man hole covers 
(some were still made of oak) . The City could hardly keep up 
with the demand for new sewers and the growth of the City often 
depended on how much time it took it to satisfy the appetite for 
more and more of them. Buildings were continuing to be constructed 
at too low a grade and consequently cellars flooded at severe 
high tide. The problem was particularly acute in the area running 
from Copley Square to Shawmut Avenue. The Superintendent insisted 
that he license those mechanics who were going to build the sewers, 
since once built, they became the responsibilty of the City and 
poor construction caused many a headache. 


There still was not unity among the three parties to the 
building on the Back Bay as to one large or several smaller 
sewers and the Superintendent urged a Commission to study the 
subject. He was constantly over his appropriation and just as 
constantly going and receiving additional funds from the Finance 
Committee of the Council. 

The City's death rate, theretofore exemplary, beaan to 
climb and the physicians attributed it to the horrid e f fluent 
being dumped into the harbor and rivers, or not being disposed 
of at all. Yet the flow of raw sewage continued, indeed increased, 
When Atlantic Avenue was constructed, contradicting his previous 
insistence that several and not one sewer discharge into the 
less fragile Charles, Smith built one large one to take all the 
drainage from the area on the theory that it was better to make 
but one area of the harbor putrid instead of many. 

The flats of the Charles River Basin were fast becoming 
an open cesspool and on summer nights when the wind was in the 
right direction, and of the proper strength, and the tide low, 
a stink enveloped a large portion of the City. Several leaders 
attributed the increasing defection to the Suburbs to it. The 
drainage situation in the South End contributed to the problem. 
The land naturally sloped toward the Back Bay, or empty basin, 
which was not always empty. But the water level was kept at 
three feet so that the waste from the mills, as well as the 
sewage from the district could empty into it. The City, which 


owned much of the land in the South End, began to sell it off 
in 1845. As the land became occupied with homes, supplied with 
Cochituate Water and water-closets, the heretofore relative 
innocuous waste became stagnant filth. 

In 1850-51, a large sewer was built running the whole 
length of Tremont Street to intercept the outlets of the cross 
sewers in the South End and run the drainage down Dover Street to 
the South Bay. This sewer was intentionally built very low so 
that it might discharge into the Bay during low water. A tide 
gate prevented the water from flowing back into cellars. But 
when the tide was abnormally high during storms, the system was 
designed to take the water the sewer could not hold and discharge 
it into the Back Bay. The filling of the Bay, however, eliminated 
all of these overflows and even a waste weir built to the Bay did 
not help since it, in consequence of the building, was now too 
lengthy to be effective. There were 1,14 2 cellars between five 
and ten feet above the low water mark which would be flooded in 
the event of a very high tide . 

The Committee of Aldermen who considered the problem in 
1868 dismissed the idea of building a large new sewer to take 
this overflow and hold it until the tide was low as too expensive. 
They also ruled out the idea of pumping the excess water to a level 
above the high tide, being -weary, as were the planners of the 
Water Works, of the dependency on such a method. They finally 
concluded that the cellars could be kept dry by removing any 
connection in them to the sewer system and by boxing them. They 


also recommended that the territory between Dover Street and the 
Albany Railroad should be raised to a sufficiently high level to 
drain independently to South Bay by a separate system of sewers, 
and leave the rest of the area the full use of the large sewer 
in Tremont Street and the other in Dover. 

As far as the identical problem, buildings on low grade, 
in the Church Street area, a Commission was formed and authorized 
to spend not more than $650,000 to raise the buildings and grade 
of the territory. 

By 1873, the Superintendent of Sewers was able to report 
that the City had 123 miles of sewers in its system. In his 
1872 annual report, the Superintendent, W.H. Bradley, addressed 
two questions. The first, was the discharge of sewage into the 
River and Harbor shoaling- these waters as some, concerned with 
navigation, maintained it was, and secondly, could not the sewage 
be used for fertilization, thereby eliminating the discharge into 
the waters entirely? 

To the first, the Superintendent deferred to the reports of 
the Harbor Commissioners and of the U.S. Engineers. Neither had, 
nor could they, find any evidence that the shoaling was a result 
of the discharge of sewage. Indeed, the Superintendent maintained, 
"large spits have been made by ashing from the islands, and shoals 
have formed in Charles River by deposits from its currents, and 
by obstructions of bridges, but hardly a trace of sewage matter is 
ever deposited beyond the ends of the wharves, or can be found in 
the Harbor. "■'■ 

Boston City Document No. 92-1872, 


To the second question, the Superintendent replied that no 
effective way had yet been found to separate the beneficial matter 
for the sewage from that which wasn't. That in order to have a 
sewage farm, most of the water had to be removed and since Boston's 
sewage was heavily water (the City's water consumption had reached 
twice the per capita use of London) the cost of removing it would 
be prohibitive. 

The Great Stoney Brook which ran through a large part of the 
City was being used by some as an open sewer and the City was 
forced to proceed to cover parts of it over creating a conduit. 

The Sewer System of the City of Boston first growing hap- 
hazardly, then forced to catch up to the effects of the Cochituate 
Water, the Water Closet, the multitudes of immigrants, the annexa- 
tion of Roxbury, Brighton and Dorchester, and the wrenching from 
the sea of great acres of made land, had never the time for forward 
planning or thoughtful consideration. Now on September 16, 1872, 
the Committee on Back Bay Drainage submitted a thoughtful and 
forward looking report to the Board of Aldermen. 

Some sections of the City were by now very thickly settled. 
Ward 3 had a population of 268 to the acre. But Dorchester had 
only 3 and West Roxbury 1 and one-fifth. It was to this area. 
West Roxbury, Dorchester and Brighton, that the City would have 
to look to to house its expansion. The Committee turned its 
particular attention to the West Roxbury and Brighton Districts, 
an area larger in size then the City proper. The Brooks emptying 


into the Muddy River drained an area of about 2,600 acres, one 
larger brook draining the territory as far as Chestnut Hill and 
the smaller draining the territory as far as Jamaica Pond. The 
Muddy drained into what was at the time a part of the Charles 
River Basin, but which was to be filled in. 

If the section then termed the City's suburb was to be 
developed, the drainage of the Muddy River had to be conveyed 
through sewers as would the human sewage. The Committee thought 
that a bad idea. The grade of Boston and Albany Railroad practi- 
cally determined the grade at v;hich such sewers would have to enter 
the basin, as the reconstruction of numerous bridges for street 
crossing would make the raising of the grade of this railroad 
very expensive. (The law required that there be a distance of 
18 feet between the track and the bottom of bridges.). The grade 
of the sewer would be effective only at low tide and the system 
would face the same problem it did in the South End and Back Bay. 
Besides, the Committee pointed out, that the discharge of water 
(if two sewers - one for rainfall and one for human sewage were 
to be constructed) into the Basin might be beneficial for the 
River, it was already taking a great amount of human sewage, not 
only from Boson, but Newton and Watertown and Waltham. Better 
they reasoned, to take the drainage to Dorchester Bay and discharge 
it, not in the Bay, but into the channel of the Neponset River, 
between the Bay and Commercial Point, where it would be subjected 
to the action of both the tidal currents and also the scour of 
the Neponset R. iver. 


The Coimnittee pointed out in its concluding paragraph, 
that this drainage system would be provided, by necessity, to 
adjoining towns over which it had no jurisdiction. It suggested 
that the City and its neighbors join in dividing these drainage 
areas into suitable districts, or "by which control, so far as 
the mutual interests of the city and of the towns, which relation 
to streets, water supply and sewerage, should be placed under 
commissioners having full power to devise and carry out such schemes 
as would be advantageous to the parties at interest." (The 
suggestion, put forth by Assistant City Engineer Henry M. Wightman, 
was to come to fruition some seventeen years later with the legisla- 
tive creation of the Metropolitan Sewer District.). 

^Boston City Document No. 92-1872. 


Chapter XI 

Many, beside the prominent physicians of the City, 
continued to feel that the raw sewerage being discharged into 
the harbor and which gave off such unpleasant odors at low tide, 
was harmful to the health of the City's inhabitants. To alay 
(or confirm) their fears, the Committee on Sewers was requested 
in 1873 to investigate the existing condition of the City's 
sewers and to ascertain if any improvements were necessary for 
the preservation of the public health. They were the wrong ones 
to ask. 

Starting their report rather grandly, they said, "It is 
generally conceded that the rapid removal of decaying matter 
from the habitations is part of the necessary machinery and forms 
one of the conditions of life in large cities, and no doubt has 
a marked influence on the preservation of public health; but so 
varied are the conditions of life and so many the influences that 
should be eliminated before a comparision could be made, that no 
estimate in figures of the relations of sewerage to human life has 
ever been given." 

Conceeding to themselves that "there can be no question 

as to the perfect means enjoyed by our citizens in the collection 

and removal of sewage" they turned to the method of its disposal. 

Dismissing the complaints of those who claimed that the City had no 

sewerage system at all or a bad system or no comprehensive plan, 

they declared that the City's system of drainage was as perfect, 

but not as complicated as that of any other City. They noted that 

Boston City Document No. 94. 1873- 


without any long lines composed of huge sewers or pumping works or 
flushing apparatus, the removal of the sewage from house to ebbing 
tide was rapid and complete; and "that is a perfect system." 

They stated that the awful odor eminating from the Charles 
River Basin was not caused by sewage, but by stagnent water on 
the exposed mud banks, a condition caused by the filling in of 
the Back Bay by the Water Power Company. Indeed, when fresh 
water was allowed to run in, the odors disappeared. To those 
who claimed that the large amount of waste being drained into the 
Charles was forming shoals and enormous mud banks in its chanel 
and the river would soon be as the Thames is in London, they 
haughtily replied that although Boston would some day rival London 
in size and population, the analogy ended there. 

As for the Stoney Brook, which was by then the receptacle 
of the drainage from most of the breweries and factories of 
Roxbury, and which at Parker Street drained into the flats of 
the full basin, that basin is the property of the Boston VJater 
Power Company which is rapidly filling it in. The gravel filling 
has kept so far ahead of house construction, that the residents 
of the new area hardly smell anything at all. Faultless themselves, 
they could nevertheless find some fault with the Street Commissioners. 
It was imperative, they pointed out, that when streets are laid 
in new territory, that the avenues should be laid out along the 
valleys of the various water sheds, in order that the main sewers 
of those valleys may be most advantageously located and constructed. 



They have been embarassed t>y the necessity of taking land 
solely for sewer purposes (at a considerable expense) rather 
than wait in vain the action of the Street Commissioners. 

The Committee on Sewers was equally displeased with the 
Water Board. Why, they demanded to know, did the Water Board 
insist on supplying a copious amount of Cochituate water to 
new households in the City's suburban limits, before they got 
there with the sewers? The soil in these areas was such that 
it could absorb the amount of well water used, but when the 
water pipes arrived, water usage surged, quickly saturating the 
soil, creating the uncomfortable and unhealthy condition of 
waste water without drainage. 

It is not recorded as to whether or not the Water Board 
was intimidated, but the Board of Health was certainly not. 

In a report to the Honorable City Council of December 17, 
1874, they called the attention of that body to the conditions 
of the old Roxbury Canal, crossing under Albany Street; to the 
Stoney Brook Sewer, discharging upon the Back Bay flats; and the 
Muddy Brook Sewer, between Brookline Avenue and Downer St. 

The tide in the canal was sluggish they pointed out, and 
the discharge of three or four sewers into it, leaves shallow 
water at low tide "through which the foul gases from the putrid 
bottom can be seen bubbling into the atmosphere." It is so 
bad, they stated, that in the streets around there, there is a 

City of Boston Document No. 18. 


daily average of 230 patients who require pure air. They 
found equal nuisances at the other two points of discharge. 

The Board of Health had no doubt that the prevalent 
summer diseases of the City were largely influenced by that 
poisoned atmosphere. If the sewage could not be retained and 
used but had to be discharged into the water and lost, it 
would be best, in the opinion of the Board, that large main 
sewers should be built to carry the sewage out to sea. As 
for which came first, the water or sewer pipe, they regretted 
that water pipes had preceded the laying of sewers, but they 
thought it fair to say that the supply of pure water had 
become a necessity and the people would have suffered without 

In 1874, Superintendent Bradley was able to report that 
his department had laid seven and three-quarter miles of sewer, 
some of brick, some of pipe (iron,- scotch and Arron) and some 
still of wood. They ranged in size from nine inches, to 78 by 
72 inches. He had expended $232,832.63 and collected $105,794.71 

The Town o£ Charlestown had been getting its water from 
the Mystic Pond and after its annexation to Boston, the 
responsibility for that supply fell on the Boston Water Works. 
By now the streams discharging into the Pond were becoming 
polluted by the disposal of waste from factories and sewers. 
The City 


wanted to build a sewer to divert these waters and preserve the 
purity of the Pond. The sewer would start in Woburn, "run in a 
south-easterly direction through VJinchester and into Medford 
and be discharged in the lower Mystic Pond, thus by passing 
the water supply. 

The concern of the Board of Health was more convincing 
to the City Council than the assurances of the Sewer Conunissioners, 
On February 23, 1875, the Board of Aldermen authorized the 
Mayor to appoint three civil engineers to report on the sewage 
of the City, The order was later amended to allow him, if he 
felt it expedient, to appoint two engineers and one person 
skilled in the subject of sanitary sciences. 

As was the case with the investigations into a supply of 
pure water. Mayor Cobb (a quite popular man having been elected 
to office 19,191 votes to 568 for his opponent in 1873 and 
re-elected 16,874 to 835 in 1874) found three men of great 
distinction to study the matter, E.S. Chesbrough, C.E.; Moses 
Lane, C.E.; and Charles F. Folsom, M.D. 

Ellis Sylvester Chesbrough had little school education 
before he was fifteen. He started work as an axe man on a 
surveying crew and ended as acting chief engineer of the 
Cinncinnati and Charleston Railroad. After trying farming for 
two years, he returned to Engineering on the construction of 
The Boston ^^^ Providence Railroad, and then became Chief 
Engineer of the Western Section (Cochituate to Brookline) of 
the Boston Water Works . 


In 1849 he was named sole Water Commissioner for the 
new Works and in 1855 became the City's chief engineer. But 
it was in Chicago where he accomplished the work for which 
he would be best remembered. 

When he arrived in 1855, Chicago was a filth sodden town. 
Chesbrough raised the grade of the entire Town so that its 
sewage could be drained into Lake Michigan. He laid out the 
Chicago Sewer System, making it the first city in America to be 
systematically sewered. (The amount of filth carried into the 
Lake was so great as to endanger the purity of the water which 
was the City's supply. Chesbrough tunnelled two miles under the 
bed of the lake for a pure supply.). He also tunnelled under 
the Chicago River so that the traffic across it would not 
obstruct the navigation so necessary to the City's life. He was 
involved in every project so vital to that City at that stage 
of its existence. 

Moses Lane was graduated C.E. from the University of Vermont 
in 1845. He spent most of the next years teaching, but was 
called by James P. Kirkwood, the chief engineer of the Brooklyn 
Water Works in 1856 to be his principal assistant. Joining 
Chesbrough in general engineering practice, he prepared plans 
for the water supply of Pittsburgh. In 1871 he was appointed Chief 
Engineer of the Milwaukee Water Works which he designed and 
constructed. He was called to Memphis, Tenn. to correct that 
city's drainage after yellow fever epidemic and constructed the 
water works of New Orleans and Kansas City. 


Charles Follen Folsom, M.D. was educated in the classical 
tradition and after graduating from Harvard in 1862, taught in 
Port Royal, S.C. for the Anti Slavery Society which later 
became the Freedman's Bureau. He decided to enter the medical 
profession and graduated from Harvard Medical School in 1870. 
(His studies were interrupted due to travel and ill health) . 
Almost immediately he made a specialty of hygiene and mental 
disease , serving for a time at the famous McLean Assylum. 
Folsom lectured on mental diseases at Harvard Medical during 
1879-82, and was an assistant professor there from 1882 to 1885. 

He was equally accomplished in the two specialties of his 
practice, hygiene and mental health, and held a foremost place among 
the prominent New England practitioners. He was for eight years 
secretary to the Massachusetts State Board of Mental Health, and 
was a member of the first Metropolitan Sewer Commission. Folsom 
was an overseer of Harvard University from 1891 to 1903; a 
fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of many 
other professional and learned societies. Folsom was a busy 
suthor, writing many papers and pamphlets dealing with hygiene, 
public health and mental diseases in clear, concise and convincing 

The Commissioners started their book size report with 
dismissing out of hand any thought that the death rate of the 
city and its diseases were not caused by its poor systems cf 
sewage. Noting that while ,when the city was about seven hundred 
acres, the drainage posed no problem because it was so much 
diluted in a vast volume of water, the growth of the City 


in various directions and on reclaimed land necessitated the 
extension of a plan which is no longer suited to the needs of 
the City. The filling of the old Mill Pond made it necessary 
to extend the sewers in that district to the canal and when 
that was closed, the sewers were intercepted by a main which 
now discharges on both sides of the City. The outlets are higher 
than the central point of the sewer in Haymarket Square causing 
disruption in that whole drainage area. 

The South Bay district contained so many old covered 
wharves, the Commissioners noted, that the tide actually ebbs 
and flows in some parts of it; when the odors from the sewage 
discharged in the closed basin formed by the Mill Dam and the 
Cross Dam became too offensive, the sewer was extended to the 
Charles River to keep it flushed and clean and the sewers had to be 
discharged on the south side of the city into South Bay, causing 
flooding in cellars during storms at high tide. Summing up that 
part of the report, the Commissioners pointed out that the City 
had now many acres of filled in flat land and as quickly as it 
was created, it just as quickly caused a problem of drainage, 
a problem which many Cities had had from the beginning. 

As to the condition of the sewers themselves, while the 
modern ones were constructed of good material and well built, 
there was no pattern to them, often they were built in response 
to an emergency. There were, in the City proper, thirty-two 
independent sewer districts, the principle sewers of which were 
built in different years, often widely apart and discharging into 
separate outlets. 


Directly under the manholes of the sewers (of which they 
noted there were enough to properly inspect the sewers) was a 
catch basin put there to prevent deposits that might obstruct 
the sewer. They can never be properly cleaned, the Commissioners 
said, and continually collect sewerage resulting in literally 
open mouthed cess pools. A system which would allow the sewage 
to be rapidly discharged would eliminate the necessity for them. 

The Commissioners objected to the tide gate sewers of 
which the City had many since they were out of operation one half 
of the day. During the time that they were closed by the tide 
the sewage entering them built up leaving a slime on the sides 
of the pipes. At the time of the build up, noxious gases also 
built up and could be discharged from household faucets, 
expecially if heavy rain accompanied the high tide. 

Some of the fault, they wished to add, was not that of the 
City's sewer system, but of house drains and cess pools and 
privies. Cess pools and privies might still be necessary in 
some parts of the City and when built with cement walls and 
properly cleaned (by the pneumatic method) are not harmful. 
But if not properly built or cleaned, or filled in when they are 
no longer needed, they are a danger. As for house drains, they 
are sometimes made of pervious or ill-joined material allowing 
contamination of the soil and afterward of the air. If they 
are made of lead pipe, they often corrode and finally become 
perforated, allowing the discharge of sewer gases. 


As to the filled in land, that of the old Mill Pond and 
the South Cove and large portions of the area between Dover and 
Northampton streets is of material not suited for building on. 
It is porous and allows water to percolate through rendering 
at least all the basement unfit for dwelling. While the Back 
Bay proper was filled with the best material possible, and the 
water level in the soil is uniform, the water, nevertheless, 
is too near the surface, creating serious faults of drainage. 

There appear, the Commissioners noted, only two methods 
open to the City to alleviate its problem. One, raise more 
than one-half the superficial area of the City proper, which 
would be prohibitively expensive and the second, a system of 
intercepting sewers and pumping. Before going into their plan 
in detail, they proceeded to look at the final disposal of the 
sewage and the positions of the sewer outlets. 

Neither precipitation of the solid parts with a view to 
using them as manure or disposal by irrigation seemed the way 
to the Commissioners. The method the Commission recommended 
was that used by all cities near a great body of water. Carrying 
the sewage out so far that its point of discharge will be remote 
from dwellings and beyond the possibility of doing harm. Sounding 
like previous commissioners in previous reports about another 
problem, they said "The work will require a large sum of money, 
but no larger than has been expended by other cities for the 
same purpose; only two-thirds as much as the City of Frankfort 
on the Main has lately appropriated for their sewers, and a small sum 
when we consider the benefits which will come from it." 

City Document No. 1875. 


As to the place of disposal of the sewage, (At this 
juncture of the report, it becomes clear that the three 
CoiTunissioners were not making a report on the sewage of Boston 
alone, but of the Metropolitan District. It would do no good 
if Boston strived to keep the sewage out of the Charles River 
or far from the shore of Massachusetts Bay if other Towns were 
still dumping in the River and into the Harbor ) , placing 
floats at six different places and following them as long and 
as best they could, would help determine the spot where the 
sewers should be discharged. 

If the discharge was to be from Commercial Point, City 
Point or the Charles River below East Boston Bridge, sewage would 
be in large quantities even if discharged on the ebb tide, so it 
would return in considerable quantity by the next flood. 

As far as discharging from Moon or Castle Island, if the 
discharge were done on the flood, the sewage would be deposited 
to a considerable degree on the flats of the Charles and Mystic 
Rivers or the Dorchester Bay and Quincy Bay flats, but if discharged 
at and immediately after high tide, it would generally go as far as 
Bell Buoy or Boston Light, with a certainty of not being a source 
of nuisance by the returning tide. The discharge there would be 
for the Cities lying south of Boston, 

As far as the cities lying north of the Charles River, the 
only place that the sewage would be carried from the northern 
outlet out to sea by a rapid current was Shirley gut. 


As far as the intercepting sewer was concerned, it would 
discharge all the sewage from that part of Boston situated between 
the Charles and Neponset at the North End of Moon Island. The 
main intercepting sewer would be located in nearly a direct line 
from Cottage Farm Station to the Neponset River near Savin Hill, 
to cross the river by a siphon, then to a sewer to be built 
along Sguantum Beach and across Squantum Point to the end of 
Moon Island. 

The grade of the sewer at Cottage Fai™ Station would be 
one foot below low tide, and the fall to Moon Island, twenty- 
five inches per mile. The sewer would be circular, nine feet 
in diameter until it reached Albany Street, nine feet by eleven 
(equal to a circle ten feet in diameter) from there to the 
pumping station and from the pumping station to the outlet at 
Moon Island, at first ten feet by twelve (equal to a circle of 
eleven feet in diameter) and finally twelve feet by thirteen 
thus enlarging the storage capacity of the outfall sewer. 

The siphon under the Neponset would be six feet in 
diameter and fifteen hundred feet long. While it was proposed 
to build it of wrought iron, properly protected from salt water, 
further surveys and borings might show that it would be more 
permanent and less expensive to build a brick tunnel laid in 
Portland cement with iron ribs to strengthen the masonary. 
Chambers would be placed in each end of the siphon for connecting 
a second one if ever needed. At the outlet of Moon Island there 
would be a reservoir to hold twenty-five million gallons, somewhat 
more than the usual amount of sewage discharged in twenty four 


hours. The discharge would take place at each tide for two 
or three hours after high water. 

They proposed to erect at the pumping stations three 
engines of 14 5 horse-power each. A very liberal provision 
for the present, but in view of the free use of water after 
the completion of the Sudbury aqueduct, it was thought best 
to do it that way. The sewer would drain all the City lying 
between it and the Charles; and all that part of the City between 
south of the new sewer below grade forty. It will be 
large enough to drain twenty square miles and to take the sewage 
of a population of 750,000. 

The size of the outfall sewer would be sufficient to carry 
the sewage from a population of one million and also one-fourth 
of an inch rainfall per day. It would have a capacity of over 
two hundred and eighty million gallons a day. (All this was 
based on the assumption that the amount of sewage was seventy- 
five gallons per day per inhabitant.) 

The Commissioners also wanted it understood that the 
natural water courses in Dorchester, Roxbury and Brookline were 
to be kept open, especially Stoney Brook and Muddy Brook, and 
free from sewage and their chanels straightened. It would be 
impossible, the Commissioners thought, to build a sewer large 
enough at reasonable cost to carry off those waters in case of 
storm. The recommended that the sewers be flushed periodically 
as was now done with the sewers of European cities. 


The cost of the sewers recommended for the south side of the Oiarles 
River would be $3,746,500. and for those of the district north 
of the Charles, $2,804,564. 

(There was an immediate remonstrance to the plan by twenty- 
eight citizens. They objected to the cost, questioned the need, 
and doubted the pumping station) . 

On June 12th, the Joint Special Committee on a System of 
Improved Sewage for the City of Boston reported its response to 
the Commissioners recommendations. A serious mistake was made 
it conceded, by fixing at too low a grade those portions of the 
City whcih had been reclaimed from the sea. Since the sewage 
had for so long been discharged into the basin (Back Bay) and 
the grade of much of the Town has been geared to that, the 
filling in of the basin had resulted in the grade of some of the 
City being too low. The problem had been rectified in the ter- 
ritory of the Church, Suffolk and Northampton districts at the 
cost of several million dollars. The nuisance had not been 
abated however, but only transferred to some other parts of the 
City, the drainage going through tide-locked sewers which emptied 
at some different points along the waterfront, frequently depos- 
iting the sewage on the flats at low water, causing an intolerable 
stench . 

Pointing out that the drainage was discharged at 100 points 
along the waterfront, sometimes at low tide where it would settle 
on the mud and sometimes at flood tide where it often washed back 
in, the Committee reminded its readers that the sewage had so built 
up in the Roxbury Canal that it became necessary to dredge there. 
That the stench and nozious gases 


eminating from the sewage were a source of ill health, they 
had no doubt. They traced the course of the proposed inter- 
cepting sewer on the north from its start in Cambridge at the north 
end of the approach to Brookline bridge, through Waver ly Street to the 
Boston & Albany Branch Railroad, to Charles town, thence to 
Cambridge and Alford streets to the Mystic River, crossing both 
the Mystic River and the Chelsea Creek by a siphon to Breed's 
Island and across the island along the northerly foot of Breed's 
Hill and another siphon across the inlet to Winthrop and finally 
to an outlet at Point Shirley. 

The plan, they said was bold and expensive, but boldness was 
needed and the more than $3,000,000 that it would cost was not toQ 
much to pay for the relieving of such a danger to the health and 
welfare of the City and its inhabitants. They recommended the 
adoption of the plan of Chesbrough, Folsom and Lane. 

On July 12, 1877 the City Council passed an order authorizing 
the City Treasurer to borrow the sum of three million seven hundred 
and twelve thousand dollars. The plans for the improved sewer 
system had been drawn by the City Engineer, Joseph P. Davis and 
the necessary authority obtained from the Massachusetts Legisla- 
ture in Chapter 136 of the Acts of 1876. But the City Engineer 
took liberty to change some of the Commission's plans, and to 
consequently to increase the scope and cost of the project. 

Engineer Davis declaring it did not seem in variance 
with the spirit of the Commissioners 'report, considered four 
points for the discharge of the drainage; Spectacle Island, 
Thompson's Island, Castle Island and Moon Island. Because he 


was wary of where the sewage would end up and distrusted the 
topography, he ruled out Spectacle. Neither did he and the 
Joint Committee think Thompson's Island was a favorable place 
for discharge. 

As far as Castle Island was concerned Davis felt that 
permission to use that land, which was owned by the Federal 
Government and was the first line of defense of Boston Harbor, 
would be too difficult. He therefore settled on Moon Island 
as the point for discharge, declaring it far enough away from 
any present or prospective population, with strong currents 
which would take the discharge safely away. The total cost of 
building the interceptor sewer system would be $3,429,000. 

On July 25, 1877, the Common Council executed the necessary 
documents to take land in Medford, Winchester and Woburn it was 
authorized to acquire by the Legislature for the Mystic Valley Sewer. 
On January 28, 1878 it did likewise for some marsh land in Old 
Harbor Point in Dorchester, from whence the sewer would run out to 
Moon Island. 

The building of the sewer, except for one section in the 
Back Bay was to be let out for contract. There was considerable 
agitation on the part of unemployed men living in the City that 
the contractors were hiring people from outside the City at 
unreasonably low rates of wage, thus depriving them of work 
and forcing down the pay of those who did have work. In response 
to the criticism, the City decided to build section 4 itself, 
using the machinery and expertise it had acquired in building the 
section in the Back Bay. They would use day labor. The building 


proceeded at a good pace- In August of 1879, the City took the 
necessary lands at Squantum in Quincy and Moon Island." 

By 1880 the City had 197.5 miles of sewers, the Superinten- 
dent reported, as he did almost annually, that his appropriations had 
run out and he needed more money. The Ordinance of 1876 governing 
sewers in Boston was amended so that if any owner connected his 
drain to a common sewer from land which had not been assessed, he 
would have to pay two cents a foot up to 125 feet, but when his 
land was assessed, that payment would be deducted from the assess- 

The struggle to unpollute the Mill Pond continued and in 
1883 a new outlet was put into the Charles River to take the 
drainage from what was known as Miller's River to be discharged 
by the Prison Point Bridge in Charlestown. 

Cochituate water had arrived in the sparsely settled 
Dorchester section of the City and had caused, as it had in other 
sections before, a building boom. No drains existed in Dorchester 
and the earth was ill suited for cess pools. If drains were to 
follow the natural flow of Stoney Brook, in whose valley the 
section lay, five miles of pipe would have to be laid to reach 
the nearest sewer, which was in Jamaica Plain. In his annual 
report of 1883, the Superintendent listed the footage of accepted 
streets which had no sewers. The length ranged from 15, 650 in Brighton 
o 262,270 in Dorchester. Because of the variable conditions of the 
streets he could only estimate the cost of laying sewers at $3.50 
per linear foot, of $3 ,300,013. for the 945,435 unsewered streets. 


Up to this point in time, the superintendency of the 
sewers, both building and maintaining, had been held by the 
Board of Aldermen. But ordinance dictated that the charge of 
City Property, and completed sewers had been ruled such by the Supreme 
Judicial Court, was the joint business of the Aldermen and Common 
Council, the City Council, It was decided that the Aldermen would 
remain in charge of the construction and the City Council would have 
jurisdiction over maintenance . The City Council would annually 
vote for a superintendent, who, it was hoped, would be in charge 
of the duties of both construction and maintenance. . 

While the building of the needed system of intercepting 
sewers had accomplished much of what it was hoped it would, there 
was still a great deal to be done in the system. Old wooden sewers 
still existed,, particularly in the North and West Ends and they 
were continually leaking. The wooden flume from Squantum to Moon Island 
was, in the opinion of the Superintendent, the weak point in the 
system. He feared that it was liable to burst at any time and 
cause an enormous nuisance along the shore. He wished to build 
a new conduit in its place. 

The changing political control of the City isapparent in 
the positive response of the Mayor and Alderman and Common Council 
to Superintendent Thomas J. Young's request for more money. The 
order increasing his salary from three thousand five hundred dollars 
to five thousand was signed by Patrick J. Donovan, Chairman of 
the Board of Aldermen, D.F, Barry, President of the Common Council, 
Hugh O'Brien, Mayor and J.H. O'Neil, City Clerk. 


The amount of work done by the Sewer Department in 1886 
and 1887 far surpassed that done in any similar period and as 
the sewers were laid and the water mains built, building was 
sure to follow. In one section of Dorchester, the number of 
houses increased from scarcely a dozen to several hundred 
first class residences after the arrival of the water and the 
sewers. The rapid progress in building sewers, however, created 
problems. The Sewer Department found itself constantly under- 
funded and great pressure was brought on Mayor O'Brien by the 
enterprising builders of the City. The Mayor pointed out to 
the City Council in September of 1887, that there was $862,699 
in the City Treasury for a variety of purposes of which no more 
than $30,000 would likely be called for that year and urged 
some of those funds be transferred to the Sewer Department. 

Pollution continued. Upon the petition of several prominent 
citizens of the Ashmont District, who claimed that the lack of 
proper drainage had contributed to the death of several children, 
the Sewer Department built one and had it empty into the Neponset 
River . 

In January of 1888, Mayor O'Brien received a letter from 
Mr. Francis A. Osborn, Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, 
noting that the Superintendent of Sewers had twelve men in his 
employ who had not been certified by the Commission. In reply 
to the accusation. Superintendent Seth Perkins went to see the 
Commission and convinced them that he must have the men or his 
vital work would be hampered. They reluctantly agreed and told 
him that if he would send his "aids" as he called them by, they 
would certify that they could find no one on the Civil Service 


Rolls qualified for the job that they were doing. Five came 
by and were certified, but when the other seven appeared on 
a subsequent payroll, the Civil Service Commission informed 
the Mayor of the alleged illegality. 

In response, the Superintendent said that he was trying 
to obey both the letter and spirit of the then experimental 
law, and that since the Commissioners could not, to his know- 
ledge, supply the men he needed, he hired twelve young men to 
do such things as take measurements by rod, gauge, or tape, 
keeping accurate records of same, etc. Jobs the laborers on 
the Civil Service list could not do, Perkins maintained. As 
why only five men came by to be certified, the explanation was 
simple, the other seven had completed the task for which they 
were assigned and had been let go. That they were still on the 
payroll book reflected work they had done and not as yet been 
paid for. The Board of Aldermen were satisfied and ordered the 
Civil Service complaint laid on the table. 


Chapter XII 

The time, money and energy spent on the building 'of the 
very successful improved sewerage (Main Drainage Works) , and 
the almost insatiable demand for sewers in the developing 
sections of the City, had led, in the opinion of the Super- 
intendent, to the neglect of many of Boston's old sewers which 
he was sure, decreased efficiency of the whole system. 

In his report submitted to City Council on January 28, 1888, 
he listed the present conditions of the sewers in each district 
of the City and the work that had been done the previous year 
and what was to be done in the future . 

The East Boston area had been furnished with sewers in 
about nine-tenths of its territory, and while these in the 
uplands were in good condition, those in the lower section were 
not. Mostly built of wood, they had sunk and had been badly 
disordered and were constantly filling with silt. They discharged 
directly into the water, making the docks filthy. Since they did 
not have tide gates, the water backed up the sewer when the tide 
came in and often flooded cellars. That problem, he noted, could 
not be entirely obviated, even with a system of low-grade 
intercepting sewers, and he urged that the law that no cellars 
or basements be built below the elevation of high water be strictly 

Two large wooden sewers had been replaced with ones 
substantially built of brick. He felt the plan of the Metro- 
politan Drainage Commission that would have the City build 
intercepting sewers which would convey the sewage to a point 


on the southeasterly end of the Island and pump it to a 
discharge main extending to Bird Island Flats should be 
implemented . 

The situation in Charlestown he found very bad. Most of 
the Sewers, or more properly drains, had been built by private 
parties for their ovm needs, and in many cases no records of 
where they were existed. Those that could be found were never 
meant to be sewers, just drains, and now they were being asked 
to be something they were not. Many were made of brick laid 
dry (without mortar) and the bricks protruded catching all sorts 
of material. These were most difficult to clean, the manholes 
being so far apart (if they existed at all) as to preclude the 
use of rods. 

In 1887, the Superintendent reported, two thousand four 
hundred and sixty five feet of sewers were built. A small 
amount but the construction resulted in two important improve- 
ments. One of the sewers eliminated the discharge under the 
Chelsea Bridge by extending along the Navy Yard wall a distance 
of 830 feet where it could discharge into a current. The sewer 
in Bunker Hill Street was too small to carry the storm water of 
the thirty six acres naturally coming to it and cellars were 
being flooded. A new and larger sewer cured the problem. 

The trouble that each Superintendent had from the Back 
Bay and other filled in land visited this Superintendent also. 
As land was filled, wooden sewers were laid with no precaution 
against settlement. They had settled and many functioned only 
partially and some not at all. These sewers must. Superintendent 


Charles Morton stated, all be replaced. 

The same condition of out of repair wooden sewers obtained 
in South Boston. In Dorchester, the small branch sewers and 
main sewers constructed some years ago in the more populous parts 
of the district were in good order, but the sewers in the portion 
of the district newly developed were too small. The problem lies 
in the lack of planning for future growth. While the sewers were 
large enough when built, the constant adding to them of lines ren- 
dered them too small. One sewer in Commercial Street had a terri- 
tory of 710 acres which would naturally drain into it and that 
large area was increased 760 acres by the construction of a tunnel 
through Centre Stree and over into the Stoney Brook Water shed, to 
take the drainage from land as far as Blue Hill Avenue and Oakland 

Morton predicted that the ultimate development of 
Dorchester will involve the extension of the interupting sewer, 
now built as far as Commercial Point, up the Neponset Valley, to 
intercept the sewage now emptying into the Neponset River, and to 
take care of the upper districts when they shall be supplied with 
sewers. No satisfactory disposal of the sev;age of that part of 
Dorchester, he continued, bordering upon the Neponset River can 
be had until that sewer is built. 

Unlike his dissatisfaction with the sewer system in other 
parts of the City, Morton was most pleased with the conditions in 
Roxbury, commenting that the sewers were well built of either 
brick or pipe and well designed. Attention had been paid to making 


their size correspond with the amount of sewage to be carried. The 
main sewers followed the line of old brooks which had been filled 
up, and the water which had formerly flowed in them was now 
flowing in the sewers. With the exception of extensive changes that 
must be made in the sewers of the Ward Street district because of 
the removal of the main sewer from Parker Street, no new work 
of any importance would be needed for a number of years . The 
number of small sewers ordered to be built by the Board of 
Aldermen, Morton remarked, had not been done owing to lack of 

All sewers in the Brighton area were relatively new, the 
district having no sewers prior to 1878, but they too v/ere 
constructed too small and without regard to the drainage areas. 
The value of land there had increased so much that the owners 
wished to get theirs on the market immediately. To that end 
they planned to fill in all m.arshy areas and constantly asked 
the Superintendent for permission to drain into the sewers. It 
would be impossible to admit the brooks and the consequent storm 
water into any sewer in Brighton constructed prior to this year, 
he maintained. 

As for the future, the outlet sewers which now empty into 
the Charles are intended to be interrupted by the Main Drainage 
sewer for the Charles River Valley and that work should be prose- 
cuted during the present year. 

The Superintendent found West Roxbury, in comparison to 
its size, almost bereft of sewers. There was a main sewer built 
in Washington Street as far as Roslindale, but very few tributary 
sewers had been constructed. Some of the area would not need 


sewers for some time, but others should recieve them soon. 
Morton told of repeated complaints from the Board of Health 
about the lack of sewers at Anawan Avenue, Highland Station, 
Central Station and several other places. But because of lack 
of sufficient appropriation, nothing could be done. To reach 
the districts needing sewage, long lengths of expensive main 
sewers must be built in order to connect with the present main 
sewer . 

The problem of bringing the sewer system to the very large 
area which is West Roxbury, the Superintendent explained, is 
governed by the capacity of the existing sewer on Washington 
Street, which runs up to Kittridge Street, and the future course 
to be pursued in regard to Stoney Brook. It is evident that 
Stoney Brook must always continue to be the great channel for the 
conveyance of storm water in West Roxbury. The money spent on 
the so-called improvements of Stoney Brook from 1880 to 1884, was 
just money thrown away, Morton contended. Not only was the work 
started at the wrong end and the widening and deepening of the 
brook done only in West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain so that a flood 
of water fell down to Roxbury, but no intelligent plans were made 
for Roxbury where several miles of brook are walled in a channel 
much too small. 

After exhaustingly reviewing the options present for 
controlling the flooding that occurs in West Roxbury and Jamaica 
Plain during heavy rain. Superintendent Morton turns his attention 


to the subject of ventilation. The system then existent was 
simply to have holes in the covers of manholes, so that sewer 
gas could escape from them. jf the covers were located in 
front of a dwelling, complaints would surely follow and demand that 
a closed cover be substituted. To the suggestion that the sewer 
be ventilated using the same system as is used for subways, he 
reported that that method had not been tried and proved. The 
assumption of certain data, such as the requisite velocities, 
volume of air needed, co-efficients, etc., has, Morton believed, 
to be made from the data gained in the ventilation of mines with 
certain modifications. 

His own investigations of the matter made him conclude that 
there were only two proper methods of ventilating the sewer system. 
(1) a number of small vents which would be carried above the house 
tops by means of pipe ventilation, or (2) the establishment of a 
ventilating plant at the outlet of a system, as being the only 
point capable of furnishing a single vent for the whole system. 

The first method, while perhaps the best, since it would cause 
more rapid changes in the air in the sewers, would be very expensive. 
The second, not withstanding the fact that it would require considera- 
ble power to reverse the natural flow of the gases, could be operated 
at a comparatively small expense. This method could be readily 
adapted for the Main Drainage Sustem by locating a plant at the Old 
Harbor Point Pumping Station where there are all the appliances for 
the manufacturing of steam present. 


Superintendent Morton concluded his lengthy and detailed 
report with a discussion of a problem which had plagued the system 
since its inception - sewer assessments. 

The method of assessment then in existence was based on 
the size of the sewer being drained into and the actual cost 
of building the sewer, factors, terrain for instance, making 
such cost variable. Mortion objected to it and suggested that 
a uniform rate per square foot of land benefitted, or a 
uniform cost per linear foot of sewer could be established, 
based upon the average cost of sewers already built, which would 
yield and amount equal to the revenue to the City and be more 
equitable and satisfactory to those assessed. 

Morton conceded that the question of assessments was an 
important one and suggested a special committee of the Committee 
on Sewers of the Alderman, the Corporation Council and the Super- 
intendent of Sewers, to take the matter under consideration. 


The water had indeed arrived, but the Boston Water Works 
were far from completed. Upon the shutting down of the project 
for the winter of 1848, the Water Commissioners reported that the 
Reservoirs on Beacon Hill and on Telegraph Hill in South Boston 
had as yet not been completed, the distribution pipes in South 
Boston and in a few streets in the City Proper had not as yet been 
laid, and a large portion of the service pipes in Boston had not 
as yet been done. Still, they hoped that all would be accomplished 
by the close of the coming season, hopefully by the 1st of November, 
1849. The law which created the Water Commission stipulated that 
the service of the Commissioners would terminate three years after 
the Act became effective or upon the completion of the works, which- 
ever came first. It also allowed for extension of that body if the 
works took more than three years. Early in 1849, the Commissioners 
asked and received from the City Council an extension of eight months. 

Although the works were incomplete, the Commissioners and the 
City Government were convinced that the problems of an adequate supply 
of pure, fresh water into the City had been solved for many years 
to come. They could not envision any other result from the long and 
arduous effort. They were wrong. Rather than being an end, even 
one temporary, to the supplying of the City, it was barely a begin- 
ning and the City would struggle for the next forty years in an 
always precarious and sometimes desperate effort to keep up with 
an astounding growth in demand for the water, a combination of 
unprecedented growth in population and scandalous waste. Boston's 
daily per capita use of water would become the highest of any city in 


the world. 

Those who lost the battle to have the city select the source 
they thought best, were, in the end to win. For the sources now 
disregarded, and others, would eventually be tapped. ■ 

The cost of the works now was exceeding even the most pess- , 
imistic estimate o£ those who most feared its economic effect 
on the City. They proposed that the building of the Reservoir on 
Telegraph Hill be postponed so that the debt would grow no further. 
The Commissioners said no, the Reservoir on Beacon Hill, as large 
as it would be, was not large enough to supply the whole City, and 
if a Reservoir was to be built in the old part of Boston, its cost 
would be much greater than on the cheaper land in South Boston. . 

The Commissioners were still having trouble in settling some 
claims for damage on property they had taken by their power of 
eminent domain, and asked the City Council to go to the Legislature 
to get permission to allow them to go, in the case of those who 
would not settle, to the Court of Common Pleas, there to have a 
Commissioner appointed to determine the proper amount of damages. 

So far, they reported, they had spent $3,448,762.85 and est- 
imated the cost of completing the two reservoirs would be $537,212.00. 
As in other sections of the city. East Boston was growing as immigrants 
continued to flood in. By 1849, the population stood at 9,130 - 
1,780 families living in 1,217 houses. Their need for water could 
no longer be ignored. Mr. Chesbrough was asked to determine the 
best route and estimate the cost. He picked several as satisfactory, 
all of which would take the water by iron pipes, supported on 


wooden piers, across the Charles and Mystic rivers and the channel 
between Chelsea and East Boston, His estimation of tlje cost was 
$397,508.02 (because of the necessity of crossing the water, he 
added 201 instead of the usual 10% for contingencies and the cost 
would be held down by the gift of the East Boston Company of an 
acre of land suff icent in height for a reservoir) . The council 
approves an appropriation of $400,000.00, and felt the project 
should go ahead despite the obstacles it faced. 

From its relatively humble conception, the Beacon Hill Reservoir 
was becoming a massive work. It was 199 feet, three inches on Dearne 
Street, 182 feet, 11 inches long on Temple, almost 192 on Hancock 
and stretched over 200 feet on Mt . Vernon. The foundation which would 
support the basin and thus the water was almost finished. Its lateral 
walls which would retain the water would be 12 feet with the face of 
the extension walls on the street. The Reservoir would stand over 15 
feet high and the basin would hold to 2,678,961 wine gallons, and its 
main horizontal section would equal 28.014 square feet. The level on 
the top of the water would be 122% feet above marsh level, or the 
high water mark, and run about 7 inches upon the 20 inches of coping 
at the top, or 14 feet, and 7 inches above the bottom of the basin. 
The minimum level of the Brookline Reservoir would be 2% feet below 
this line. 

Before the end of the year after the water had arrived, the 
Commissioners were able to report that they had laid 75 miles of 
pipes, ranging in size from 4 inches to the 36 inch main from Brookline 
to the City, including 11,483 service pipes laid in Boston, and 


1,005 in South Boston. 10,851 taps had been opened and 1,637 app- 
licants for the water were waiting to have theirs done. -662 fire 
hydrants had been attached to the works in Boston and 88 in South 

The scheme to compensate the owners of the Middlesex Canal 
and the mills along the Concord River for their loss of water as it 
was taken from Cochituate seemed to be working. The two compensation 
reservoirs, White Hall in Hopkinton and Fort Meadow in Marlboro, in 
which surplus water of the winter and spring had been stored, were 
opened in June, and the discharge of water gradually increased as a 
drought worsened, until on July 26th of 1849, it reached a discharge 
of 40 cubic feet per second. 

The East Boston section of the works proved no exception to 
history and the estimate of its cost had to be raised. The Commissioners 
were unhappy about being forced to construct pipes across the water 
but they had no other choice. The reservoir to be built in East 
Boston would hold four days supply, on the assumption that any break in 
the main across the water could be fixed in that time. 

It was becoming obvious to the Joint Standing Committee on 
Water, that the Works, as then planned, would soon be completed 
and they turned to the task of restructuring its management. The 
Committee decided that the creation of a Water Department when the 
service of the Commissioners ended would be the best and most 
economical. They could find no examples of such a department in 
neighboring cities, so they travelled to New York and Philadelphia 
to have a look at theirs. They saw nothing they felt appropriate 


for Boston. In both cities, the income from the water rents and 
other sources were running below the interest on the money borrowed 
to build the works. 

In Philadelphia, the water was at hand, thus the number of 
men required to deliver it was small. New York, however had to 
go forty miles to its water and had a large force in its Water 

The Committee decided on an Ordinance creating the Cochituate 
Water Board, which would be given all the powers of the present 
Water Commissioners. The proposed Board would consist of one 
Water Commissioner, an Engineer and a Water Registrar, who would 
see to the clerical management of the Board. Each of the members 
of the Board would be chosen by the City Council and compensated 
to the extent the Council thought equitable. Their terms would 
run for One year. 

They also appointed a Water Comptroller who was to take charge 
of the collection of the rents, and remit the same weekly to the 
City Treasurer. All others hired by the Water Board, they stipulated, 
must be citizens of the City and their appointment be approved by 
the Council. An order was passed asking how many men, not counting 
laborers, were now in the employ of the Commissioners and what was 
their compensation. Eighteen, the Water Commissioners replied, with 
their salaries ranging from $3,000. for the two Chief Engineers, 
Whitwell and Chesbrough, to $1.00 per day earned by the Lake Gate 
House Keeper. 

The persistency of the Water Commissioners in seeing the Works 

completed through years o£ opposition, delay, frustration and some 

times bitter argument, was in many ways herculean. Water would have 

come to Boston without them of course. Its arrival was inevitable, 

but much is owed to those men, Laommi Baldwin, Nathan Hale, Laommi's 

brother James F. Baldwin, Daniel Tredwell, R.H. Eddy, Thomas B. Curtis. 

Gifted men, many pre-eminent in their own fields, they gave of their 

energy and intelligence and risked their reputations to bring to the 

City they loved so much, that commodity the availability of which was 

now helping to turn Boston into a major City of the World - Water. 

On January 5, 1850, with the Mayor and City Council in attendance, 

the three surviving Water Commissioners, Hale, James Baldwin and 

Curtis, submitted their final report to the Joint Committee on the 

Introduction of a Supply of Pure Water Into the City of Boston. They 

reported to Mayor Bigelow and the Committee that all important work, 

except the completion of the Works to carry the water to East Boston, 

had been finished. There were still, they said, some damage claims 

to be settled and equipment to be sold. 

Ironically, those three foresighted men left the service of the 

City with a statement which would, much sooner than any of them could 

realize, prove totally inaccurate. 

"The amount of water afforded by Cochituate Lake during the 

past year, although a season remarkable for its comparatively small 

quantity of rain and snow, has been sufficient to give the most 

satisfactory assurance, of the abundance of the supply which may be 

relied on from it, for all domestic wants of the City, at any future 

period." The Lake was yielding, including some which was wasted 


completed through years of opposition, delay, frustration and some 

times bitter argument, was in many ways herculean. Water would have 

come to Boston without them of course. Its arrival was inevitable, 

but much is owed to those men, Laommi Baldwin, Nathan Hale, Laommi's 

brother James F. Baldwin, Daniel Tredwell, R.H. Eddy, Thomas B. Curtis. 

Gifted men, many pre-eminent in their own fields, they gave of their 

energy and intelligence and risked their reputations to bring to the 

City they loved so much, that commodity the availability of which was 

now helping to turn Boston into a major City of the World - Water. 

On January 5, 1850, with the Mayor and City Council in attendance, 

the three surviving Water Commissioners, Hale, James Baldwin and 

Curtis, submitted their final report to the Joint Committee on the 

Introduction of a Supply of Pure Water Into the City of Boston. They 

reported to Mayor Bigelow and the Committee that all important work, 

except the completion of the Works to carry the water to East Boston, 

had been finished. There were still, they said, some damage claims 

to be settled and equipment to be sold. 

Ironically, those three foresighted men left the service of the 

City with a statement which would, much sooner than any of them could 

realize, prove totally inaccurate. 

"The amount of water afforded by Cochituate Lake during the 

past year, although a season remarkable for its comparatively small 

quantity of rain and snow, has been sufficient to give the most 

satisfactory assurance, of the abundance of the supply which may be 

relied on from it, for all domestic wants of the City, at any future 

period." The Lake was yielding, including some which was wasted 



into the Concord and Charles Rivers, 10,339,000 gallons on the 
average and who could imagine a need for any greater quality. 

They totaled up their work. 

Over 81 miles o£ pipe in various dimension from 4 inches to 
■ 24 inches . 

13,341 service pipes to houses and places o£ business. 

12,108 taps opened and 1,233 waiting to be opened. 

1,292 feet of one inch pipe of lead laid on the wharves to 

service the shipping in the harbor. 

779 fire hydrants in the City proper, 137 in South Boston. 

The Beacon Hill Reservoir completed and water let in on the 

17th of May (1849). It had been filled by means of a 30 inch 

pipe from the Brookline Reservoir, in the space of 185^ hours, 

and in 21^2 had risen to the height of 4?2 inches on the wasteway 

by which the overflow is discharged into the common sewer. 

The total cost of the works (not including East Boston) was 
$4,039,826. less $41,774. realized from the sale of machinery for 
final cost of $3,998,052. The $4,000,000. cost that Mayor Joshua 
Quincy, Jr. predicted that the project would not come near, was 
just barely missed. 

The Council appointed the men who had been the Chief Engineers 
of the respective Eastern and Western Division of the Works, Chesbrough 
and Whitwell, during its construction to the Cochituate Water Board 
along with J. Avery Richards as the Registrar. Chesbrough would 
be the Commissioner and Whitwell the Chief Engineer. 

In 1850, the City ordered that all persons taking water must 
keep the service pipes within their premises, including any area 


beneath the sidewalk, in good repair and protected from frost at 
their own expense; and further ordered that the water taker would 
be held liable for all damages which resulted from their " failures 
to do so. 

The Overseers of the Poor, petitioned the Water Board for a 
supply of water to the new Alms House built on Deer Island. The 
Chief Engineer calculated that the best route would be from the 
present termination of the six inch pipe in East Boston, across 
the Channel and then to the hill north of the Alms House. 18,000 
feet of the pipe would be constantly wet and therefore would be 
made of wood, which is an almost indestructible construction, he 
pointed out, as long as the wood remains wet. 

Except, one supposes by its Proprietors and those who still 
took water from it, the Jamaica Pond Aqueduct, seemed forgotten, 
The Water Board decided to purchase it, but the City Council objected 
to the agreement on the ground that only that body could enter into 
such actions. The Water Board politely differed, pointing out that 
the Water Act of the Legislature allowed the City Council to delgate 
any of its authority to its agents. The Council had so done with 
the Water Commission and all the powers of that body were subsequently 
given to the Water Board. 

They defended the financial aspect of their impending purchase 
by pointing out the City would receive the revenue now going to 
Jamaica Pond Aqueduct. The whole number of takers from the Aqueduct 
Corporation was about 300 and the average annual water rent, $8.00. 
The Board planned to pay $45,000. for all the property of the 
Corporation (except some land in Boston). Included in the purchase 


would be Jamaica Pond itself, a body of water of about 60 or 70 
acres and containing 116,000,000 gallons of water of a height of 
sixty feet above the tide. 

(The Board already had an offer for the Pond.) The Council, 
after consideration of the Board's plan, agreed that they had 
acted in the best interest of the City but should have informed 
the Council of the negotiations. 

The authorities at the newly opened Charlestown State Prison 
approached the City Government there and asked for permission to 
run water pipes through the City to the prison. Charlestown saw 
this as an opportunity to get some much needed fire hydrants for 
no cost and agreed to let the pipes be laid if hydrants were placed 
along the line. When the prison authorities asked the Water Board 
of Boston to supply it with Cochituate water, the answer was no on 
the grounds that they doubted their authority to supply outside the 
City, The rejection also contained the first hint that the Cochituate 
supply might prove inadequate soon. 

Pointing out that there was sufficient water at Cochituate now 
(679,209,300 gallons), they then stated: 

"It is sufficiently obvious, nevertheless, that the time must 
arrive, and at no very distant date, when, if the consumption of 
water goes on increasing as it has been doing, the whole means of 
supply must be restricted to the City itself." The population of 
Boston they pointed out as of May 1, 1850, had grown to 48,573. 

The Water Board soon discovered that, in the determination to 
get the Works built at the highest possible speed, that the Water 


Commissioners had not created an authentic description of all the 
parts of the Works, and there existed no official statements of 
the mode of construction. To remedy the situation, the Board 
researched one of its own, describing the construction of the Boston 
Water Works in very great detail. 

' The Proprietors of Louisburg Square had been encouraged to 
make improvements around their property. One was to build a 
fountain on their common and to surround the common with an iron 
fence. The owners spent considerable money in doing the work and 
each of them was paying a yearly fee for upkeep. The city 
fathers who had encouraged the improvements were pleased, as was 
the City Assessor who felt the improvements added $2,000. to the 
value of each house on the Square. 

The owners pointing our that one of the improvements they 
had been encouraged to do was the fountain said that they believed 
they had an agreement with the City, that if they laid and connected 
a pipe from the Reservoir, the City would find and lay the introduction 
pipes and grant free use of the Cochituate water, so long as an 
abundant supply should continue. 

The City Council asked the Water Board if they would do it. The 
Water Board replied that, even without considering the expediency of 
the request, it had not the authority to give water away. If, it 
added, the Council felt they had such authority, then they could 
delegate it to the Board. 

By October 1851, the average daily use of water in the City 
had risen to 8,451,259 gallons or more than sixty gallons for each 


individual. This represented an increase since the previous year 
o£ over a million and one half gallons a day and over ten gallons 
for each individual. This had happened without a corresponding 
increase in water tenants. 

There were several reasons, the Water Board believed, for 
such an increase. Some houses as well as individuals in different 
classes were using much more water than anticipated. This included 
hotels where there is a constant flow of water which is not necessary. 
It is not necessary and indeed illegal to keep water in water closets, 
they pointed out. Stables where a hose was allowed used a great 
quantity of water. Perhaps, the Board went on, meter should be 
placed to find out just who is wasting the water, and the rates 
certainly should be kept high to discourage waste. The Board had 
already placed Mr. Huse's meter in distillaries , sugar refineries 
and other places. The Water Board asked the Council to change the 
Ordinance which created it to allow for the placing of meters any- 
where they thought advisable. The Board felt so strongly on the 
subject that they also suggested that malicious waste of water should 
be made a penal offense. 

The Works continued to grow as did the City. On December 23, 
1852, the Committee on finance reported to the City Council that 
they had negotiated a loan with Messrs. Baring, Brother § Co. of 
London in the amount of 400,000 pounds sterling at the rate of 4%%, 
payable in that City twenty years from October 1st. The $1,950,000 
realized from this loan added to previous loans, made the total 
borrowed for the Works $5,187,671.66 and when due and payable, 
including interest, the total expended would be $5,568,587.89, 


minus cash receipts of $185,000,00, 

As the calls made over the years for the introduction of water 
had become more strident as its need grew worse, now the call for the 
elimination of waste grew louder, as the water use soared beyond 
anyone's expectations. 

In his inauguaral address on January 3, 1853, Mayor Benjamin 
Seaver called the City Council's attention to: 

"The reckless, and I regret to say, continually increasing 
wastefulness, in the use of water which seems to prevail almost 

When the water was brought in, he said, an assumption was made 
that 28^2 gallons or at the most 30 would be a sufficient supply for 
each inhabitant. That, it was thought, would be more than adequate 
for all the public, domestic and manufacturing purposes. It was 
also assumed that seven and one half million gallons a day would 
not be needed until a population of 250,000 was reached. Yet the 
use at the time was nearly forty nine gallons to each individual 
of the City. If the waste did not stop, cautioned the Mayor, the 
water would have to be refused to a certain class of taker and the 
City thus deprived of a large portion of its revenue, or another 
main must be laid from Brookline at great expense. 

"Some of the consequences have now been stated," the Mayor 
continued, "and I would earnestly caution the City Council, and 
through it our fellow citizens, and everyone who has the means and 
opportunity of enjoying the blessings which an abundant supply of 
water, at so much cost, has been furnished, that the supply thought 

1. Boston City Document 1-1853 

amply sufficient for all necessary useful purposes, is of course 
limited to those purposes; and that the City's works are entirely 
inadequate to supply long, the present increasing and wasteful 
consumption of it". 

It was not until May 20th, 1851 that the Water Board could 
report the completion of the purchase of the Jamaica Plain Aqueduct 
Corporation, but in the essence all they had purchased was the 
Corporation's works. By that time the doomed Company was down to 
a mere 35 users in the City. The flow of its water was cut off at 
Tremont Street. Those Works represented one of the earliest 
attempts in America to supply water to many users from a central 
source through a system of mains and service pipes. Financially, 
it had its good and poor days and its demise represented the end 
of the ownership of Water Works by private parties. It had managed 
for 56 years to supply fresh and pure water to parts of the Town 
and City of Boston. Its Pond, today as then, a thing of great 
beauty, was eventually to form one of the brightest jewels in 
Frederick Law Olmstead's beautiful emerald necklace through the City. 

The warnings against waste went unheeded, the consumption 
unchecked. By 1853 the average daily per capita use was 55 gallons. 
Again the greatest of any City in the world having Water Works. 
Rates to commercial customers were raised in hopes of stemming the 
growing use and the City Engineer was ordered to attempt to find 
the cause of the waste. 

He went about his assigned task by measuring the use of the 
water in those four hours, midnight to four o'clock in the morning, 
when usage was assumed to be lowest. To his astonishment, the amount 


taken was 885,000 gallons, or a twenty-four hour use of over 5,000,000 
At first he attributed the suprisingly large amount to 1-eaks in the 
systems, but a check proved this not to be the case. He then metered 
large users of water and found that one hotel had a daily consumption 
of 25,539 gallons for 58 days and another 17,441 for 70 days. After 
the meters discovered the large use, it dropped dramatically. 

The overuse of the Works was beginning to affect the level at 
the Beacon Hill Reservoir, making the high service imperfect. At 
times the level of water stood at four and even as low as ten feet 
below the ground level of the Reservoir. What a calamity, the 
Engineer thought, if fire should break out when the head of the 
water was insufficient or when the water was not even attainable. 
It was time, he concluded, that the Council must think of another 
main from the Brookline Reservoir or the use of steam to raise a 
sufficient quantity into the reservoir for the High Service. Unable 
to control the waste, the City was inexorably marching to the point 
where it did not wish to go - finding an additional source of water. 
The Chief Engineer also suggested metering all water and charging 
a water rate in direct proportion to the quantity used. 



Repairs to the Aqueduct were started and concluded .in 1854. 
There was a problem of accretions in the pipes and they had to be 
cleaned out. It was felt by the Water Borad that their rate of 
growth had diminished, but that the precise origin of the build 
up had to be found and, if possible, the means of preventing it 
further pursued. 

In their report of 1855, the Water Board stated that they 
believed the whole length of pipes of four inches and upward, 
now laid, including hydrant branches, had nearly completed the 
whole works within the City, as the streets and populated areas 
of the city then existed, One hundred ten and four-f if iths miles 
of pipe had been laid, 960 stop cocks istalled, 17,999 service 
pipes had been connected to the mains, and 1,210 hydrants built. 
An additional charge of one dollar to dwelling houses and a rate 
of five dollars upon each house where there was a water closet or 
bathing tub was imposed. 

For the first time since it had been selected as the source 
of the City's water supply, a deterioration of the quality of the 
Cochituate water had been detected. The condition was universally 
prevalent and not only a source of much annoyance, but it also 
elicited concern for the welfare of the City. The condition was 
first noticed in October of 1855, To some it consisted of a peculiar 
fish^like taste, to the ma;jority, however, it was the taste of 
cucumber or some similiar vegetable, The taste was sometimes 
accompanied by a disagreeable smell. The Board, at first, assumed 


the problem was in the pipes and had them flushed out but the taste 
got worse not better. It was also observed that the mysterious 
condition disappeared from water that was left standing a few days 
after being drained from the works, 

. As they had more than once before, those concerned with the 
City's water turned to Dr. Horsford of Cambridge for help. He and 
Dr. C.T. Jackson of Boston were appointed to see what they could 
find out. They both concluded, after working independently of 
each other, that the impurity in the Lakes water was caused by the 
decomposition of vegetable matter existing in the Lake, probably 
brought about by the long and severe drought of last summer and 
to the subsequent rains acting on the peculiar soil of a part of 
the Lake and over the whole watershed. They both believed that 
the condition would clear up naturally. 

On April 9, 1855, the Cochituate Water Board declared all 
the Works completed, nine years after the project had begun. All 
that was needed now was maintenance and connecting up of new 
customers. A year later they knew that they had been wrong. The 
daily draw from the Brookline Reservoir had grown to 10,436,300 
wine gallons and the mains from it to the City were insufficient 
for such a supply. On some days demand was so great that head 
dropped as much as ten feet. The next year the Board reported 
that a new dam at the outlet of the Lake and an additional pipe 
of 36 inches laid 985 feet across the Charles River Valley had 
been completed. If the present rate of consumption, 12,726,072 
gallons daily continued, the Board warned the present supply would 


soon be exhausted. The Finance Committee voted to borrow $300,000. 
to construct an additonal main from the Brookline Reservoir and 
it was voted to increase the penalty for waste. (Hopper Closets 
had increased from 648 in 1854 to 3,215 in 1856), 

The City Council's Ordinance against waste placed a two dollar 
fine on those it found unnecessarily wasting the water. If the 
waste did not stop in two days, the water was to be cut off and an 
additional two dollar fine imposed. For a second offense, the 
fine would be four dollars and if this were not paid, the water was 
to be cut off and not put back until the cause of the complaint was 
remedied. The charge to reinstate the water was two dollars. In 
1858, the water rates were substantially increased, some even doubled. 
But nothing seemd to work against the mounting waste. 

To a young Mr. Reuben Ware, the awful roar he heard on that 
March day in 1859, was inexplicable until he reached the spot where 
the iron pipes of the Water Works to the City of Boston crossed 
the Charles River Valley, A great avalanche of wood, stone, trees, 
and earth was being carried into the river by the water which until 
now had passed unseen through the pipes. The pipe crossing the valley 
had broken away from where it connected to the rest of the aqueduct 
and tons of water were spurting out. The young man had the presence 
of mind to run to his house and mount a horse for a dash to Lake 
Cochituate, where he informed Mr. Knowlton, the Gate Keeper, who 
promptly shut off the flow of water from the Lake. That prevented 
further damage, but a great amount had already been done. 


The huge wall of debris had quickly blocked the river and 
already it was backing up, flooding the surrounding territory. 
And the frightening possibility that the complete break in the 
system of delivering the water raight not be repaired by the time 
all water in the Brookline Reservoir had been used, thus denying 
the City any water at all, was a real one. 

The stone gate house and nearly 100 feet of the brick conduit 
had been torn away and carried, with several connecting pipes, a 
distance of 75 to 100 feet. The Water Board immediately dispatched 
all its men to the scene. Work to repair the break began at once, 
but was severely impeded by a violent rain. As many men as were 
needed were found, and soon the small army was of a size that 
sufficient food and shelter could not be found in the vicinity. 
Many workmen had to be sent into the City at night and returned 
in the morning. 

The Water Board had a bit of luck, though, Ordinarily its 
normal supply of pipe on hand would not have been sufficient for 
repairs but fortunately they had an extra supply of 30 and 36 
inch pipe on hand, thus avoiding a delay in the repairs. The 
pipe was connected temporarily to a new gate house that would be 
constructed far inward from the old one on April 2nd, after five 
days and four nights of intensive effort. 

The connection was made through one of the pipes and the 
following night through another. On the following Thursday, after 
thus assuring the City of its supply of water, a new gate house 
was constructed. The connections were made just in time, for the 


task of shutting down the Works in the City and already begun, 
commercial users first. In answer to the Water Board's appeal, 
the households had cut thier daily usage from 9,000,000 gallons 
to 3,000,000 gallons (an indication as much as anything of the 
extent of the waste) . 

A Mr. Curtis was kind enough to allow the debris to be piled 
on his property until it could be carted away. The job of cleaning 
the River proved arduous and, not counting the cost of the pipe, 
the expense of the near disaster was $15,380.73. 

(The Water Board had a Gold Medal struck and presented it to 
the quick-witted Reuben Ware) . 

The second main from the Brookline Reservoir to the City was 
completed and connected on the day before Christmas of 1859, It 
had cost $404,254.87 or $13.07 a linear foot for its roughly 23,000 
feet of length. It worked well as the height of the water in the 
Beacon Hill Reservoir rose six feet over its previous average. 
In their annual report of 1860, the Members of the Water 
Board were very pleased to say that "it seems as if we might now 
fairly conclude that the individual consumption of water had come 
to its maximum - the variation in three years not exceeding one 
gallon (per person) " 12h to 73 gallons. They were unfortunately 
wrong and had to report a "fearful example" by indicating the 
consumption in 1861 had risen to 97 gallons per inhabitant. A 
consumption that might be sustained if the rainfall at Lake 
Cochituate averaged its usual SSh inches of rain each year, but 
if the rainfall should diminish to an average of 48 3/4, the 
supply would be inadequate, let alone the delivery system. 


Willing by now to try all known methods of cutting down 
on waste the Water Board considered adopting the plan of the 
New York Works. This required City approval of all fixtures to 
be licensed and certified as competent by already licensed 
plumbers. It also required them to report each month on what 
they expected to install and be duly bonded. (The New York 
system also required the plumbers to be Native Americans) . 

In 1862, partially as a result of its inability to stop 
the waste, the composition of the Water Board was changed. It 
would be, from then on, composed of six civilians, two members 
of the Common Council and one of the Board of Aldermen. They 
were to serve staggered three year terms. The new Board was 
no more successful than its predecessors and in December of 
1864, the water level at the Lake, from a combination of heavy 
draw and a dry fall and winter, fell dangerously low. A system 
of inspection of household plumbing and installation of meters 
was tried. Many fixtures were found out of order, the meters 
were far from perfect but worked particularly well, ofter cutting 
consumption of large users in half. A fact that led the Board 
to conclude that no less than half the water supplied the City 
was being wasted. 

The 1866 annual report of the Cochituate Water Board was 
submitted to the Joint Committee on water on May 20th, to conform 
with the City's fiscal year which ended on April 30th. In it 
the Board reported that when the East Boston Reservoir's water 
filled above ten feet, it leaked. They, as yet, had been unable 
to locate where in any particular part of the puddle bank the 
defect might be. The Hopper Water Closets continued to cause 


waste. Many owners of that device of convenience believed that 
in order to keep them clean a steady trickle of water should 
constantly run through them. The Board maintained that they 
would be more sanitary with one flush of one or two quarts of 
water. The Works once thought essentially finished began to 
grow again. It was decided to build another larger reservoir 
outside the City at Chestnut Hill in Brighton and Newton. When 
it was completed, the Reservoir in Brookline would be emptied, 
given a much needed cleaning and a leaky gate house fixed. 

The Water Board did not escape the labor unrest that was 
fermenting towards the end of the nineteenth century. Although 
the Board maintained that their employees were well treated and 
well paid, without notice on March 2, 1867, 235 of them walked 
off the job. Their demand was for an increase in their wages which 
stood at one dollar and fifty cents a day. The Board, in their 
report to the Committee on water, claimed to have later found out 
that the fault lay in a few restless individuals. Within a few 
days, most of the men, many of whom lived quite close to their 
jobs and were respectable family men, were back of the job, the 
Board said, indicating the strike was a failure. Never- the-less , 
the daily wage was raised to one dollar and seventy five cents 
on May 4th. 

$710,000. had been appropriated for the Chestnut Hill Reservoir 
and by November of 1867, $643,000, had been spent. The Board 
estimated that it would need $200,000. and an additional $200,000. 
for the planned 40-inch mains into the City. 


The town of "Rocksburie" , so called because of the abundance 
of pudding stone found there, was settled by men of substance, 
merchants and artisans from the Western Counties of England in 
1630 or 1631. It prospered and was, in many ways, more historical 
than its larger sister across the narrow neck of land which peri- 
lessly connected it with Boston. After years of debate, those 
relatively few citizens who held the franchise, voted 1,832 Yeas 
to 592 Nays to allow the by then City of Roxbury to be annexed 
to the City of Boston. The annexation would take effect on January 
6, 1868. One of the reasons that the annexation party won the 
day was was the knowledge that Roxbury could be tied into the 
Cochituate Water. What frightened some of the Water Board and 
other members of the Boston City Government was whether the Boston 
Water Works as they then stood had the capacity to supply the 
amount the new section of the City would require. 

To determine just what the need would be, circulars were left 
at every house and place of business. One thousand and one said 
they would take the water, 390 said maybe. A general route was 
chosen to bring the water to Roxbury. A main would be connected 
to the present 36-inch main at the junction of Lowell and Washington 
Streets. A twenty-four inch main would carry the water through 
Washington, Dudley and Eustis Streets, to East Street, then branch 
off from that with smaller pipes, extending into those streets on 
the high ground where water was then most needed. 

As a matter of economy, metallic grates, hydrants and service 
pipes would be put in as fast as the several mains were laid. The 
Boards asked for two appropriations, one of $200,000. to start and 


and one of $250,000. to complete the proposed work. 

The Board didn't get the money. There was much powerful 
opposition to an early supply of Cochituate water for 'Roxbury. 
The reasons given were the same as given in opposition to bringing 
the water to Boston and by some of the same men, for sections of 
Roxbury, particularly around Jamaica Pond, contained the summer 
homes of men of wealth of Boston. The Water Board confessed that 
the opposition stupified them. 

But the opposition was victorious only temporarily and eight 
miles of main and two of service pipes were laid in the Roxbury High- 
land District and water was introduced on the 26th of October, 
1868, almost twenty years to the day after it had reached Boston. 
A Reservoir was proposed on Roxbury Highlands but the use of stand 
pipes was becoming more popular. The Water Board went to Philadelphia 
to confer with the Chief Engineer of the Works there, Frederick 
Graff, and inspect a stand pipe being erected by him. They also 
visited the Chief Engineer of the Cronton Works in New York where 
Chief Engineer William L. Dearborn recommended the device. 

The Board unanimously agreed that a Stand Pipe would be erected 
on a lot known as the "Old Fort" situated on Beech Glen Avenue 
on the south and Fort Avenue on the north. The base of the shaft 
was to be about one hundred and fifty-eight feet above the tide 
marsh level. The interior of the pipe was to be made of boiler 
iron, five feet in diameter, of equal size throughout. 

The Chestnut Hill Reservoir had been completed, but the Board 
asked for another $500,000. to construct a water tight dam or 


puddled embankment to protect the aqueduct and embankment, as the 
pressure o£ the water in the upper basin had cracked the conduit, 
and water was working the way through the embankment, undermining 

So large a membership on the Board was now thought to be 
cumbersome, so the Ordinance creating it was changed in 1869 to 
a makeup of one member of the Aldermen, two of the Common Council 
elected annually by their respective bodies and two citizens 
elected to serve two years. 

Water had still not been brought to Deer Island and the 
Board of Directors for Public Institutions urged the Water Board 
to do so, since the impending annexation of Dorchester would bring 
more "inmates" to the Alms House as other annexations had done 
before. The Board reported the Stand Pipe in the Highlands almost 
completed, with the pumping engines and boilers in working order. 
The grounds around the stand pipe were so laid out as to be acces- 
sible to carriages. It was decided to supply the High Service in 
Boston from the same Stand Pipe by making a direct connection. If 
successful, the head would be increased one hundred feet, bringing 
it almost to the base of the cupola of the State House. 

The almost uninterrupted record of spending beyond their 
estimates which each Commission or Board of the Works compiled 
did not escape the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, By 1870 it had cost 
$2,277,616.00 and they needed, they told the Joint Committee on 
Water another $259,120.95 to complete it. 


The year 1870-1871 brought with it a severe drought, so much 
so that the water level at Lake Cochituate was only 4 feet 10/12 
inches. Two pumps were put into service to force the water into 
the conduit. And, though it was not their history to do so, the 
water users of Boston managed to conserve so that the quantity 
used decreased by 62,700 gallons a day. Rain, as it always had in 
this moisture rich section of the Country, eventually restored 
the Lake to its normal level. 

Because the Boston High Service District was now supplied 
from the Fort Hill Stand Pipe; because the increased quantity 
of water used made its previous generous supply now only one 

fiftieth of days need and because of the impending 40-inch main 

the reservoir on Beacon Hill 
directly to the City from the Chestnut Hill/was no longer needed 

and the Water Board proposed to sell it. They felt the proceeds 

from the sale would be enough to pay for the main from Chestnut Hill. 

The Cochituate Water Board was not the only such entity 

supplying water in the Metropolitan Area. The Mystic Water Board 

had been formed to supply the Town of Charlestown. When the City 

Council instructed the Cochituate Board to supply East Boston with 

a supply of water at the earliest moment possible, the Board replied 

that the annexation of Roxbury and Dorchester made them doubt that 

the Boston Water Works had the capacity to do the job. They suggested 

that they purchase water from the Mystic Board to supply both East 

Boston and Deer Island. Not only will this be more economical, 

they pointed out precluding an addition to the Boston Works, but 

the head would be far greater coming from the Mystic Lake than from 

Cochituate. The supply commenced in January of 1870 and, as a 


condition of the contract until the water debt of the City of 
Charlestown was extinguished, revenues from the sale of the Mystic 
Water for East Boston and DeeT Island must be used for" the purpose 
of reducing that debt. 

But not everyone supported the scheme. Many questioned why 
the City, which they believed had to have an abundant supply of 
water after spending so much on its Works, had to go to the large 
annual expense of purchasing some from Charlestown. 

The Water Board knew that the supply from Cochituate was in 
real danger of proving inadequate, and soon. The only solution, 
was to find an additional source. They turned to the Su dbur>' 
River. Their plan, when the Legislature gave them the proper 
authority, was to take the Sudbury River and use it to fill Lake 
Cochituate, and then to build a new and independent conduit of 
liberal proportions to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir. They believed 
that they received the necessary authority just in time, since 
the pressure on the existing conduit which was not built to 
deliver the huge amount it naw was, was being threatened with 
serious mishap, especially in cold weather when people ran the 
water to prevent the pipes from freezing up. 

To do the necessary surveys which would determine the best 
route from the Sudbury to Lake Cochituate and thence to the Chestnut 
Hill Reservior, they sent to Chicago for Mr. Chesbrough. He 
cheerfully replied that he would be delighted to come. Since the 
Water Board was convinced this large new supply would forever, 
or at least for a very long time, satisfy all the needs of the 
City, they wished to start its construction immediately, and 

could they have $500,000. as start up mgney, they asked the city 

government . 

There was some objection to the quality of the water of the 
Sudbury River which, like all River water, was subject to periods 
when it contained decayed vegetable life. The problem could be 
alleviated, it was known, by storing the water for a time and 
exposing it to the air. They proposed storage basins on the River 
itself, and diverting some of the River to Farm Pond, which would 
act as a natural storage reservoir. 

The Boston Water Works were expanded once again with the 
annexation of Charlestown in 1873. Under the terms of the Annexation 
the Mystic Water Board was to remain as it was until the City 
Council of Boston decided to merge it with the Cochituate. But 
some in City Government felt that the rapid growth of the City 
required a new Water Board and held out the possibility of going 
to the State Legislature to create one. 

In 1874, there was considerable discussion regarding finding 
an additional supply of water for Charlestown - East Boston by 
connecting the Mystic Lake with the Shawshine, Concord and Merrimack 
Rivers, or one of them, or by use of the Old Middlesex Canal, which 
because of the arrival of the Railroad had become obsolete- as a' 
means of transport. 

The City of Boston was slowly but inexorably taking or planning 
to take for its own use much of the watershed of Eastern Massachusetts. 
The objection of the Citizens of Framingham in 1846 that their water 
should not be taken to feed the wasteful habits of the City's had 
by now become a fact. Yet the City did not exist in a vacuum and 
its growth was being matched, in different measure, by the Cities 


and Towns which surrounded it. Talk of metropolitization in the 
quest for water was beginning to accelerate. 

In their annual report of 1874, the Cochituate Water Board 
said this: 

"It seems proper to take into consideration in this supply 
of water the Towns of West Roxbury, Brookline, Newton, Brighton, 
and Hyde Park, all of which, as well as Boston, are situated upon 
an island formed by the Harbor, and the Charles and Neponset Rivers 
and their connecting stream, Mother Broo/k-'- 

It hardly admitted to subdivision while the growth of Boston 
continuted unabated. In 1870, not yet fifty years after the small 
Town had abandoned that form of Government and had become a City, 
its population was 287,787. In fifty years it was supposed there 
would be 987,919 living there, almost a million inhabitants. 

The attempt to supply the needs of so many at the expense of 
the surrounding Communities would be unconscionable, and dangerous. 
Foresighted men began to take seriously the necessity of a Metro- 
politan Water and a Metropolitan Sewer System. 

The City Council felt that the time had now come for the merger 
of the Cochituate and Mystic Water Boards into the Boston Water 
Board. The Board would consist of three members, each serving 
staggered three year terms and appointed by the Mayor. The City 
Engineer would be Consulting Engineer to the Board. The revenues 
of the Mystic Lake Works would be kept in a separate account and 
continued to be used to pay off the bonds sold to build those works. 
The necessary Ordinance was passed on April 16, 1874. 


The City Council had appropriated the $500,000. to begin 
surveys and landtakings along the route o£ the Works from the 
Sudbury River, but strong contention by some of the land owners 
who faced loss of their property that the present Water Board 
lacked the legal authority of emminent domain, caused the Council 
to hesitate. Some agreed that indeed the property owners might, 
as they had threatened to do, get injunctive relief. 

Mayor Cobb pointed out to them his dilemma, the Water Board 
had either to continue the taking of the necessary property or pay 
the contractors off and close down the project. If, he maintained, 
the present Water Board had not the required power which he believed 
they had then the Council itself certainly had it under the Original 
Water Act, and could delegate it to the Board. The majority agreed 
with him and decided the work should continue. 

The last report of the Cochituate Water Board, that of March 
1876, reported substantial progress on the Farm Pond to Chestnut 
Hill conduit which would be 15 3/4 miles long. It had been divided 
into 20 sections for construction purposes. The Board, which had 
first met on January 2, 1851, reported that the total cost of the 
Boston Water Works as of May 1, 1876, had been $11,994,479.78. 

There was some grumbling from the owners of manufactories in 
the City to the effect that the cost of Boston water was higher 
than other cities and they were finding it difficult to compete. 
The Common Council requested the Board to reduce the cost from two 
pennies per hundred metered gallons to one. 


The new Water Board was appointed by the Mayor on July 6, 1876, 
confirmed by the City Council on July 25th and entered upon their 
duties on the 31st. Timothy T. Sawyer, Chairman, 

The Board immediately realized that they were beset with claims 
for damages along the route of Sudbury Water Works. They hired 
the distinguished (Civil War General, Governor of Massachusetts) 
lawyer, Benjamin F. Butler. He was assited by Linus M. Child, Esq. 
to represent the City. 

The Board reported the Cochituate Department in good shape 
and the Lake with the help of the Sudbury water had a good supply. 
The Engineer recommended that a third engine with a capacity of 
3,000,000 gallons and a new boiler be erected at once for the high 
service, but they demurred, feeling that high service equipment 
would be abandoned in a few years in favor of a pumping station 
at Chestnut Hill. The Mystic Division was also found to be in good 
shape. They granted a h. cent decrease in the metered water charge 
to manufacturers instead of the full penny which had been requested. 
The other members of the Board were Leonard R. Cutter and Albert 
Stanwood. By 1879 the Sudbury River ' Farm Pond Works were fully 
operational - 10,271,800 gallons per day were being sent to the 
Chestnut Hill Reservoir, 411,300,000 gallons had been diverted to 
Lake Cochituate. The average daily consumption from Mystic Lake 
was 8,883,470 gallons, and from Cochituate - Sudbury 25,696,900 
for a total of 34,580,370. Henry W, Wightman was the City Engineer 
and Consulting Engineer to the Water Board. Nevertheless, despite 
this availability of so huge a supply, the members of the Board 


were constrained to say in their 1881 annual report; 

"IVith all the appliances at the command o£ the City, it is 
still a work of difficulty to keep the resources of the Works 
equal to the growing demands made upon them, and the Board often 
finds themselves in the embarrassing position of being obligated 
to refuse applications for extensions and use of the water, esp- 
ecially in the high service districts, as a result". 

The Board asked permission to enlarge the works once again, 
in several important aspects. It was already building a new 
storage basin on the Sudbury River. 

The Legislature, on April 15, 1881, gave the City authority 
to place meters on any building it supplied with water, except in 
cases of tenements containing from one to three tenements, in which 
case they would have to get permission of the owner. In all tene- 
ments the owner would be responsible for the water bill. 

The Lake Cochituate water once more turned sour, and then was 
shut off, allowing extensive cleaning and repairs to the aqueduct. 
The plan of the Water Board to sell the abandoned Beacon Hill Reservoir 
and to get some money to pay for some of the cost of the Chestnut 
Hill Reservoir works seemed in jeopardy when on November 27, 1880, 
the City seized the reservoir. The plan of the City was to build 
a Court House there. (After much bickering, the Water Board did 
get it back, where upon it sold it to the Commonwealth of Massa- 
chusetts, On the foundation of the Beacon Hill Reservoir now 
stands the State House Annex, The foundation of that Annex with 
its basement and sub-basement, attests to the fact that the space 


once held millions of gallons of water, Workers there say it's 
still damp) . The residents of Noodle Island were complaining 
again. When they continually complained that the Mystic Lake 
■water was awful, the East Boston Works were detached from that 
source and put on the Cochituate - Sudbury supply. They now 
groused about the lack of pressure. There were only two solutions 
to the problem they were told. Back to Mystic Water or increase 
the size of the pipe from Boston. But the Board thought that the 
$80,000. that it would cost was too much. What they would do was 
to put a (Deacon) meter to work, the consequent decrease in use 
would increase the pressure, they were sure. 

In 1883, the City Council wanted the Water Board to tell them 
why there were still two Water Registrars, one for the Sudbury- 
Cochituate Works and one for the Mystic, The Board reminded the 
Council that at first the two had to be separate to make sure the 
income from the Mystic was used to retire the Mystic Water Bonds 
and since the system had worked so well, they haden't bothered to 
change it. Some Councilors suspected patronage. On January 31, 
1896 the Boston Water Board was abolished and replaced by a Water 
Department to be over seen by one Commissioner. 

Although the City had an existing law changed in 1884 to allow 
it to go to the Supreme Judicial Court to obtain injunctions against 
anyone found polluting its water supply, the supply quality cont- 
inued to deteriorate. In May of 1886, a committee to investigate 
the problem had been appointed by the Suffolk County District 
Medical Society. It found the tributaries to Wedge Pond, which 
emptied in Mystic Lake and the upper portions of the Lake itself 


were still being contaminated by tanneries and other factories. 
The tanneries not connected with the Mystic sewer built by the 
City were attempting to minimize pollution by subsidence and 
filteration, but the results of those methods were entirely un- 
satisfactory, the Doctors said. As also were the attempts to cure 
the problem of the discharge from pirvies, water closets and sinks. 
Even when the inhabitants took the trouble to discharge their 
waste into cess pools, the solids, Doctors George S. Shuttuck and 
Henry J. Barnes concluded, could hardly be expected to depurate 
before they reached streams by subsoil currents. Since the City 
was contemplating abandoning the Mystic as soon as an additional 
source could be found, the Committee recommended that a connection 
be made on the south side of the Charles River so the Cochituate 
water could be brought to Charlestown. 

The City was having trouble with its meters. In a report to 
Mayor O'Brien, a commission appointed to test their effectiveness 
stated that the tenement meters were worthless and the Crown and 
Worthinton Meters almost the same. When the Water Commissioners 
purchased the Jamaica Plain Aqueduct Corporation, they ended up 
only buying the rights to supply water to Boston. Now the corp- 
oration wanted to sell all its property to the City. This action 
was urged on the City Council. The price was $100,000. and since 
the Pond and adjoining property would soon be needed for the new 
Parks system it seemed the best thing to do. If the price was un- 
satisfactory to the City, then three men, one each appointed by 
the parties to the transaction and the third by the other two would 
decide the price. The act of 1886 which gave the City the authority 
to purchase the property required acceptance by a two-thirds vote 


o£ the City Council and the Council did not give it. 

In 1889, the City Council gave authorization to the Water 
Board to take more of the land around the Sudbury River and more 
o£ its watershid and to build a fifth basi'$, the cost of which 
would be $1,045,000. 

Continually displeased as to the effectiveness of its water 
meters, the City began in 1890 to require monthly reports on how 
any were out of service, sold, being repaired or purchased. 

As was the custom, men were laid off during the winter months 
when no construction could take place. The Aldermen inquired if 
the remaining work force, 27 men in the Eastern Division and 62 in 
the Mystic could not be put on half time so some of the men laid 
off could have work. No, they were told, since those retained were 
not common laborers, but men whose skill was required to keep the 
Works operating. 

Because of the scandal allegedly involving one of the members 
of the Water Board, an allegation which was never proven, there 
was an attempt in 1891 to do away with the Water Board and delegate 
its duties to the City Engineer. The Corporation Council ruled 
that this could not be done since the legislation under whose 
authority the Board functioned required three members. 

It was decided that the sixth basin on the Sudbury River had 
to be built, although Basin number 4 and 5 were not as yet completed, 
This latest basin would have a capacity of 1,500,000 gallons. The 
dam across the valley would be 1,500 feet in length and consist 
of an earth embankment with a center core wall of concrete extending 
to bed rock. It was to be located in the towns of Ashland and 


Hopkington. The core was 8 feet thick ^t the base and abput 3 
feet at the top of the dam. 

By this time, 1894, the Water Board had been split into what 
were essentially three Departments; Engineering, for the construction 
and maintainance of the Works, under the City Engineer; the Water 
Income Department for the assessing and collection of the rents 
under the Water Registrar; and the Water Supply Department, in 
charge of seeing to the quality and quantity of the water, under 
the charge of the Water Board. In this way, those who wished to 
abolish the three member Water Board had effectively lessened 
their power and responsibilities. 

Desmond Fitzgerald, who was later to write a brief history 
of the works, was the Engineer for the Water Supply Department in 
1895. In his report of that year, Fitzgerald's superior, the 
City Engineer, reported that the daily average use of water was 
41,500,000 gallons from Cochituate - Sudbury. Since the capacity 
of the works was estimated to be 46,650,000, it was evident that 
availability of supply might be inadequate before Basin number 
five could be completed. The average daily use from Mystic was 
11,500,000, far in excess of the capacity of those works. 

The year was exceptionally dry and the water became so low 
at the Mystic that sea water had seeped into the Mystic and 40,000 
people in Ckarlestown had to be supplied from Cochituate - Sudbury 
for four months. When Basin number 5 is completed the capacity 
of the Works will be 61,500,000 gallons and since daily consumption 
is now 57,000,000 that quantity will soon exceed the supply, The 


Mystic soon must be abandoned as the quality of water is no 
longer acceptable and getting worse, and there are too. many people 
living on the watershed to make imporvements worthwhile. The 
completion o£ Basin 5 will complete the Sudbury Works, so it is 
apparent that, once again, anothe source o£ additional supply 
must be found for the City voracious lust water. 

The present Works also required expansion. The increased 
use of the water in the High Service Area made the supply Mains 
from the Fisher Hill (Corey Hill) Reservoir and those in the 
Roxbury District inadequate to furnish a supply without an excessive 
loss of head. At times the Parker Hill Reservoir in the Roxbury 
District has been nearly emptied and the people on the higher 
land have been entirely deprived of their supply. The City Engineer 
recommended the laying of a 46- inch pipe from the juncture of 
Fisher Hill Avenue and Boylston Street to the corner of Huntington 
Avenue and Heath Street, with a connection at Wait Street for the 
supply of the Parker HillReservoir and another branch of a 36-inch 
main to be carried through Heath Street to across the Roxbury 
District, The new pumping engine at Chestnut Hill and Mystic 
stations will furnish sufficient pumping capacity, he was sure, 
to meet the requirments at those stations for the next five years. 

As a result of the investigation by the Metropolitan Water 
Commission into the problems and potentials of supplying with 
water an ever rapidly growing Metropolitan Area, where a large 
number of the Citizens of Massachuestts lived, the Great and Gen- 
eral Court, in a truely historical action, created on June 5, 1895, 

by enactment of Chapter 488 of the acts of 1895, a Metropolitan 
Water Board, the first in the nation. 

The three Commissioners appointed by the Governor were to 
see water for the inhabitants of the Cities of Boston, Chelsea, 
Everett, Maiden, Medford, Newton, and Somerville and the Towns 
of Belmont, Hyde Park, Melrose, Revere, Watertown and Winthrop. 
That ambitious beginning was to grow into the massive Water Works, 
a first unique, and still the envy of many water short Metropolitan 
Areas. The system today supplies thirty-four Cities and Towns with 
well over 116 billions of gallons of water a day. 

The Commissioners were to take all of the Boston Water Works 
outside the boundaries of the City which they felt they needed for 
their purposes. In addition to the City's existing sources the 
new entity would take water from the Nashua River at a point above 
the dam at Lancaster Mills in the Town of Lancaster. 

As the first step in the metropolitization of water supply, 
the new Board hooked up to the Chestnut Hill Reservoir conncetions 
to the Mains of Somerville and Chelsea and tied the Charlestown 
section of Boston into Spot Pond. 

On January 1, 1898, the Metropolitan Water Board made a 
taking of the sources of supply outside the City of Boston, 
including basins, aqueducts, mains, etc., except the Fisher Hill 
Reservoir and the Sudbury River Works. 

It had been fifty years, one month and seven days since the 
arrival on that joyous day of the pure, cool and healthy water of 
Long Pond - Lake Cochituate. The total cost of the Boston Water 
Works had been $26,180,203.26. Loans totaling $17,911,273,98 of 

that amount were still outstanding. " 


Chapter XV 

In the early part of the last half of the Nineteenth 
Century, the American correspondent of the London Times wrote 
to his Editor that if you stood long enough outside Ticknor's 
.Old Corner Book Store at School or Washington Streets in 
Boston, you would eventually encounter the greater part of the 
intelligence of the New World. 

He was correct, of course. Thoreau, Emerson, Whittier, 
Lowell would eventually be by, as would the great Divines whose 
firey oratory provided the moral impetus for the Civil War: 
William Lloyd Garrison, Edward Everett Hale, and John Freeman 

To that time Boston was essentially an English Town where 
one might walk from one end to the other in a liesurely day's 
effort. There was a section for those who practiced the Law; 
one for those engaged in Commerce; another for Banking and 
every participant in each endeavor was sure to know his fellows 
on sight. 

By the turn of the Century, however, the changes in the 
City were profound. Its growth, caused by both heavy immigration 
and the annexation of Roxbury, Charlestown, and Dorchester had 
been phenomenal. In 1900 its population was one half million 
and it ranked with the great Cities of America in number of in- 
habitants , progress and commerce, if not in physical size. 

It had become obvious, as it had in 1822 when Boston abandoned 
the town form of Government to establish itself as a City, that 


the City's growth and complexity required a restructuring of 
its Government. In 1909 a new Charter was adopted ending the 
bicameral Board of Aldermen and Common Council and substituting 
for it a City Council, one Councillor to be elected from each 
Ward. That new Charter also strengthened the hand of the Mayor 
delineating the power of that office and of the Council along 
the lines of administrative and legislative branches. 

One result of the new structure was the combining of three 
heretofore independent departments whose fuctions were obviously 
closely related - Water and Sewer, Engineering and Street laying out 
In 1910, Mayor John H. Fitzgerald signed an Ordinance incorporating 
those functions into a department of Public Works. The ordinance 
stipulated that the Department be headed up by "a Civil Engineer 
of recognized standing in his profession." Mayor Fitzgerald, with 
the approval of the Council, selected L.K. Bourke to be the first 
Commissioner of the Department of Public Works, an agency which 
was to see to the delivery of most of the essential services 
the City provided for its citizens. 

Since the City was no longer in the business of seeking a 
supply of water , its function now was to see to it that delivery 
system in the City was kept in the proper condition. F.A. 
Mclnnes, the new head of the Water and Sewer Divisions of the 
Department of Public Works found the Water Works to be in 
good shape, recently improved by the extension of the High 
Service to Dorchester Valley. Average daily consumption was 
85,511,500 gallons, but that represented a reduction in the 
daily per capita use from 130 gallons to 124. 


He found that he had a personnel problem in the Sewer 

Works however, many of his men were quite old Having given a 
great number of years to the service of the City. They had 
no pension and had to continue to work far beyond the -time 
that they could put in a proper days work. He urged the Mayor 
and Council to consider providing these men with the means to 
retire. " 

In 1916, Mayor James Michael Curley made a decision to con- 
tract out most of the Department's work, a decision which forced 
the transfer of twenty men to other City Departments. The 
water Division was planning to build a much needed pumping station 
for the Fire Department in the Downtown area of the City. The 
Engineer of the Water Works felt that he had selected the 
best possible location, the hill on Boston Common. This good 
engineering but poor political decision caused a hue and cry. 
Looking elsewhere, he choose the Charlesbank in the vicinity of 
Otter Street. By that time Beacon Hill had become fashionable 
and its residents influential, "No", they said. They liked his 
next choice only slightly better. Under the ground on Charles 
Street midway between Beacon and Boylston Streets. The poor 
man had finally to settle for a site at the foot of Fort Point 
Channel near the old Mount Washington Brdige. A location with- 
out a constituency. 

The effort to expand the separate systems, one for water and 
the other for sewage, continued. In 1917, a new system of 
sanitary and storm sewers was laid down Broadway in Dorchester 
eventually to run to the Dorchester tunnel which would take 

the sewage to Moon island by gravity. Here it would be pumped 

up into the two storage reservoirs , there to be held until 

the proper flow of the tide allowed to be discharged into the 

Harbor to be taken out into Massachusetts Bay on the receding 

tide. In theory an effective way to dispose of the waste, in 

practice, less so. 

Continued extension of the High Pressure Service was also 
paramount and Tremont Street was connected to that service in 
1918. The number of High Service hydrants in the business 
district now stood at 188. 

The report of the Department of Public Works in 1923 
stated that there was 994.66 miles of common and connecting 
sewers laid in 587.86 miles of streets and that the Calf Pasture 
pumping station had pumped no less than 32,276,342 gallons of 
sewerage in 1922 at a cost a little above $150,000. 

Although, "motor vehicles" by 1924 predominated, a goodly 
number of horses were still used by both the Water and Sewer 
Division. As it had been to his predecessors, the $1,000,000 
appropriated annually by the City for Sewer work was inadequate 
the Division Engineer stated, especially in view of inflation. 
He need 501 more. 

Slowly but inexorably the beginning years of the deepening 
depression was bringing all work on the system to a halt. 
In 1930, only three and one third miles of new sewer line was 
laid and less than eight of water pipe. Anticipating the Public 
Works that would soon be financed from Washington, Mayor Curley 


sought permission from the Legislature to borrow $3,000,000 
for the modernizing of the Sewer System and to put as many 
men to work as he could. He pointed out that the scheme would 
only add a few pennies to the tax rate. 

During many years of the history of both the Water and 
Sewer Works the City had been forced to react, with little 
or no real planning, to continued growth of the City. Where 
people went, water and sewer must go, and hopefully first. As 
a result, particularly in the case of the High Service, there 
were many dead end lines. The construction of the tunnel to 
East Boston and the widening of Cross Street provided the 
Water Division with the opportunity to tie many of these dead 
ends . 

President Roosevelt's efforts to ease the unemployment 
caused by the Depression resulted in most of the work of the 
Water Division in 1937 being done not by the Department of the 
Public Works but by the Work Projects Administration, the Water 
Division merely acting in the capacity of Supervising Engineer. 
The 2,500 men employed by the DPW in 1938 was the lowest number 
employed since the Department had been established. 

More of the slowly disappearing from view Stoney Brook, this 
time a section in West Roxbury, was covered over by the WPA. 

One of the steam pumps at Calf Pasture was beyond repair 
and it was decided to replace it with an electric one. The 
new machinery worked so well, the Commissioner considered re- 
placing the other steam pump with an electric one also. The 
operation of the steam pipe took eight men. The newly created 
Water Income Division reported a surplus of $654,998.45 instead 


of the deficits that had prevailed in previous years. The 
method used to collect delinquent accounts was to lower the 
water pressure of the culprit, not so far as to endanger 
health, but low enough to make things uncomfortable. . 

In 1942, the Water Division was further restructured to 
include Water, Engineer, and Distribution Branches and a 
Business Office. Just as it had done in the years of the 
Depression, the advent of the second World War virtually halted 
all construction and much maintenance activity in both the 
Water and Sewer Works as more and more men were given leaves 
of absence to go off to War. Much work was contracted out, but 
the private contractors had their own problems obtaining the 
necessary menand material. The situation held some irony since 
the cause of the shortage of men and material, the War, also 
created an increased demand for water and sewer services as 
government agencies and the private sector expanded in the 
War effort. The lack of work and the increased prosperity 
brought on by the War resulted in a surplus in the Water Division 
of $1,350,224.10 in 1944. 

By War's end a great amount of maintenance work had accumulated 
and those veterans who choose to return to the Water and Sewer 
Division were put to work immediately. It was assumed that 
the dismantling of the War effort would decrease the demand for 
extention of the Works, but the great post-war desire of couples 
to own a home of their own resulted in large scale building in 
areas of the City heretofore only sparsely settled. Once again, 
the Water and Sewer Divisions found themselves in a period 
of expansion. 


The Engineer of the Sewer Department was pleased to note 
in his 1948 Annual Report to the Commissioner of Public Works 
that the plans for the Sewage Treatment Plant at the Calf 
Pasture were almost ready. 

In 1889 the Massachusetts Legislature had created a Metro- 
pDlitan Sewage District as a companion of the Metropolitan 
Water District. By 1895 the Sewer District had extended the 
Boston Main Drainage System to communities on the North of 
the City and constructed interceptor sewers, pumping facilities 
and an outfall on Deer Island. The Metropolitan system was 
noA\- uui.ijjiiig uncreateu sewage into the Bay on the North from Deer 
Island and the City of Boston equally :itreated waste on the 
South from Moon Island. The situation festering like its 
products, was becoming intolerable. A third system of sewer 
outfalls was built off Nut Island in 1904 compounding the 
almost systematic polluting of the Harbor. 

In 1940, the Massachusetts Legislature passed Chapter 598 
which authorized the City of Boston to build a Treatment Plant 
at Calf Pasture. The war interfered. In 1950, Mayor John B. 
Hynes returned George Hyland as Commissioner of Public Works 
after a five year absence from that position. All Hyland 
had of the proposed Treatment Plant was a set of plans. Plans 
he did not like. The existing Act authorizing the Treatment 
Plant by then called for construction to start not later than 
April 1, 1950 and that it be completed by July of 1955. To 
comply with the law, Hyland did some token work at the Calf 
Pasture, but little else owing, he said, "to the unavailability 


of the appropriation." 

Hyland realized, as did others, that a partial solution to the 
pollution o£ the harbor was no solution at all. It called for a 
metropolitan effort. The Metropolitan District Commission built two 
deep rock tunnels in 1952, one to bring the raw sewage to Nut Island 
where a treatment plant was built. In 1968, a second treatment plant 
was built on Deer Island fed from the other rock tunnel. Except for 
emergency use during extreme wet weather, the Moon Island outfall is no 
longer used. This source and overflow from combined storm water and 
sewage sources, particularly affecting Dorchester Bay, the Charles and 
Neponset Rivers and the Inner harbor remain sources of Pollution yet, but 
suggestions have been made that a series of stormwater treatment stations 
would eliminate that situation. 

Following activation of the Deer Island Treatment Plant and the opera- 
tion of year round chlorination, several beaches in Winthrop were re-opened 
and commercial shell fish harvesting in the area was once more allowed. 

The idea of a Metropolitan agency for the supplying of water and 
the disposal of waste proved irresistable. The Metropolitan District 
Commission would eventually supply water, all or part of their need, 
to Thirty- four cities and towns and dispose of the waste of forty -three, 
most having both services. But, like its ancestor, the Boston Water 
Works, the Metropolitan Water Works found the demand constantly threatening 
to outstrip the supply. 

The Commission, which also has a Park Service and a Police Force, had 
finished its works to take water from the Wachusetts River in 1908, but 
this source was soon inadequate as more cities and towns joined the system 
and demand increased. A permanent solution, it was felt at the time, would 


be the creation of a system of Reservoirs on different watersheds, 
culminating in the building of the massive Quabbin Reservoir, sixty five 
miles from Boston, almost half the distance west across the state. 

Taking by the power of Emminent Domain granted to it by the Leg- 
islature, all or part of several towns constructed a thirty-nine square 
mile Reservoir. This man-made lake stretches 18 miles in length and has 
118 miles of shore line. CoD^leted in 1939 it utilizes the Swift River, 
a tributary' of the Connecticut . After completion of the massive earthen 
dam, at the time the largest in the world, it took seven years for the 
Reserv^oir to reach its capacity of 412 billion gallons of water. 

Such a great supply to satisfy the demands of so many, had to have 
a large delivery system. The water is delivered through an intricate 
system of lesser reservoirs, conduits, pumping stations and deep rock 
tunnels. It was the completion of one of these tunnels in 1950 which when conn- 
ected to the Boston Works, dramatically increased the High Service Pressure 
in the city. This in turn allowed for the discontinuance (except in 
emergency siutations) of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, which since it had 
the low service, increased that services pressure also. 

Association with the Metropolitan Systems did not come cheaply. The 
assessment for the City for its water in 1952 was $1,636,681.00 and for 
the sewers sendees, $574,385.81. In 1953 the Commission doubled its water 
rates and Boston consequently increased its to $2.00 for the 1st 20,000 
cubic feet, $1.90 for the next 20,000 and $1.70 for the third up to 1,000,000 
cubic feet when the charge would be $1.15 per cubic foot. 

There had been some conflict over the years as to the responsibility in 
certain situations of the Board of Street Commissioners, the Street Lay- 
ing out Department and the Water and Sewer Divisions of the Public Works 
Department. To remedy the situation, the Public Works Department was re- 


structuredin 1955, with all functions o£ the Street Laying out £nd Street 
Commissioners having any connection with the Water and Sewer Works being 
transferred to the Department of Public Works. 

The architects, engineers and builders who had put thousands of tons 
of buildings on piles driven through the filled in land of the Back Bay 
thought of it as that, man made land, but to Nature it was still a Bay. 
There was constant danger that the water level would fall below the tops 
of the wooden piles, piles indestructable as long as they were sub- 
merged, but quick to rot if not. It was a situation that bore watching 
and indeed the Trinity Church in Copley Square, had a Water Level 
Committee for just that purpose. 

Some time between 1929 and 1933, the Committee concluded that the 
City's sewer on St. James Avenue was contributing to the fluctuating water 
level beneath their magnificant church. To alleviate the problem, the 
city installed a weir and a butterfly gate in the sewer. Meticulous re- 
cords kept by the Water Committee indicated that over the years the water 
level was generally satisfactory, but not so when the gate was open for a 
protracted time. The Water Divisions solution to the problem was to store 
water in the Boylston Street surface drain to replace water under the 
church as needed. 


Chapter XVI 

The hurricane winds of the not so gentle lady called Diane, were 
predicted to hit Boston. They did not, but the storms rain did. In 
thirty six hours on August 18 and 19, 1955, eleven and ninety four 
hundreds inches of rain deluged the city. In one twenty four hour period 
of those tu'o days, over eight inches fell. Despite the size they had 
grown to over the years, the storm drains and separate sewer were unable 
to cope with that amount of water. In the reverse of what was supposed 
to happen, water began to run out of sewers and drains rather than into 
them. Extensive areas of the South End, Back Bay and Roxbury (the low 
lands which had always given trouble), were flooded. The Water Division 
was hard pressed to help everyone but with the help of every pump they 
could get from Contractors, the Civil Defense Agency and the Fire Department 
they managed to pump many out. 

The large taskforce of men and machinery had hardly finished that 
emergency assistance when the Charles and Neponset Rivers and Mother 
Brook reached their crest, flooding the Island section of Hyde Park and 
Belnel Village in Dorchester. In some places water reached seven feet 
in depth. It was deep enough in the village to require rowboats to rescue 

Cellars in those sections could not be pumped out until the water 
receded. An attempt was made to lower the depth of flow on the 
Neponset and Mother Brook by cleaning debris from the crest of the Union 
Waste Paper Mill in Dedham, from Jenkins Dam and the upstream side of the 
Central Avenue bridge, both in Dorchester Lower Mills. The owners of the 
Jenkins Dam and the Walter Baker Dam were induced to raise the day sluices 
to their full openings in order to lower the depth ipstream. 


In his report for the year of 1957, the Engineer of the 
Water Division was able to report the end of a project which had 
gone on for almost one hundred years: "The Stoney Brook has been 
entirely closed with a concrete conduit on September 28, 1957." 
Robert P. Shea succeeded George Hyland as Commissioner of 
PvLblic Works in 1958. He pointed out to Mayor Hynes that the 
City every year routinely borrowed $1,000,000 for sewer work 
and that the Sewer Division usually received a $150,000 down 
payment by July 1st from taxes. But the proceeds of loan came so 
late in the year that projects started had to be carried into the 
following year. Would the Mayor, he asked, send the request for 
authority to borrow to the City Council earlier, or better still, 
could he not have a two year appropriation instead of one? 

When John Collins took office as Mayor in 1960, his choice 
from Commissioner of Public Works was James W. Haley. Edward G. 
Powers was Sewer Divion Engineer and Daniel M. Sullivan continued 
as Water Division Engineer*. Commissioner Haley's first business 
was to reorganize the department. He created four divions, 
Engineering, Highway, Sewer and Sanitary. There was also a 
central office. Under the Water Division there were to be three 
sections, Construction Maintenance and Revenue. Under the 
Sewer Division, two. Construction and Maintenance. 
Haley divided the City into three areas, each having a 

*Daniel M. Sullivan came to work in Water Division, August 23, 1911 
and was Division Engineer for many years. His son John P. Sullivan 
arrived on April 22, 1948 and himself was Division Engineer, until 
being appointed as Director of Operations for the newly created 
Boston Water and Sewer Commission in 1977. On May 24, 1972 John's 
son, John P. Sullivan, Jr. went to work with the Water Division, 
and is now Director of Engineering, or in effect Engineer for 
both the Water and Sewer Divisions. 


supervisor for each of the divisions and a foreman for the garage in 
each area. 

Up to that time, tax exempt property was being afforded the sewerage 
service free on charge. In 1962, the City Council passed an ordinance 
charging each of those estates discharging into the City's Sewers at the 
rate of $1.00 per cubic foot of water used. 

In the early part of the 1960's, Boston was in the midst of a building 
boom and that presented an opportunity. For years there had been an on- 
going attempt to convert those sewers being used for both water and sewer 
discharge to a separate system, one for water and one for sewage, but, 
a substantial area of the City still had a combined system that had 
not been converted because of the cost to the property owners of changing 
their plumbing to accomodate the separate systems. Now, with large sections 
of the City being demolished for renewal, particularly the Old West End, 
separate systems could be easily built and that was done even in those 
sections where no Works would be needed until a later date. This method 
would also save money when the anticipated tying in of the Metropolitan 
District Sewer took place. 

By the decade of the 1960's, Bostons Sewer Works had grown to 1,303.19 
miles of common sewers and 40.93 of interceptors; pumping stations at the 
Calf Pasture, Union Park Street, Symphony Station, Summer Street and 
Sullivan Square. Thepunping station at the Calf Pasture was raising 
27,813,000,000 gallons, an average of 76,000,000 gallons of waste each 
day at a cost of $7,240,000. 

The Water Works had 1,045.5 miles of pipes including 18.64 
miles of High Pressure Fire Service, ranging in size from 48 inches and 
included gates valves, hydrants and other appurtenances. 

After some years of debate as to its location and financial feasibility 


a three- level garage with a capacity for automobiles was being constructed 
under Boston Common. The Contractor, The Foundation Company of New 
York, had piled excavated dirt some twenty-three feet high on thQ base- 
ball field there. The weight proved too much for the 42 inch main below 
the surface. On Thursday morning, April 21, 1960, it gave way, denying 
water to a large section of the City. The contractor worked around the 
clock and had normal service restored by 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, the 
3rd. The expense, with the exception of $6,000 paid by the City was borne 
by the culprit. 

As the Federally sponsored Works Project Administration played a 
hand in the Water and Sewer Works during the depression, Federal 
agencies, looking to refurbish urban areas, would again play a role. 
In 1965, using an interest free loan of $211,220.28 granted to the City 
by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of 
Public Works commissioned the Engineering firm of Camp, Dresser and 
McKee to develop the first comprehensive plan for the upgrading of its 
system of disposing of sewage, including elimination of its contribution 
to the pollution of the Harbor and adjoining waters from its combined sewers. 

The consultants offered four alternatives: 

1. Complete separation of all sanitary sewage and storm drainage 

2. Construction of chlorination detention tanks 

3. Construction of surface iiolding tanks 

4. Construction of the aeep tunnel plan. 

The last one was judged the most efficient and least costly. 

It would involve the construction of deep rock storage tunnels, 
shafts, transmission tunnels, surface connections, and a main pumping station 
on Deer Island. Using this method, the sewage and storm water would be 
disposed of well off shore into the Atlantic Ocean, thereby eliminating the 
pollution of Boston Harbor and adjacent waters. The cost would be enormous, almost 


one half a billion dollars, but the City would have to pay only 
$30,000,000 the rest coming from the Federal and State Govern- 
ments. The initial construction would be that of a Main 
Interceptor and Tributory Conduit, a South Boston Pollution 
Control Conduit, and the East Side Interceptor and the cost 
would be $37,850,000 of which the City would be responsible 
for $20,800,000. 

At the midway point of the 1960's, consumption of water in 
Boston had risen to 210 gallons per capita daily. Using a HUD 
grant of $900,000 the Department of Public Works asked their 
consulting engineers to draw plans and specifications for 
two 36- inch mains to be built, one in Charlestown and one in 
Dorchester . 

(The system that finally evolved from the planning and 
consulting of both the City of Boston and the Metropolitan District 
Commission takes the sewage from Boston Proper, South Boston, 
parts of Roxbury , Dorchester and West Roxbury to the Deer Island 
plant where it is pretreated, primarily treated, chlorinated 
and discharged. Sewage from Brighton, Hyde Park, and parts of 
Roxbury, Dorchester and West Roxbury flow into the Metropolitan 
System and after being treated at the Nut Island Treatment Plant 
is discharged) . 

(A small portion of the Dorchester and Milton sewage in the 
Metropolitan Sewage Area, lying at an elevation too low to drain 
into the Metropolitan High Level Sewer is discharged through the 
Boston Main Drainage System). 


(The Calf Pasture-Moon Island disposal plan is used only when 
the weather is so wet that the Metropolitan District Commission 
facilities have not the capacity to receive all the sewerage 
and drain water. In that event, the effluent is discharged 
into the Harbor at Moon Island. The polluting effect is not 
too severe since the discharge is overwhelmingly water. The 
danger of pollution rises when, for one reason or another, the 
MDC facilities cannot take the sewage the City desires it to 
and the City is forced to discharge the sewage directly into 
the harbor, untreated.) 

In order to qualify for the National Pollution Discharge 
Elimination System Permit the City needed, the City was 
required by the Environmental Protection Agency in 19 76 to re- 
place several sewers including the Main intercepting sewer, east 
side intercepting sewer (north and south branches) and the 
Mt . Vernon Street Sewer. The total cost of the project was 
estimated by the Consulting engineers to come to $58,000,000 
75% of that sum in Federal Grants and 15% in State Grants. 

The total consumption of water by the City of Boston from 
July 1, 1976 to June 30, 1977 was 150,381,600 gallons per 

The report covering that period from the 1st of July, 1976 
to June 30, 1977 would be the last full report that the Water 
and Sewer Divisions of the Department of Public Works, City of 
Boston would ever issue. 


Chapter XVII 

One hundred and forty years had passed since that Saint 
Patrick's day in 1837 when on Petition of the City of Boston, 
the Great and General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts 
had enacted a law creating a Commission of three to look into 
the locating and procuring a supply of pure, fresh water for 
its Capital City. On July 18, 1977, in response to a home 
rule petition initiated by Mayor Kevin H. White and approved 
by the Boston City Council, the Legislature passed in its 
final form chapter 436 of the General Laws. That law created 
the Boston Water and Sewer Commission. 

The new Commission like the old, would be made up of three 
Commissioners, and like the ones which evolved from the first 
Commission, would have the exclusive responsibility and matching 
power to operate the Boston Water Works and the Boston Sewer 

John S. Howe, Chairman of the Commission, Melvin B. Miller, 
Vice Chairman of the Commission and Michael J. Rotenberg, 
Commissioner, were chosen by the Mayor with the approval of the 
City Council to be the latest successors of Hale, Treadwell 
and Baldwin. The term of the Commissioners was to be four 
years, each one staggered. All three would have to be residents 
of the City, one to have extensive experience in the world of 
business, and one in the field of accounting and finance. 
The Commissioners were to appoint an Executive Director and 
they chose Charles Scales as the first one. The Commissioners 
also appointed a Treasurer, a Chief Engineer and such other 
officers as they deemed appropriate. 


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The Executive Director was given the authority ^ with the 
approval of the Commission, to employ legal counsel, financial 
advisors and other experts he felt necessary to the successful 
operation of the Commission. - 

The Commission was given the poiver to sue, raise money, 
hold property; the power of eminent domain, to set water and 
sewer rates, to take whatever action it deemed proper to collect 
water rents and sewer charges and to take possession of the physical 
plant of the works as they then stood. Upon the signing of 
Chapter 436, the Commission issued $45,000,000 in notes, using 
$25,000,000 of the proceeds to pay off the accumulated deficits 
of the City's water and sewer receipts accounts; pay the Metro- 
politan Commission $18,900,000 owed to it for water supplied 
and sewage treated. The remaining $1,400,000 was deposited 
with the corporate trustee for necessary commission expenses. 

From July 18, 1977 to December 31, 1977, the Works were 
still operated by the Department of Public Works. On January 
1, 1978, the Water and Sewer Commission began to operate them 
and the employees of the now defunct Water and Sewer Divisions of 
the Department of Public Works, became employees of the 

Perhaps the best summation of the long and expensive history 
of the Boston Water Works and the Boston Sewer Works is the 
reason for its existance as stated in Section I of the law 
creating the Boston Water and Sewer Commission: 

"It is hereby declared that for the benefit of the people 
of the City of Boston, in order that there be an increase in their 
commerce, welfare and prosperity and an improvement in their 

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living conditions it is essential that the City maintain a 
sound, economical and efficient water supply and distribution 
system and sanitary sewerage system. . ."