Our Firemen, The History of the NY Fire Departments
Chapter 20, Part IV
By Holice and Debbie
The following are the locations of cisterns for the year 1830:
These cisterns were kept filled by details of prisoners, chain gangs from the Penitentiary, which then stood where Bellevue Hospital is now located, who would take the unemployed engines from the corporation yard and fill the cisterns from the pumps and wells around the city.
In December, 1832, Colonel De Witt Clinton finally decided that the city would have to rely on the Croton River. Colonel Clinton had strong confidence in the practicability of delivering the water at one hundred and thirty-seven feet above tide. It actually now stands in the distributing reservoir at one hundred and fifteen feet. He preferred the open canal to the closed tunnel, both on account of the expense of constructing the tunnel and the danger of leakage and breakage. About this time an analysis of the Bronx was made by different chemists, Messrs. Chilton, Ackerly, and Griscom, which showed it to be of remarkable purity, not containing more than two grains of foreign matter in a gallon.
On the twenty-sixth of February, 1833, the legislature took steps in the matter. Engineers set to work, and the route was calculated to be nearly forty-seven miles, and the expense four million seven hundred and sixty-eight thousand one hundred and ninety-seven dollars. On February 6, 1834, the Common Council applied to the legislature for a law authorizing a loan of two and a half millions of dollars, to create a stock called the "Water Stock of the City of New York," at give per cent, interest. The application was granted. The water commissioners appointed D. B. Douglas this chief engineer, and he organized a corps of seventeen engineers, who immediately took the field. I was in the Spring 1837 that the work was fairly begun, and thirteen sections of the work were let. Three years were allowed for the fulfillment of the contracts. The line was divided into four districts, under Engineers Edmund French, henry T. Anthony, and Peter Hostie.
It was planned that one hundred and fifty-two miles of pipe in the streets would be wanted, and that the expense would be one million two hundred and sixty-one thousand and twenty-seven dollars.
As the progressed it was seen that more millions would be required to complete it then the original estimate showed. Grog shops in the vicinity of the laborers were built, and these gave rise to scenes of riot and murder.
In the summer of 1838 (July 10) the comptroller was authorized to sell and dispose of five hundred thousand dollars of the "water stock of the city of New York;" and in the fall of that year (November 2) he was authorized to sell and dispose of a further amount of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars, redeemable in twenty years.
In 1838, during a drought, the Croton stream was gauged and found to be able to supply three times more water than the population required at that time. On May 3, 1839, the legislature passed an act authorizing the construction of High Bridge for the conveyance of the Croton. The total estimated cost of the structure was eight hundred and thirty-six thousand six hundred and thirteen dollars. The High Bridge was contracted for in August, 1839, at seven hundred and thirty-seven thousand seven hundred and fifty-five dollars, and on conditions that it should be completed in August, 1843. The cost of the Aqueduct, including the Bridge, was then estimated to be nine million dollars, over and above the loss of interest on the capital, until the work was finished and productive. In 1840 the original water commissioners, Messrs. Stephen Allen, William W. Fox, Charles Dusenberry and Thomas T. Woodruff, were superseded by Messrs. Samuel Stevens, Benjamin Birdsall, John D. Ward, and Samuel B. Childs.
The early part of the working season of 1842 was rainy and occasioned some solicitude, lest the contractors, especially those for the dam, should not be able sufficiently to advance their work to realize the expectations of the citizens to behold the Croton flowing in their street on the Fourth of July; but after the state of the weather permitted operations to be resumed, the work on the dam was carried on with such diligence and energy that the water in the Croton Lake was raised sufficiently high to flow into the aqueduct with a depth of eighteen inches on the morning of the twenty-second of June. In the following month the jet which threw the water from forty to fifty feet high had been prepared at Forty-seventh street, and was playing at an early hour on the morning of the second, and was the greatest attraction in the city. The total cost of the Aqueduct was found to be eleven million four hundred and fifty-two thousand six hundred and nineteen dollars and sixty-one cents.
The completion of this great work was celebrated in a fitting manner by the city. A committee of the Common Council stated that the Fire Department had made extensive preparations for the occasion, and hoped the Corporation would do the same. Accordingly the sum of two thousand dollars was appropriated for the purpose--a sum that would have been considered ridiculously small in later day of reckless city expenditure. The president of the Common council then appointed Aldermen Clarkson Crolius, Jr., Henry E. Davies, Edward D. West, Charles W. Smith, and Frederick R. Lee a committee to take steps to carry out the celebration. The Board of Assistant Aldermen concurred and appointed Messrs. Geo. F. Nesbitt, William Dodge, Daniel Ward, H. C. Atwell, and C. F. Dodge members of the joint committee. Alderman Clarkson Crolius, Jr., was appointed chairman. Invitations were sent to the corporations of all the cities and towns near at hand. General George P. Morris composed an ode, and the New York Sacred Music Society, through their President Luther B. Wyman, volunteered to sing it on a stage in front of the City Hall. It was arranged that the splendid banner, painted by Mr. Allan Smith, Jr., and intended as a present to the Fire Department by the city authorities, should be presented by His Honor Mayor Morris to the Board of Trustee of the Fire Department fund, who were delegated by the department to receive it at nine A.M., in front of the City Hall.
L. Maria Child, in her "Letters from New York," (1845), thus poetically and glowingly refers to the introduction of Croton into the city.
"But nature is filled with spirits, as it was in the old Grecian time. One of them dwells in our midst, and scatters blessings like a goddess. This lovely nymph, for years uncourted, reclined in the verdant fields, exchanging glances with the stars, which saw themselves in her deep blue eyes. In true transcendental style she reposed quietly in the sunshine, watching the heavens reflect themselves in her full urn. Sometimes the little birds drank therefrom and looked upward, or the Indian disturbed her placid mirror for a moment with his birchen cup. Thus ages passed, and the beautiful nymph gazed ever upward, and held her mirror to the heavens. But the spirit which pervades all forms was changing--changing; and it whispered to the nymph: 'Why liest thou here all day idle? The birds only sip from thy full urn, while thousands of human beings suffer for what thou hast to spare.' Then the nymph held communion with the sun, and he answered: 'I give unto all without stint or measure, and yet my storehouse is full, as at the beginning.' She looked at heaven, and saw written among the stars, 'Lo, I embrace all, and thy urn is but a fragment of the great mirror, in which I reveal myself to all.' "Then the nymph felt having aspirations at her heart, and she said, 'I too would be like the sunshine and the bright blue heavens.' A voice from the infinite replied, 'He that giveth receiveth. Let thine urn pour forth forever, and it shall be forever full.'
"Then the water leaped joyfully and went on its mission of love. Concealed, like good deeds, it went all over the city, and baptized it in the name of Purity, Temperance, and Health. It flowed in the midst of pollution and filth, but kept itself unmixed and undefiled, like Arethusa in her pathway through the sea--like a pure and loving heart visiting the abodes of wretchedness and sin. The children sport with its thousand rills; the poor invoke blessings on the urn whence such treasures flow; and when the old enemy--Fire--puts forth his forked tongue, the nymph throws her veil over him, and hissing he goes out from her presence. Yet the urn fails not, but overflows evermore. And since the nymph has changed repose for action, and self-contemplation for bounteous outgiving, she has received. "'A very shower of beauty for her earthly dower.'
"She stands before us a perpetual fountain of beauty and joy, wearing the sunlight for diamonds and the rainbow for her mantle. This magnificent vision of herself, as a veiled Water Spirit, is her princely gift to the soul of man; and who can tell what changes may be wrought therewith?" "To me," says the same writer, "there is something extremely beautiful in the idea that little river lying so many years unnoticed among the hills; her great powers as little appreciated as Shakespeare's were by his contemporaries, and, like him, all unconscious of her future fame; and now, like his genius, brought to all the people a perpetual fountain of refreshment, * * * Her name, Crotona, hath the old Grecian sound, but greater is her glory than Callirhoe, or Arethusa, or Agle, the fairest of the Naiads, for Crotona manifests the idea of an age on which rests the golden shadow of an approaching millenium - - that equal diffusion is the only wealth, and working for others is the only joy.
Transcribed by Holice B. Young
HTML by Debbie
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