Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Hudson Water-Works

On New Year's Eve, Gossips reported that a hundred years ago, on that same day, the City of Hudson's water supply was dangerously low because people were letting faucets drip hoping to keep their pipes from freezing. As today, it was brutally cold in Hudson at the close of 1917. The article reproduced from the Hudson Evening Register for December 31, 1917, contained the following statement: "City Engineer [Michael J.] O'Hara admitted that the situation was exceedingly alarming, and that a bad fire might necessitate the putting into operation--if under prevailing conditions that were possible--the old plumbing apparatuses." Gossips wondered what those "old plumbing apparatuses" might be, and, a few hours after the post was published, Rob Perry, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, provided the answer. 

In 1917, the City was receiving its water from the "new" Churchtown Reservoir in Taghkanic. Prior to that, the primary source of water was the Hudson River. Perry referred me to the 1878 History of Columbia County, by Franklin Ellis, and section on the "Hudson Water-Works." The following is quoted from that work: 
[T]he introduction of an amply water-supply was looked upon as a project too gigantic to be undertaken by a city of Hudson's population and resources. It was not, therefore, until October, 1871, during the great Chicago fire, that the question was seriously agitated. It was then thoroughly discussed through the newspapers and at public meetings, and the result of these discussions was the passage of a law, in the spring of 1872, authorizing the construction of water-works, and appropriating therefor one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars. The commission appointed under the law caused surveys and estimates to be made, and it was demonstrated to be impracticable to erect such works as the interest of the city required within the appropriation. Therefore, in the spring of 1873, a new law was enacted, authorizing the expenditure of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. . . .
According to the inflation calculator consulted, $250,000 in 1873 is the equivalent of $5 million today. The account by Ellis continues:
These works were completed within the time estimated to be required and within the appropriation; which can be said of few public works of equal extent and importance. The commissioners under whose supervision and control the works were constructed were Messrs. F. F. Folger, Edwin C. Terry, Lemuel Holmes, William H. Gifford, Hiram Macy, and Thomas S. Gray.
The water is taken from nearly opposite Ferry Street, at a point where the depth of the river is 35 feet. . . .
The pumping building and engine-house is a fine structure, fifty-eight feet ten inches by sixty-five feet seven inches, and fifty-two feet in height to the ridge, with pressed-brick faces and marble trimmings. Its location is on Water Street, west of Franklin square, and between the Hudson River railroad and the river. Its cost was about $15,000. The pumping-engines and boilers were built by Clapp & Jones Manufacturing Company, of Hudson, at a cost of $40,000. All straight pipes were furnished on contract by the Warren foundry, and most of the specials were cast by Messrs. Gifford Brothers, of Hudson. The length of pipe now laid in the system is about thirteen miles.
Perry speculated that the City Water Department kept the pump station at the river operational as an emergency backup for a few years after the Churchtown Reservoir became operational. He also surmised that the brick building at the far left in this picture, published on Gossips on December 29, identified in the caption as the "DPW garage," which was demolished in 1967 "to make way for the long awaited Hudson Boat Launch Site," is the Hudson Water Works pumping building and engine-house constructed in 1873.

Evelyn & Robert Monthie Slide Collection, Columbia County Historical Society
This morning, Perry provided evidence that the DPW garage demolished in 1967 was indeed the original Hudson water works. These plaques hang on the north wall of the mechanics' bay in the current DPW garage, presumably constructed in 1967.


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