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Rochester's Rich History: The Rochester Water Works Companies, 1835-1872

  1. Rochester Water Works Companies, 1835-1872" covers the attempts by two companies of that name to supply water to the City of Rochester. The second company was incorporated in 1852 and after several false starts received a contract from the Rochester Common Council in 1866 to distribute Hemlock Lake water throughout the city for domestic use and fire protection. The company's engineer, Daniel Marsh, was very competent, but the firm's president, Alexander Easton, had little experience with water works and, when costs became an issue, chose to utilize local resident Isaac S. Hobbie's wood stave pipe for the seventeen-mile conduit to Rochester. Although Hobbie's pipe was to prove very successful on later projects, the combination of inexperience and bad luck resulted in the $1.6 million project becoming one of the most spectacular failures in the history of American water systems. The city ended up paying the company $26,000 for their property in March of 1882, six years after a city-owned system successfully delivered Hemlock Lake water through a wrought-iron conduit. The story of this failed project sheds helpful light on the state of American engineering and manufacturing after the Civil War, making it a useful contribution to these fields.

Morris A. Pierce is the retired Energy Manager for the University of Rochester, where he has also taught the History of Technology, History of Rochester, and American Military History for three decades.   He is currently working on an on-line Documentary History of American Water Works, with Rochester one of more than 800 cities he has researched.



Saturday, February 16, 2019
1:00pm - 2:30pm
Central - Kusler-Cox Auditorium
Central Library
  Department - Local History & Genealogy  

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