1842: Old Croton Aqueduct Brings Water, Rescues Manhattan From Fire, Disease

by Larry D. Lankton, Historian; National Park Service, Washington, D.C.,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1977, Vol. 47, Issue 13, Pg. 20-24

Document Type: Feature article


From 1774 to 1835 Manhattan experienced tremendous growth but needed better water supply to protect public health and to fight fires. Several proposals for providing water were forwarded but rejected. In 1835 voters approved a plan to bring water from Croton River 41 miles to Manhattan via a new masonry aqueduct. Major David Douglass was the first Chief Engineer, but he failed to prepare final plans after 18 months work. He was replaced by John B. Jervis. Jervis was a professional engineer, made exhaustive investigations, evaluated alternative solutions, prepared comprehensive plans and specifications, was a thorough administrator. Ground was broken in May, 1837, and the aqueduct was operational in July, 1842. Major structures included a masonry dam across the Croton River, a bridge over the Harlem River, two large reservoirs in Manhattan. Minor structures included gate houses, waste weirs, ventilators, culverts.

Subject Headings: Aqueducts | Fires | Diseases | New York | United States | New York City

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