NYC DEP Jerome Park Reservoir Educational Component

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Illustration 1: ill1 (Photo by Sandra Sider).

Illustration 2: Pipe Vault Portal, an arched stone structure at the northwest corner of the Jerome Park Reservoir, leads to a passage through the reservoir embankment to Gate House No. 2.

Illustration 3: Gate House No. 5, Jerome Park Reservoir, main entry portal.

Illustration 5: Sholem Aleichem Houses, an historic apartment building overlooking the Jerome Park Reservoir.

Illustration 6: Sedgwick Avenue, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape architect, borders the western edge of the Jerome Park Reservoir

Illustration 7: Horseback riders on the Old Croton Aqueduct berm near the Pocantico River in Westchester County.

Illustration 8: The Old Aqueduct Trailway, at Fordham Road in the Bronx, runs atop a stone-faced berm that is landscaped as a linear park.

Illustration 9: Historic illustration of the Saw Mill River Bridge, Old Croton Aqueduct, Yonkers (Tower, 1843).

Illustration 10: Historic illustration of the High Bridge over the Harlem River, just prior to its completion. Manhattan Island is at left, “The Continent of America” at right (Schramke, 1846).

Illustration 11: Stone ventilator shaft on the Old Croton Aqueduct in Ossining.

Illustration 12: Weir building on the Old Croton Aqueduct in Pocantico.

Illustration 13: Ferry landing by the High Bridge. The High Bridge Tower and pumping station can be seen on the opposite bank of the Harlem River. (Harper’s Weekly, 1880).

Illustration 14: 113th Street Gate House, Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan, built in the 1870’s along the Old Croton Aqueduct.

Illustration 15: Middle Branch Reservoir dam, Putnam County.

Illustration 16: System plan showing the Old Croton Aqueduct, the New Croton Aqueduct and the Bronx and Byram system. Above is a hydrographic profile of the New Croton Aqueduct. Below is a cross section through the New Croton Reservoir, based on the proposed Quaker Bridge Dam (1887 Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners).

Illustration 17: Cross sections of the New Croton Aqueduct. (1887 Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners).

Illustration 18: Sectional perspective drawing showing the New Croton Aqueduct under construction beneath the Harlem River. High Bridge is in the background, High Bridge Park, Manhattan and Shaft No. 25 are at right. (Scientific American, 1880’s).

Illustration 19: Weir building on the New Croton Aqueduct at Pocantico.

Illustration 20: Shaft No. 25, stair and retaining wall complex, New Croton Aqueduct, High Bridge Park, Manhattan. The horseshoe-arched portal is emblematic of the aqueduct beneath.

Illustration 23: East Branch Dam, Putnam County.

Illustration 24: Titicus Dam, Westchester County.

Illustration 25: New Croton Dam (Cornell site), Westchester.

Illustration 26: Croton Reservoir, Westchester.

Illustration 28: Site plan of the Jerome Park Reservoir showing its relationship to the ‘Olmsted streets,’ Mosholu Parkway, and Van Cortlandt Park (1895 Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners).

Illustration 29: Plan of the Jerome Park Reservoir showing new work and existing conditions. The design includes a peninsula and two islands (1895 Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners).

Illustration 32: High Pumping Station, Jerome Park Reservoir, designed by G. W. Birdsall, Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity.

Illustration 33: Historic view, Reservoir Keeper’s House (demolished), Jerome Park Reservoir, designed by F. S. Cook, Aqueduct Commissioners.

Illustration 35: Residences along Sedgwick Avenue seen from the Jerome Park Reservoir grounds.

Illustration 36: Jerome Park Reservoir and Reservoir Avenue seen from an overlook in Old Fort Four Park (originally part of the reservoir grounds).

Illustration 37: Historic view of the New Croton Branch Aqueduct for Jerome Park Reservoir under construction in 1899 (1907 Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners).

Illustration 38: Historic view of the Old Croton Aqueduct being reconstructed in the Division Wall of the Jerome Park Reservoir in 1898 (1907 Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners).

Illustration 39: Historic view of the original Division Wall of the Jerome Park Reservoir (now the East Basin Wall), being built in 1899. The reconstructed Old Croton Aqueduct is above and the conduits from Gate House No. 5 are below (1907 report to the Aqueduct Commissioners).

Illustration 40: Lehman College seen over the wall of the Old Croton Aqueduct, where it was reconstructed within the original Division Wall of the Jerome Park Reservoir (now the East Basin Wall).

Illustration 41: The wall of the Old Croton Aqueduct reconstructed within Gate House No. 5 of the Jerome Park Reservoir.

Illustration 42: Original boundary wall of the Jerome Park Reservoir, now in Fort Independence Park.

Illustration 44: Gate House No. 2, Jerome Park Reservoir.

Illustration 45: Gate House No. 3, Jerome Park Reservoir.

Illustration 47: Inlet with voussoir arch, Gate House No. 3, Jerome Park Reservoir.

Illustration 48: Cast iron valves and floor plates, c. 1900, Gate House No. 5, Jerome Park Reservoir.

Illustration 52: Inlet tunnel and sluice gates, Gate House No. 7, Jerome Park Reservoir.

Illustration 53: Gate House No. 2, Jerome Park Reservoir. The stone substructure is by the Aqueduct Commissioners, c. 1900, the brick and stone superstructure, by the WPA, is from 1938.

Illustration 54: Gate House No. 5, Jerome Park Reservoir. The stone substructure is by the Aqueduct Commissioners, c. 1900, the brick and stone superstructure, by the WPA, is from 1938.

Illustration 56: Historic view, West Basin Wall and Waste Weir under construction, 1902 (1907 Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners).

Illustration 57: Historic view, Jerome Park Reservoir from north end showing the bridge from Gate House No. 5 Shaft No. 21 (1907 Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners).

Illustration 58: South Portal, Jerome Park Reservoir, the principal outlet supplying the reservoir.

Cover Illustration.

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Selected Bibliography

T. Schramke, Description of the New York Croton Aqueduct, 1846
Edward Wegmann, The Water Supply of the City of New York 1658 – 1895, John Wiley & Sons, 1896

The Old Croton Aqueduct: Rural Resources Meet Urban Needs, The Hudson River Museum of Westchester, 1992

Charles H. Weidner, Water for a City, Rutgers University Press, 1974

F. B. Tower, Illustrations of the Croton Aqueduct, 1843

Aqueduct Commission, Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners, 1887

Aqueduct Commission, Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners, 1895

Aqueduct Commission, Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners, 1907

Andrew S. Dolkart, Guide to New York City Landmarks, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, 1992

Linda Gilbert Cooper, A Walkerís Guide to the Old Croton Aqueduct, 1992

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Historic Status of Jerome Park Reservoir

A. Landmark Status

The Jerome Park Reservoir has been determined by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission to be eligible for landmark designation, and by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to meet the criteria for inclusion in the State and National Register. The east wall of the reservoir, along Goulden Avenue, contains the Old Croton Aqueduct, a National Historic Landmark structure, which extends along the entire length of the site and passes through Gate Houses Nos. 5 and 7.

The Jerome Park Conservancy has adopted a resolution requesting the New York City Landmarks Commission to designate the site as a scenic landmark. The motion to adopt the resolution was made by Hon. June Eisland and passed unanimously by the Conservancyís Board of Directors at its January 20, 1995 meeting. The Bronx Landmarks Task Force, Office of the Bronx Borough President, voted at its April, 1998 meeting to revise its list of proposed landmarks in the Bronx to include landmarking the elements of the Jerome Park Reservoir and creating a Jerome Park Reservoir Scenic Landmark. Landmarking of the reservoir enjoys widespread support among community leaders and residents, and no known public opposition.

The Jerome Park Reservoir is the only major component of the Croton Aqueduct system in New York City that the city has not landmarked (aside from the aqueduct conduits themselves). The Central Park Reservoir, High Bridge and High Bridge Tower are city landmarks, and are listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. The 135th Street Gate House in Manhattan, and the High Pumping Station on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx (an element of the Jerome Park Reservoir complex) are similarly landmarked.

The Jerome Park Reservoir, along with adjacent parks and landscaped roadways that were part of its original grounds, is an excellent candidate for designation as a scenic landmark. It is of interest to note that no scenic landmarks have yet been designated in the Borough of the Bronx. The historic stone, brick and concrete structures, including the gate houses, on the reservoir site are deserving of individual landmark status.

B. Impact of the Proposed Water Treatment Plant

The impact of the construction of the proposed water treatment plant on the Jerome Park Reservoir and the surrounding Olmsted ìsuburbî would be devastating. The Old Croton Aqueduct and all of the stone walls, gate houses and other historic structures and site elements of the reservoir are highly significant, as is the form of the reservoir itself. The historic character of the reservoir is dependant on its scale, open space and scenic vistas, as well as the preservation of the structures. There is no portion of the reservoir site where the proposed facility could be located that would lessen the impact on it as an historic resource.

All of the work for the filtration plant that has been proposed or completed to date has entailed an impact on historic resources. The construction contract for the new dividing wall in the 1980’s included the demolition of the stone-arched bridge from Gate House No. 5 to Shaft No. 21, which was of great symbolic importance. The proposed filtration plant design in the 1995 preliminary DEIS called for the demolition of all of the stone gate houses and brick superstructures.

The current proposal appears to indicate the demolition of approximately one quarter mile of the Old Croton Aqueduct and the massive stone structure that carries it through the site. It is not acceptable to demolish any of the historic structures on the site, particularly this National Historic Landmark structure.

Also, the current proposal would change of the form of the reservoir completely, and would greatly reduce the size of the reservoir as a body of water, eliminating scenic vistas from the adjacent parks and water views from residences and institutions.

In the current proposal the Jerome Park Reservoir, as a body of water, would cease to be the central feature of the surrounding district. The new industrial complex would become the central feature, appropriating the reservoir, which would become a moat or reflecting pool, as if it were part of the grounds of a citadel. This is a planning approach that is antithetical to the principles of Olmsted, and represents a complete reversal of the century-old relationship between the reservoir and its community.

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Landscape Features and Historic Structures at Jerome Park Reservoir

A. Siting and Landscape Features

The Jerome Park Reservoir, the largest body of water in the Bronx, was set into the street plan designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and J. J. R. Croes, and over succeeding decades became the nucleus of a diverse residential community (Illustrations 1, 5 and 35). The surrounding parkland was originally part of the reservoir grounds. The residential and academic communities that evolved around the reservoir, were influenced by its open space, landscaped edge, and water views.

The adjacent parks, Old Fort Four Park, Fort Independence Park, Harris Field and Harris Park Annex, originally part of the reservoir grounds, share scenic vistas across the water (Illustration 36). Combined with surrounding roads such as the curvilinear, tree-lined Sedgwick (Illustration 6) and Reservoir Avenues, they are an extension of the greenbelt surrounding the reservoir. The elements of park, roadway, and reservoir, combined with their landscape elements of stone walls, paved walks, terraces, seating areas, and stairs, and natural elements such as trees and rock outcroppings, evoke the style of other Olmsted landscapes in the city, such as Central and Riverside Parks.

The connection with Van Cortlandt Park and Mosholu Parkway link Jerome Park with a fabric of green space extending from Riverdale to Bronx Park. The connection with the Old Croton Aqueduct Trailway links Jerome Park with an historic greenway extending from the New Croton Dam to the High Bridge. The Olmsted plan showed a promenade, over the Old Croton Aqueduct, connecting the Jerome Park racetrack site with the future Van Cortlandt Park.

The Jerome Park Reservoir exemplifies Olmstedís landscape and city planning principles, providing a naturalized setting, and serving to create beauty, serenity and outdoor recreation in the midst of urban residences and institutions. Were it not for this reservoir, there would not be a majestic, landscaped body of water in the Bronx.

The surrounding community also exemplifies the design principles of Olmsted, with curvilinear streets used to create intimate residential neighborhoods, and discourage inappropriate, large-scale or industrial development.

B. Historic Stone Walls

There are several types of stone wall on the Jerome Park Reservoir site. They generally fall into three categories: the original dividing wall (now the east basin wall); basin walls around the rest of the reservoir; and site retaining walls, used to accomodate site elevation changes, create boundaries, and provide dignified landscaping. There are some miscellaneous stone features of interest as well.

1. The East Basin Wall (Original Division Wall)

The East Basin Wall (the original division wall when there was an east basin) is a massive stone structure on which the Old Croton Aqueduct was reconstructed. It was created because the original foundation of the Old Croton Aqueduct was not large enough to withstand the hydrostatic pressure of a full basin on one side and an empty basin on the other. This structure was completed in approximately 1889. The roadway along the east bank of the reservoir is directly over the Old Croton Aqueduct.

The portion from the north end of the reservoir to Gate House No. 5 is 30 feet wide and contains the Old Croton Aqueduct and the horseshoe-shaped Branch Aqueduct of the New Croton Aqueduct (Illustration 37).

The portion of the wall from Gate House No. 5 south to the South Portal is 35 feet thick at the base, and contains the Old Croton Aqueduct on top with two 11 foot diameter brick conduits to supply the east and west basins side-by-side beneath (Illustration 39). The conduits end at the South Portal, where they open into the reservoir.

The Old Croton Aqueduct continues past the South Portal, carried alone atop a stone wall approximately 16 feet thick, to the southern end of the reservoir and on to Kingsbridge Road (Illustration 38).

The lower portion of these walls is constructed of large blocks and stone excavated at the site, and the upper portion consists of the coursed, rock-face granite of the Old Croton Aqueduct (Illustrations 40 and 41), laid with random range ashlar jointing.

2. Basin Walls

Most of the stone facing of the reservoir walls has a rock face finish, and is laid with random range ashlar jointing at the upper portion that is normally visible. The coping stones typically have a pointed finish. One portion of the west wall of the reservoir is finished as rubble masonry.

The lower portion of the walls is typically cyclopean blocks of stone excavated at the site and laid with mortared joints to make the wall watertight.

The typical height of the stone reservoir walls is twenty-seven feet from the reservoir floor to the top of the wall, with two and a half feet of wall exposed above the high water level. Typically, the water level is lower, exposing more wall.

The walls vary in thickness. The typical wall construction is about three feet thick at the top, battered out to about sixteen feet thick at its foundation. The resistance to the lateral force of the water in the reservoir was provided by the stone walls in conjunction with natural geological structures and large masses of compacted fill. The earthen dam along the north end of the reservoir from Gate House No. 2 to Gate House No. 7 has a masonry core.

3. Site Retaining Walls

There is a range of finishes and jointing, from rough uncoursed fieldstone to dressed stone elements such as gateposts. The most common type of retaining wall is of rock face stone laid as squared-stone masonry or coursed rubble (Illustration 42). The retaining wall along the south end of the reservoir is of particular interest for its large stones and dry-laid construction.

C. Structures

1. Gate Houses

The stone Gate Houses of the Jerome Park Reservoir were constructed between 1895 and 1905 in a Roman Revival style reminiscent of ancient public works. They have coursed ashlar jointing and stone voussoir arches. The field of the walls has a rock face finish. Portions, such as the intrados of the arches, have a rough pointed finish. The corners were accented with a small six-cut fascia.

The tops of the Gate Houses are set three and a half feet above the top of the reservoir walls. With the reservoir filled they appear only about six feet above the water level. They are in fact more than thirty feet tall, rising from the reservoir floor.

Gate House No. 1, north of the reservoir in Van Cortlandt Park, was constructed entirely below grade. No superstructure was built over it. This is where the New Croton Aqueduct divides into the Branch Aqueduct to the reservoir and Shaft No. 20 to the pressure tunnel below the reservoir.

Gate House No. 2 (Illustration 44), at the north end of the reservoir, Gate House No. 3 (Illustrations 45, and 47) along the West Basin Wall, and Gate House No. 4 (an element of the unfinished east basin whose remnants are located in the transit yard) were intended to control the outlet of water to local mains.

Gate House No. 5 is the central inlet for the Old and New Croton Aqueducts (Cover Illustration). It fed conduits through the original division wall (now the East Basin Wall) to the reservoir basins, connected the basins, and controlled the pipes feeding Gate Houses Nos. 2, 3 and 4. Gate House No. 5 also could direct water from the reservoir into either the new or old aqueduct, or allow water to bypass the reservoir and continue down either aqueduct (Illustration 48).

The most dramatic expression of Gate House No. 5 was a bridge of six stone voussoir arches linking the gate house to Shaft No. 21 (Illustration 57). This bridge was demolished in the 1980’s as part of the contract to build the new dividing wall.

The original Gate House No. 6 was in the East Basin at Kingsbridge Road. Remnants of it may have been incorporated in the foundation of the Kingsbridge Armory. The current Gate House No. 6 is not one of the gate houses from the 1890’s and does not have a stone substructure.

Gate House No. 7, at the north end of the reservoir, was designed late in the construction of the Jerome Park Reservoir. It connected to the Old and New Croton Aqueducts, and anticipated the construction of the Van Cortlandt Siphon of the Catskill Aqueduct. The cast-in-place concrete substructure of Gate House No. 7 has a horseshoe-arched tunnel portal facing the reservoir basin (Illustration 52). A mirror-image portal for the east basin is buried under Harris Park Annex.

The brick superstructures of the gatehouses were constructed in 1938 by the WPA in the restrained Art Deco style characteristic of public works projects of that era. They are of red brick masonry with limestone and granite trim, set on the original granite gate houses (Illustration 53 and 54).

The monumental entry stair and portal of Gate House 5 are constructed of stone matching the original granite, as a gesture of unifying the old and new construction (Illustration 3). Gate House 5 is a unifying structure in other ways as well. It at roughly the center of the reservoir, on axis with West 205th Street, with the most public face of any of the gate houses, as well as being the juncture of the Old and New Croton Aqueducts, and the central control point for the reservoir.

As is characteristic of Art Deco architecture, the gate house superstructures are designed with classical organizing principles, but contain few traces of classical ornament; the style is derived more from ancient near-eastern architecture, characterized by large, flat masses of masonry without projecting cornices, articulated with slightly projected or recessed panels of graduated height. The walls have small, punched openings, and broad, simple buttresses and full-height piers without projecting capitals.

The design of the gate houses is expressed through the articulation of the wall surfaces and use of contrasting stone trim. The main entry of the Gate House No. 5 superstructure, for example, is taller than the front wall and projected forward, creating a central stone pavilion, which is comprised of a portal flanked by solid piers. Other such articulated features of the gate houses are buttresses and recessed panels. Stone trim is used for cornices, water tables, string courses, window and door frames and sills, and carved, inset panels.

2. Waste Weir

The Waste Weir is a structure along the West Wall of the reservoir, just south of the new Dividing Wall (Illustration 56). It has no superstructure. It is located behind three rectangular openings in the basin wall that allow water to waste out of the reservoir.

3. Pipe Vault Portal

The Pipe Vault Portal is an arched doorway providing access to the Pipe Vault behind Gate House No. 2 along Sedgwick Avenue (Illustration 2). It has a semicircular stone voussoir arch, approached by stone stairs. It is of particular interest for its design and workmanship. Behind the portal is a masonry barrel vault that passes through the entire earthen embankment behind Gate House No. 2. It is intended to prevent structural damage to the dam from pipe leaks.

4. South Portal

The South Portal is an arched opening in the east wall of the reservoir (Illustration 58). It terminates the conduit from Gate House No. 5 and feeds the water of the Old or New Croton Aqueducts into the West Basin. It is a projecting stone element with a large stone voussoir arch. Buried beneath the Lehman College parking lot is an equivalent opening that would have served to feed the abandoned East Basin: this opening is circular rather than arched.

D. Summary of Condition Report

The stone structures of the reservoir complex, including walls, gate houses and other structures, are generally in good condition, with the following exceptions:

The masonry above the water line is soiled and has some plant growth.

Mortar joints are weathered or deteriorated. Voids behind open mortar joints could be seen at localized areas. One facing stone of the Old Croton Aqueduct had displaced and fallen to the floor of the reservoir.

Some stones at localized areas, particularly at the lower portion of the reservoir basin retaining walls, are extensively eroded layers of softer constituents.

The site retaining walls require extensive maintenance and repair to address loose stones, intrusion of roots and saplings, and deteriorated anchorage of iron fence posts.
The brick gate house superstructures range in condition from good to poor. They appear to have received minimal maintenance for several decades. The Gate House No. 2 superstructure is in urgent need of stabilization. Overall, the conditions observed were:

Weathered, deteriorated and open mortar joints.

Masonry displaced or cracked over openings, and at corners and parapet walls.

Deteriorated brickwork and missing brick at localized areas.

Pitted and decayed brick at localized areas.

Soiled masonry.
A condition survey and masonry restoration program are necessary, and should be performed by an architect/conservator with expertise in historic restoration. The program should be prioritized and should begin with stabilization at required areas, followed by a comprehensive masonry restoration.

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History of the Jerome Park Community

A. Early History

While there was widespread settlement of this area by Native Americans, this site has been so extensively excavated in construction of the reservoir, that the mounds adjacent to Fort Independence Park are thought to be the only undisturbed area where Native American artifacts or remains of early European settlements might be found.

B. The American Revolution

Kingsbridge Heights was an area of great strategic importance in the Revolutionary era. The area was often thought of as part of Fordham Heights or called the heights overlooking Kingsbridge. It overlooked and dominated the plain where the Van Cortlandt House and the Kingís Bridge were located, in the valley of the Tibbettís Brook, between the heights and Riverdale (once known as Cordlands Hill). The Kingís Bridge over the Harlem River was Manhattan Islandís overland connection with the mainland. At this point the road from the city divided and led to the three major routes to the north, the post roads to Albany, White Plains and Boston.

There were a number of Revolutionary War forts in Kingsbridge Heights for defense of the Kingís Bridge over the Harlem River. George Washington stayed at the nearby Van Cortlandt mansion and made a temporary headquarters there early in the Revolutionary War, before retreating to the north. The area fell to the British and was occupied. General Washington also stayed in the Van Cortlandt mansion at the end of the war, during his triumphant return to New York, which became the first capital of the U.S. Revolutionary war relics were found during construction of the Jerome Park Reservoir. Sites of two of the forts have become neighborhood parks around the reservoir: Old Fort Four Park and Fort Independence Park.

C. Nineteenth Century

In the second half of the 19th century, the Kingsbridge Heights area consisted of large estates and farmland, such as the Augustus Van Cortlandt and John Dickinson Estates, with the beginnings of residential development.

In 1866, the American Jockey Club developed a racetrack called Jerome Park, named for Leonard W. Jerome, the Wall Street speculator whose daughter, Jennie Jerome Churchill, was Winston Churchillís mother. The track was located on the Bathgate Estate, approximately where Lehman College is today . Jerome, who was head of the NY Jockey Club, had been encouraged by the success of the track at Saratoga Springs, New York. Jerome Park was the first formal, commercial racetrack in New York City, and was the original home of the Belmont Stakes race, named for August Belmont, one of Jeromeís friends and backers. The track was closed in 1887.

Jerome Avenue, which ran past the race track, was also named for Leonard Jerome. It was also known as Central Avenue and was a continuation of the Central Avenue that ran from White Plains down through Westchester, Van Cortlandt Park and the Bronx to the Macombs Dam Bridge (which spans the Harlem River to Manhattan). The relation of Central Avenue in Yonkers to Jerome Avenue in the Bronx is no longer apparent, because the Major Deegan Expressway runs along the bed of the former Central Avenue in Van Cortlandt Park north of East 233rd Street, severing the connection for local traffic.

Jerome Park was in the 24th Ward of New York City, a part of the territory annexed from Westchester in 1874, and consolidated into the Borough of the Bronx in 1898.

In 1877, the Department of Public Parks issued plans of existing streets and planned streets and parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Landscape Architect and J. J. R. Croes, Civil and Topographical Engineer. This project, intended to develop the newly acquired districts in a way that would preserve the beauty and park-like character of certain areas, such as Riverdale and Kingsbridge Heights. According to Charles E. Beveridge, Editor of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, the plan for the 23rd and 24th Wards was Olmstedís, “…largest and most comprehensive city planning project for which he actually prepared plans as well as written reports…the closest thing to a full city plan that Olmsted ever attempted.”

The area surrounding the Jerome Park Reservoir is a remarkably intact portion of the Olmsted and Croes plan of 1877. According to Daniel J. Donovan, the Topographic Engineer of the Borough of the Bronx:

“To determine the extent to which Olmstedís design was actually followed in the Kingsbridge Heights vicinity, the plan [Adopted Map D No. 23] was compared with the final adopted map: Section 21 of Final Maps and Profiles of the 23rd and 24th Wards, dated June 17, 1895, Topographical Bureau, Louis A. Risse Chief Engineer. Comparison of these plans confirms that the Final Map of 1895 is substantially in conformance with the 1877 Olmsted plan, much of it, in fact, in exact conformance. The most significant change in the Kingsbridge Heights vicinity from the 1877 Olmsted design to the Final Map of 1895 is the inclusion of the Jerome Park Reservoir.”

It is clear that Olmstedís intent in providing neighborhoods like Kingsbridge Heights with narrow, curvilinear streets was to assure that they would maintain their residential character, discourage inappropriate development, and preserve their existing natural beauty. The charming character of the residential neighborhoods surrounding the reservoir is due not to chance, but to the intervention of Olmsted, whose influence similarly saved Riverdale from the imposition of a rectilinear street grid.

One of the great distinctions between Olmstedís work in Central Park and in the Riverdale and Kingsbridge Heights areas was that the site on which Central Park was built was not considered attractive: it consisted of empty lots, squatter camps, marshes and even a bone boiling yard. The landscape of the park is almost entirely artificial. Riverdale and Kingsbridge Heights, on the other hand, had a naturally exquisite landscape which had only to be enhanced with the skillful introduction of roadways, and limited commercial areas to serve extensive residential areas.

One wonders why this ambitious and sophisticated design by Olmsted, undertaken just a few years after the opening of Central Park in 1874, is so little known. While his plans for the Bronx were adopted by the city and went into construction, Olmsted fought bitterly against politicians whom, ì…he accused of interfering with his designs and according more importance to patronage than to … proper administration.î

Olmsted was dismissed by the Department of Public Parks in 1878. He moved to Brookline, Massachusetts in 1882, just before the appointment of the Aqueduct Commissioners, when debate on the design of the New Croton Aqueduct and Jerome Park Reservoir was heating up. Olmsted may have maintained contact with Benjamin S. Church, his club-mate from the Union League Club, until Churchís own downfall with the city bureaucracy. Olmsted is known to have, “…continued to concern himself with the fate of public parks in New York City…”

According to the Encyclopedia of the City of New York:

“[Olmsted] considered his landscapes both works of art and social experiments that would have a civilizing influence. He denounced the gridiron system of streets as a relic of an earlier stage of urbanization and envisioned instead a compact business district surrounded by more open residential neighborhoods and spacious, naturalistic parks; this vision is most clearly set forth in his proposals for the Bronx and for the Parkways in Brooklyn. Although often frustrated by political maneuvering and competing ideas of what a park should be, Olmsted and his collaborators had a profound influence on New York City.”

In the decades following Olmstedís dismissal detailed plans for the Mosholu Parkway were developed. In 1888 the Van Cortlandt estate and many other parcels became parks. The planning of streets in the 23rd and 24th Wards was turned over from the Department of Public Parks to the Commissioner of Street Improvements. In 1892 Heintz and Risse prepared the design for the Speedway Concourse (later named the Grand Boulevard and Concourse) to the east of Jerome Avenue.

When the Jerome Park Reservoir went into construction, the surrounding streets had single family homes with some small farms remaining. When the east basin of the reservoir was turned over to other city agencies, the Kingsbridge Armory was constructed, followed by schools, including DeWitt Clinton High School, Bronx High School of Science and Hunter College (now Lehman College, Illustration 40). As the twentieth century progressed, apartment buildings were constructed to take advantage of the view of the reservoir and its grounds (Illustrations 1 and 5).

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Jerome Park Reservoir and the History of the Croton Waterworks

A. The Early Water Supply of New York City

Because the lower Hudson River is an estuary, the water is salty all around Manhattan Island and for many miles upstream, and is not suitable for drinking. The early European settlers found adequate supplies of potable water from other sources. Public wells and pumps existed in New York City from the 17th century, and a major source of water was a pond called the Collect, where Foley Square is today. The Collect, along with many of the wells, was hopelessly polluted by the end of the 18th century. The accelerating growth of the cityís population combined with the failing water supply and the engineering difficulty of providing an adequate public water supply system, caused decades of debate. The profession of civil engineering was in its infancy in the United States, and there were no precedents in North America for the type or scale of construction that would be required to divert a river of pure water to the city.

In 1798 the city adopted a plan for a municipal water supply system, an ingenious scheme by Dr. Joseph Browne to divert the water of the Bronx River from a dam, near where the Bronx Zoo is today, through a canal to the Harlem River, where a water wheel would pump the water through a cast iron pipe to a reservoir on Manhattan Island . (This plan was never executed.)

The enabling legislation of 1799 created the Manhattan Water Company, which was led by Aaron Burr. Using this as a maneuver to obtain a bank charter, Burr spent as little effort as possible providing water. The company (which eventually became the Chase Manhattan Bank) abandoned the Bronx River plan in favor of creating a well and small reservoir, holding only a fraction of the cityís daily need. The system was deficient in many ways: it used hollow logs rather than iron pipes, served only the areas where service was profitable, and did not provide water for street cleaning or fire fighting.

The city continued to be plagued by fires that consumed whole blocks, and epidemics of yellow fever and other diseases that fed on poor sanitation. A terrible cholera epidemic in 1832 spurred the city to take immediate steps to create a true municipal water system. There was disagreement on whether to use the Croton River, the Bronx River, or another source for the cityís water. At the urging of Alderman Myndert Van Shaick, a proponent of the Croton River, the Common Council commissioned a study by civil engineer Colonel DeWitt Clinton, Jr., the son of Governor Clinton, who concluded that the Croton would be the best source, and developed a comprehensive plan.

B. The Old Croton Aqueduct

In 1833, a Board of Water Commisioners was appointed to plan a water supply system. One of their engineers, Major David Bates Douglass, a hero of the War of 1812 and a West Point engineering professor, sided with Colonel Clinton in favor of using the Croton River. Douglass became the chief engineer of the project, overseeing the planing and design of the Old Croton Aqueduct. The Commisioners replaced Douglass in 1836 with John B. Jervis, an engineer with experience in canal and railroad construction. Jervis revised and completed the design, and oversaw the construction of the Aqueduct. He, more than anyone else, is credited with the final design of the Croton Aqueduct. Also involved as “ engineer and supervising architect,” in design and production of drawings was the young James Renwick, Jr., later the architect of St. Patrickís Cathedral in Manhattan, and the Riverdale Presbyterian Church and the Greyston villa in the Bronx.

The great fire of 1835 created pressure to complete the work. Construction of the Old Croton Aqueduct began in 1837, and it was ready to go into service within five years, an unprecedented feat of organization. When it was complete, the masonry aqueduct wound its way for more than 40 miles through forests, villages and cities from a dam on the Croton River to two high-walled, rectangular reservoirs in Manhattan, the Receiving Reservoir at Yorkhill (where the Great Lawn now is in Central Park) and the Distributing Reservoir on Murray Hill (where the 42nd Street Public Library is today).

Like the aqueducts of ancient Rome, the Old Croton Aqueduct was designed to rely on gravity, and was built with a constant slope, which it maintains while the terrain around it undulates. Because it was designed to be constructed by the cut and cover method wherever possible, the aqueduct follows a course where the natural contours are the closest to its gradient. Typically, the aqueduct is partially buried, borne on a stone foundation, with a telltale mound running over it. With an earthen top and banked stone-faced or sod-covered walls, this mound is the characteristic aqueduct berm (Illustrations 7 and 8). The conduit itself is a horseshoe-arch-shaped stone and brick tunnel. The aqueduct was built mostly by Irish immigrant laborers. The Croton Aqueduct Trailway runs on top of the tunnel for most of its length, and is used today for recreation and as a pedestrian facility.

Where the aqueduct crosses valleys it is carried on massive stone and earth embankments. Streams and roads penetrate the embankment through vaulted culverts (Illustration 9); larger rivers were spanned by dramatic arched bridges. The most famous, the High Bridge over the Harlem River was completed 1848, six years after the aqueduct itself (Illustration 10). Other above – ground stone structures picturesque tapered ventilator shafts (Illustration 11), intended to keep the water fresh, and weir buildings (Illustration 12), structures that allowed water to waste and enabled the aqueduct to be drained.

Although a triumph of engineering and architecture, and a blessing for the city, the construction of the new water system had a human toll as well. On January 8, 1841, a heavy snow storm followed by days of torrential rain made the waters of the Croton swell, setting off a collapse of the incomplete Croton Dam and sending a wall of water and masses of ice crashing through the Croton Valley for three miles to the Hudson River. The disaster took three lives, and destroyed numerous houses, mills, factories, roads and bridges. The engineers reconstructed the dam with a larger spillway, but did not restore the economic life of the Croton River below the dam, which, due to flood damage, was no longer deep enough to be navigable by commercial vessels.

The pure, abundant water from the Croton Reservoir finally flowed into the mains of New York City on the Fourth of July, 1842. A great celebration was mounted, with jubilant throngs, the ringing of church bells, firing of cannon, and a five-mile-long parade. ìStanding in front of the City Hall, with the fountain sending plumes of Croton water fifty feet into the air, Governor Seward and Mayor Morris addressed the crowd. Members of the New York Sacred Music Society stood by the fountain and sang an ode written for the occasion.î The Croton system was hailed around the world as an engineering masterpiece and the promenade along the parapet of the Murray Hill Distributing Reservoir became a major tourist attraction, especially when the Crystal Palace was located next door on the site of the present Bryant Park. With a world-class water system at last in place, the city was equipped to become a modern metropolis.

C. Croton Waterworks Extension

New York’s population grew persistently faster than expected in the second half of the 19th century, and the flow of Croton water that seemed so abundant in 1842 appeared insufficient only a few years later. The problem was twofold: one issue was the capacity of the aqueduct conduit; the other issue was the quantity and quality of water available from the Croton River itself, particularly in years of drought.

In 1849, the year after the High Bridge went into service, the Croton Aqueduct Department was created. Its broad responsibilities extended to the building of sewers and paving of streets, but its central purpose was to operate and maintain the waterworks. To solve the first part of the water supply problem, they could accommodate increased demand for quite a few years simply by increasing the flow of water in the aqueduct, which had been designed with substantial overcapacity. The other part of the problem, controlling the volume and quality of the river water itself, required a strategy to increase storage capacity throughout the system. All of the changes required to improve the system, and to allow it to evolve to meet new demands and to incorporate improvements and new components, came to be categorized as the Croton Waterworks Extension.

In 1857 and 1858 a topographical survey of Croton Valley in northern Westchester and Putnam Counties was performed to identify suitable points for storage reservoirs along the three branches of the Croton River. This watershed covered an area ranging nearly from the Hudson River to the Connecticut border, and upstream from the Old Croton Dam for close to fifty miles.

The storage reservoirs were to be artificial lakes formed by damming the Croton River and its tributaries at strategic locations. This technique had been used to create the Old Croton Reservoir. The 1850’s plan, which envisioned fourteen storage reservoirs, designated A through O, was carried out nearly as planned between 1866 and 1911. This system, with its picturesque highland lake landscapes, and majestic stone and earth dams, is still operating today.

This plan was a marriage of engineering and ecology. It eventually created a controlled water chain along the Crotonís three main branches and principal tributaries, with storage reservoirs controlling the flow of water through spillways in the dams back into the river to maximize storage capacity and supplement the volume in drought conditions. There were also several natural lakes whose water could be drawn if needed. At the Croton Reservoir, the final lake in the upstate system, water would enter the aqueduct to the city. The Croton Aqueduct Department and successor agencies took great pride in maintaining the cleanliness and ecological health of the Croton Watershed, and were roundly criticized when critics felt that they were neglecting this task.

The New Central Park Receiving Reservoir at Yorkhill, built from 1858 to 1863, was the first major project of the Croton Waterworks Extension. Unlike the original Receiving Reservoir, it was planned with the knowledge that the park was being developed:

“Its curvilinear shape is largely due to the persuasiveness of the man who was then the engineer of the new Park, Anton Viele. Viele argued that the new reservoir should not be rectangular like the old one but should have a more graceful and natural form. In spite of this aesthetic gesture, the Reservoir posed problems for the designers Olmsted and Vaux. It filled so much of the Park from side to side that it was a virtual barrier to north-south traffic.”

The naturalistic form of the New Central Park Reservoir is reminiscent of artificial lakes such as the original Croton Reservoir and the new storage reservoirs that were being planned in the Croton Valley. Begun only fifteen years after the completion of the earlier reservoirs, it represented a change in design philosophy. Unlike the earlier rectangular reservoirs that had been intended to fill city blocks, new urban reservoirs could be integrated into park landscaping, and be enjoyed for scenic views and recreation:

“According to the contemporary historian Clarence Cook, the pedestrian walkway around the Reservoir provided an ëadmirable constitutionalí in the early days of the Park. It afforded a fine breeze, dancing waves and a setting for beautiful sunsets. Three cast iron bridges…were built to carry pedestrians over the Bridle Trail to the walkway.”

The second major project of the Croton Waterworks Extension, starting in 1861, was the addition of a large wrought iron main to the High Bridge to upgrade its capacity. The height of the walls and cornice was increased, and the bridge was roofed with a brick vault for its entire length. This work was completed in 1863.

The following year iron railings were installed on the bridge and Bronx High Bridge park was terraced and landscaped. From the start the system had been viewed as a scenic attraction by the public, and the High Bridge continued to rank among the cityís top tourist attractions.

Plans for commencing other major new projects were delayed by the Civil War. The High Bridge Reservoir and Tower (Illustration 13) were constructed from 1866 to 1873 to serve the growing population of upper Manhattanís heights, known as Carmansville, and nearby areas that were above the head of the existing aqueduct and reservoirs. The steam-powered pumping engines of that day were not reliable and the reservoir and tower were required to make service continuous. The tower had essentially the same function as the reservoir, but served a higher elevation. The High Bridge Reservoir was the last of the rectangular reservoirs of the Croton System.

The Croton Aqueduct Department was taken over by the Department of Public Works in 1870. The significance of the water supply system, along with the road-paving and sewer operations, was immediately recognized by the first Commissioner of Public Works, William Marcy Tweed, who harnessed it for his bold schemes of malfeasance and racketeering.

In the Department of Public Works Annual Report of 1870/71 Commissioner Tweed wrote that, ìThe very large amount of labor which has fallen to the charge of the Chief Engineer of the Croton Aqueduct is apparent upon reference to his voluminous report.î In fact, the ìvoluminous reportî written by Chief Engineer Edward H. Tracey had only about ten pages that vaguely described the works currently underway along with twenty-nine pages of filler, which consisted of a thirty-year-old description of the system written by Jervis. This filler was inserted abruptly and awkwardly in Traceyís text, most likely at the insistence of Tweed. While the Annual Report looks like a normal, orderly bureaucratic document, it glosses over a binge of spending that drew the city to the verge of insolvency.

Tweed relied on the reputation of the Croton Aqueduct Department and its engineering feats. For example, he recalled their 1869 work on the regrading of 5th Avenue in Manhattan, where they lowered two 36-inch iron mains four feet into a rock-cut while water was flowing through them, to avoid interrupting service.

The corrupt administration of the Croton Waterworks under Tweed fundamentally shook the faith of the public; this damage has never been fully erased. It ended an era of innocence during which there had been absolute confidence in the motives and honesty of the administrators and engineers of the system, who were entrusted with decisions concerning the vast works and huge outlays of public money that are inherent to the supply of water for great cities. It also began a schism between the engineers of the former Croton Aqueduct Department and their new masters, whose primary interest was in controlling the flow of money rather than water.

Boyd’s Corners Reservoir (Reservoir E) was the first of the storage reservoirs to be constructed in the watershed. Located in Putnam County it was built between 1866 and 1874 on the West Branch of the Croton River near Fahnstock State Park. It was in the midst of this project that the Department of Public Works took over the Croton Waterworks.

The distaste for the new regime was often expressed subtly, as in the statement by J.J.R. Croes, the Resident Engineer for the construction of Boyd’s Corners Reservoir, criticizing the workmanship of an embankment, ” ‘It was built by contract, and not rolled or thoroughly rammed, but merely carted over.’ …In stating ‘it was built by contract,’ Croes is alluding to the fact that…the cityís engineers had little or no discretionary power over contractors to insure good work. Under Tweed rule, contracts were awarded subject to stipulated kickbacks or commissions; contractors could slight their work with impunity…”

The Middle Branch Reservoir (Reservoir G) (Illustration 15), also in Putnam County, was the next to be constructed, from 1874 to 1879. Twenty years after the initial storage reservoir plan, only two of the reservoirs along the Croton River had been completed, and both of those had relatively small watersheds. Still, it was the aqueduct conduit itself that became the critical bottleneck in the system. By the mid-1870’s it was clear that the Old Croton Aqueduct could not continue for long to provide a sufficient water supply for the rapidly growing city.

The Old Croton Aqueduct was already operating well beyond its planned capacity. The aqueduct was modified in 1875 to allow a higher water level by the addition of one or more rings of brick over the top arch. Tests of the aqueduct at 103 million gallons per day (mgd) had ìdisastrous resultsî and it was decided that 95 mgd was the maximum allowable capacity. It was felt that conservation measures to curtail waste, such as metering, would only postpone the inevitable. Additional supply would be required as the aqueduct had finally reached its limit.

Debate over the future of the water supply system was vigorous in the late-1870’s and early 1880’s. Benjamin S. Church, who had been in charge of the Old Croton Aqueduct since 1861, presented a paper before the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in 1876. He pointed out design flaws in the Old Croton Aqueduct that were leading to settlement of stone foundations, structural failures and leaking at the embankments (sloping stone-clad earthworks that braced the aqueduct at valley crossings and hillsides) of which there were about five miles total. While he had great admiration for the work of Jervis and Douglass, Church believed that the aqueduct had yet to be perfected, and that, with no other large scale source of water, shutdowns for repair work would inevitably become disastrous interruptions of the cityís water supply.

At the ASCE meeting, one of Jervis’s former students questioned Church’s structural analysis and staunchly defended the original design, but there was no disputing Church’s records and observations. In his many years at the helm, Church had overseen a huge volume of work in maintaining and restoring the Old Croton Aqueduct. Routine, minor leaks were remedied with a mixture of sawdust, sand and clay that was poured into the water upstream of the leak, and flowed down and plugged the leak from the inside. There were also many conditions that required substantial masonry repairs. In 1866 alone, for example, Church supervised the reconstruction of an arched culvert over a roadway north of Tarrytown and the repair of more than 4,800 feet of fissures in stone retaining walls.

There had also been a nearly catastrophic breach of the aqueduct in Fordham, approximately two miles north of the High Bridge in what was then southern Westchester, and some sections of berm washed out near Ossining in storms.

One of Church’s concerns was that every time repairs were necessary, the water supply had to be shut off at the dam at Croton Lake, and the whole length of the aqueduct drained, because the original valve system in the weir buildings did not allow the flow of the aqueduct to be diverted at an individual weir. The weirs as originally built could only drain the water passively through side openings, a design that some critics in the 1870’s denounced as short-sighted and even perceived as the Achillesí heel of Jervisís design. The draining and refilling of the whole aqueduct added about 48 hours to the time required for repairs, so that even a small amount of masonry work inside the conduit would impact service. This was especially true because, by the late 1870’s, only the top few feet of water in the cityís reservoirs had sufficient head to provide adequate pressure to the increasing stock of taller buildings.

Church planned improvements in the design of the Old Croton Aqueduct. One was the provision of cross-valves at each of the waste weirs to divert water so that individual divisions of the aqueduct could be drained for repairs without shutting down and refilling the whole system. Starting in 1881, the waste weirs were modified (it may have surprised the neighbors to realize that the quiet streams in their back yards could be transformed instantly into 95 mgd torrents). The waste weir in Ossining was reconstructed at a new location, rather than being modified like the others, so that the water could drain more directly into the Sing-Sing Kill. The Ossining weir retained the architectural style of the existing weirs of the Old Croton Aqueduct.

Another issue was providing a water supply for the 23rd and 24th Wards of New York City, territory annexed from Westchester in 1874 that would later become part of the Borough of the Bronx. Under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Parks, Frederick Law Olmsted and J. J. R. Croes were retained to create a comprehensive city plan for the new wards. While some groups felt that water from the Bronx River should be tapped for the new wards, reserving the Croton water for Manhattan, the Common Council passed an act, in May, 1875, calling for the distribution of Croton water in the areas to be developed in the newly acquired territory. Within a year mains were being laid from the Croton Aqueduct in the new wards. This was the same year that it was first decided that a reservoir should be constructed at Jerome Park at the junction of the Old Croton Aqueduct and a new aqueduct. Work on this project was postponed indefinitely due to the condition of the city’s finances, which had been weakened by the spending spree of Tweed and his cronies.

In 1879 work began on a new aqueduct, unrelated to the Croton: the Bronx and Byram water system. In 1884 the Bronx River Pipeline went into service, and the new Williams Bridge Reservoir in the Bronx was completed in 1889.

The Bronx and Byram water system is reported to have been a product of ongoing Tammany Hall influence, constructed by the Department of Public Works under a revived Tweed Act. The project was attacked repeatedly by the Union League Club (of which Church and Olmsted were members). An 1882 report stated that if a new aqueduct was required, “…one from the Croton would doubtless have been selected in lieu of the one from the Bronx. The selection of the latter must now be regarded as an official mistake not likely to have been made by a body of intelligent Commissioners.”

Construction of the Bronx and Byram system was ordered by Commissioner of Public Works Allan Campbell, whom the Union League Club report called an unqualified “party politician” whose confirmation to office allegedly had been secured by payments from construction interests in anticipation of lucrative city contracts. According to Campbell, his decision was based on estimated costs for the Bronx and Byram system of $3 million as compared to $12 million for a new aqueduct from the Croton. In the end, the Bronx and Byram project cost about $5 million and contributed a meager 15 mgd.

The Old Croton Aqueduct, which was originally intended to have a capacity of 72 mgd, was operating at its maximum of 95 mgd. The New Croton Aqueduct, when complete, could operate at a maximum of 300 mgd.

D. Works of the Aqueduct Commissioners

Even before the small contribution of the Bronx River Pipe Line of the Bronx and Byram system was brought on-line, it was obvious that plans for a new aqueduct from the Croton could not be delayed for long. What was less clear was who would design and build it, the Department of Public Works or a new organization, perhaps guided by an old Croton hand such as Benjamin S. Church.

In April, 1881, Isaac Newton, Chief Engineer of Water Works for the Department of Public Works, presented a special report to the Commissioner of Public Works, Hubert O. Thompson, supporting the case for an additional aqueduct from the Croton River.

Cynicism prevailed among the city’s elite, and it was said of the proposed New Croton Aqueduct that, “…such a work would greatly exceed the expense of the one we have, and besides that its construction would not be controlled by the faithful engineers who were on the work originally, and still remain with it, but it would come into modern hands. The present aqueduct was built long before frauds were common in city affairs.” Groups such as the Union League Club lobbied to limit the authority of the Department of Public Works, and to have the new works planned comprehensively, designed and constructed by a newly formed commission appointed by the Governor.

Several years of severe drought spurred action on a comprehensive plan. Criticism was leveled at the choice of storage reservoirs constructed to date in the Croton Valley, and the pace of the program. More than twenty years after the 1858 plan, only two storage reservoirs had been constructed in the watershed. It was felt that the East Branch and Bog Brook (Double Reservoir I) should be started immediately. Advocates of an additional aqueduct from the Croton River cited the tremendous volume of water passing over the Croton Dam unused.

In 1883 the Aqueduct Commissioners were appointed, and they immediately undertook the design and construction of the new aqueduct and other additions to the Croton system. Church was appointed as Chief Engineer. With his immense knowledge of the existing system, he was the mastermind of the New Croton Aqueduct. This link partly explains the family resemblance between the structures of the two Croton Aqueducts.

The Aqueduct Commissionersí plan generally called for additional storage reservoirs and dams in the watershed, a new Croton Dam that would raise the water level, increasing the size and capacity of the Croton Reservoir, a new receiving and distributing reservoir located along the Old Croton Aqueduct in northern New York City (Jerome Park), and a new aqueduct conduit from the existing Croton Reservoir more-or-less due south to Jerome Park and then on to Central Park. This differed from Newtonís proposed plan: Newton also proposed a new dam, but the proposed new aqueduct would start at the new dam and parallel the route of the Old Croton Aqueduct near the Hudson River. Also, the Newton plan did not include additional new storage reservoirs outside of the enlarged Croton Reservoir.

Department of Public Works Commissioner Thompson, an ex officio Aqueduct Commissioner, supported the building of Newtonís version, and wrote that the plan, ìwas submitted for examination to Mr. John B. Jervis, the designer and builder of the Croton Aqueduct…(who) examined the whole subject for himself and approved of the plans proposed by the Department as the best system.î Thompson was critical of the concepts put forward by reformers, and stated that construction of the East Branch/Bog Brook Reservoir, a rallying point of DPW critics, would be unnecessary if the new Croton Dam were built.

Thompson also claimed that a new design was not necessary for the East Branch dam, because it was almost a facsimile of the Middle Branch dam, and went on to point out that the construction of Reservoir I was recommended by the department many years earlier (this reference to the 1858 survey fails to distinguish that it had been performed prior to the takeover by the Department of Public Works). It is clear that Thompson was not pleased to have control of the work taken away from his department.

Many issues were discussed at public hearings, including whether to follow the Hudson or the inland route, where land acquisition costs would be lower, as Church wanted. Another subject was whether to run the New Croton Aqueduct across the High Bridge, a new bridge or bridges, or through a tunnel. In most matters Church prevailed, and his vision shaped the future of the Croton system, although he apparently compromised his position in respects to achieve consensus. For example, he agreed that the East Branch Reservoir was not necessary immediately if the New Croton Dam was to be built.

After his many years of faithful service as Resident Engineer of the Old Croton Aqueduct, Churchís career and renown surged. In 1886, for example, when the offices of the Aqueduct Commissioners were closed, ì…in honor of the celebration of the inauguration and unveiling of the Bartholdi Statue of Liberty…the Chief Engineer was directed to extend to the engineers, artists and guests from France attending the inauguration…an invitation to examine the plans and visit the works of the New Croton Aqueduct.î

The New Croton Aqueduct began construction in 1885 and went into service in 1890 (Illustration 16). It is a remarkable structure, a vintage stone and brick masonry aqueduct, still intact, and fully operational today. The New Croton Aqueduct is similar to the old in many respects, and its design can be seen as Churchís perfection of the technology of the Old Croton Aqueduct. It is a masonry conduit with a horseshoe-shaped section, although it has about three times the area and capacity of the Old Croton Aqueduct (Illustration 17). It is a gravity tunnel for approximately twenty-four miles from the Croton Lake Gate House, which is adjacent to the Old Croton Dam, to Gate House No. 1 of the Jerome Park Reservoir, which is located a short distance north of the reservoir in Van Cortlandt Park.

Although the Jerome Park Reservoir was indicated as ìproposedî on the 1887 map of the system, it was part of the original design and the New Croton Aqueduct was configured to anticipate its construction. South of Gate House No. 1, the New Croton Aqueduct drops beneath the Jerome Park Reservoir and continues as a round masonry tunnel under pressure beneath the Harlem River (Illustration 18) to the Terminal Gate House at 135th Street in Manhattan.

To maximize the amount of water available to the system, the designers included weep holes in portions of the horseshoe tunnel to allow ground water to enter the system. The holes, termed ìweepersî were 4 inch x 8 inch openings through the brick tunnel wall, spaced 20 feet on center. At the time, the ìweepersî provided an additional 4 mgd to the water flowing from the Croton Lake Gate House.

Whereas the Old Croton Aqueduct had been built predominantly at grade by the cut and cover method, with tunnels or tall embankments used where necessary to maintain the required gradient, the New Croton Aqueduct was tunneled for most of its length, giving it much greater protection from frost damage and other sources of weathering and damage. At those areas where the hydraulic grade met the surface grade, such as Pocantico, Ardsley, and South Yonkers, the Aqueduct Commissioners designed blow-off and waste weir structures reminiscent of those of the Old Croton Aqueduct (Illustration 19). At the Harlem river an impressive complex was created at Shaft No. 25, on the Manhattan side of the aqueduct tunnel, overlooking the Speedway (now the Harlem River Drive), a few hundred yards north of the High Bridge. Still remaining at Shaft No. 25 is a monumental retaining wall and stair, with a symbolic horseshoe-arched portal (Illustration 20).

Aqueduct Commissioners Reports were issued covering the periods from 1883 to 1887, 1887 to 1895, and 1895 to 1907. The reports were lavishly illustrated by the Draughting Bureau. Under the direction of Frederick S. Cook, C.E., Assistant Engineer, the Drafting Bureau designed and produced working drawings for the New Croton Aqueduct, the storage reservoirs and dams, the New Croton Dam, and the Jerome Park Reservoir. Cook has been attributed as designer of the Terminal Gate House at 135th Street, a New York City Landmark, by the Landmarks Preservation Commission. He was equally the designer of the other works of the Aqueduct Commissioners.

The drawings included in the 1887 and 1895 reports were of exceptional quality , and were signed by the delineators. The finest were by Charles Gustafson, Charles Manning, and Giuseppe Bonanno, draftsmen, and Jean Genthon, topographical draftsman. These draftsman were also the designers of the system, under the direction of the Chief Engineer, Consulting Engineers and F. S. Cook.

Church, as Chief Engineer, wrote in 1887, “Mr. F. S. Cook, Special Assistant, in charge of the draughting bureau, has not only directed the execution of accurate drawing for the dams and contract plans for the Aqueduct and designs for the Gate House Superstructures, but he supervised the numerous detailed working plans required with marked ability.”

Work from 1883 to 1887 consisted largely of the top priority item, creating the new aqueduct and its ancillary structures. Storage reservoirs in the watershed were designed, but not yet constructed. Two large, complex projects, the New Croton Dam and the Jerome Park Reservoir, were planned at this time, but were not constructed. The dam was bogged down from the start in a myriad of hearings and special commissions, and the reservoir had not yet been funded.

Both the dam and Jerome Park were suited for construction after the New Croton Aqueduct was in service, because they both involved reconstructing and realigning portions of the Old Croton Aqueduct. At the New Croton Dam, the Old Croton Aqueduct would be realigned to pass through Gate House No. 1 of the new dam. At Jerome Park, the Old Croton Aqueduct would be incorporated into the original dividing wall, which is now the east basin wall along Goulden Avenue, and the principal gate houses.

Church’s star began to fade during the construction of the New Croton Aqueduct. In 1886 he was charged with improprieties by a construction inspector. A panel acquitted him on all counts. It seems that Church was making spontaneous field decisions to expedite the project rather than engaging in corruption. It also appears that he was overwhelmed by the unprecedented scale of the project, and the lack of honest and qualified inspectors. He was also unprepared for the brazen deceptiveness of the contractors, who did such things as concealing giant voids behind false walls before inspectors arrived. In 1888 rumors of extensive defective work proved true and caused major headlines. Church resigned as Chief Engineer.

Church was replaced by Alphonse Fteley, who had been Consulting Engineer. Church assumed the title of Consulting Engineer until 1889, when that position was abolished. Church, by this time had lost the support of reformist critics as well, and a group called the Committee of Twenty-One from the Union League Club railed against him for having signed on to Newtonís Quaker Bridge (New Croton Dam) plan at the expense of building the East Branch storage reservoir. They also ridiculed the endorsement of Jervis (then in his late 80’s) and others, pointing out that they had no experience with high masonry dams.
The work of the period from 1887 to 1895 included completion of the new aqueduct, which went into service in 1890, and accelerated design and construction of dams and storage reservoirs in the watershed. Construction began on the East Branch dam in 1888 (Illustration 23), followed soon by the Carmel, Amawalk and Titicus (Illustration 24) dams. The Titicus was a precursor of the New Croton Dam. Design work on the New Croton Dam and Jerome Park Reservoir were intensive during this period.

Construction began on the New Croton Dam in the early 1890’s. It would be ready to go into service in 1906 (Illustration 25 and 26), more than thirty years after the initial proposal. The dam was the largest masonry dam in the world when it was built. It had undergone a long design process for both social and technical reasons. An expert panel, consisting of J. J. R. Croes, J. P. Davis and William F. Shunk, was assembled in 1888 to study the size, shape and location of the dam. Local activism challenged the original siting of the dam at Quaker Bridge.

Numerous dam sites were studied , and the Cornell site further upstream was finally selected in 1891. Technical issues also lengthened the design time for the enormous dam, particularly as the deadly collapse of the first Croton Dam in 1841 was still within living memory. Completed sections of masonry-core earthen dam (the type of construction that had failed in 1841) were removed and replaced with solid masonry, partly to reassure local communities. Sections of porous masonry and improper work, which made local headlines, were also replaced.

The New Croton Dam and the Jerome Park Reservoir were both subject to labor disputes, and work on both projects ground to a halt during a union-led strike in 1900. There had been labor unrest during the construction of both aqueducts, but this strike caused great concern. According to local lore in Croton, Teddy Roosevelt, who was then Governor of New York, led his Rough Riders to Croton. The Cavalry was established at the dam site in ìCamp Rooseveltî. Fifteen hundred National Guardsman of the 7th Regiment commanded by Major General Charles Roe rode to Croton Station by train and marched to the dam.

In spite of all the delays and struggles, the works of the Aqueduct Commissioners are distinctive in appearance. The dams of the Croton Watershed and the New Croton Dam, along with the the Jerome Park Reservoir and the New Croton Aqueduct, are architectural siblings. In 1846, Schramke had called the Old Croton Aqueduct, ì…that noble monument of hydraulic architecture,î and the works of the Aqueduct Commissioners continued and built on that tradition.

E. The Jerome Park Reservoir

The engineers, such as Church, who operated the Old Croton Aqueduct, had always known the topography of the entire route, and when they considered sites for a storage reservoir on the mainland near Manhattan Island, Jerome Park was an obvious choice. When that portion of southern Westchester was annexed to the city and became part of the 24th Ward, Jerome Park was clearly the most suitable site for a large new reservoir along the Old Croton Aqueduct, within the city limits, particularly in light of a second aqueduct conduit.

The Jerome Park Reservoir was first formally recommended in 1875, when Commissioner of Public Works Gen. Fitz John Porter ordered a survey. According to Edward Wegmann, ìTwo routes… were surveyed, commencing a quarter of a mile below the head of Croton Lake and terminating near Jerome Park, where it was proposed to construct a large receiving reservoir. Nothing more was done towards constructing this work.î (It was after this that the next Commissioner decided that the Bronx and Byram System should be constructed instead.)

The planning of the Jerome Park Reservoir began simultaneously with the comprehensive city plan of the 23rd and 24th Wards designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Landscape Architect and J. J. R Croes, Civil and Topographical Engineer, who performed this design work for the Department of Public Parks. Their street plans were adopted by the city in 1877 and 1878, and subsequently constructed in large part.

An Olmsted job number has been assigned to Jerome Park by the editors of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers. There are also numerous sketches and studies of the 23rd and 24th Wards that may be relevant to the design of the reservoir and the surrounding community. The Jerome Park Conservancy is currently researching this data to determine if Olmsted actually created the schematic design of the reservoir in addition to designing the adjacent streets. We do not yet know what role Olmsted or Croes played in the design of the reservoir.

The plans of the reservoir (prepared by the Aqueduct Commissioners in the 1880’s and 90’s) show the unmistakable influence of Olmsted, and may have been based on a preliminary design by him. Olmsted and Croes were surely aware that a reservoir would eventually be built on the site.

Croes had an extensive engineering career in the Croton Aqueduct Department: he took over preparation of drawings for the New Central Park Receiving Reservoir in 1860, was Resident Engineer for the High Bridge improvements starting in 1862, and was in charge of construction of the Boydís Corners Reservoir and dam, which was completed in 1874.

Croes had recently overseen the completion of the Boydís Corners Reservoir when he and Olmsted began the surveys and studies for their comprehensive plan of the 23rd and 24th Wards. The start of their survey work was roughly contemporary with the water supply survey that identified Jerome Park as the intended reservoir location in 1875.

Church was a familiar figure to both Croes and Olmsted because of their work in Central Park. Olmsted and Church were club-mates at the Union League Club. Croes was a colleague and admirer of Churchís: the copy of Churchís Notes and Suggestions on the Croton Water Works and Supply for the Future, from 1876, in the collection of the New York Public Library, was donated by Croes, with a note, “With the compliments of J. James R. Croes, Civil and Topographical Engineer Department of Public Parks, NYC.” Croes would also go on to join a committee of experts to review the design issues of the New Croton Aqueduct, particularly with regard to design of the new dam.

The Olmsted and Croes 1877 plan of the Jerome Park Reservoir vicinity shows the race track but does not indicate the reservoir. Being an adopted plan for construction, it could not indicate proposed or future elements. However, the plan essentially blocks out territory for the reservoir, bounded by Sedgwick Avenue to the west, Kingsbridge Road to the south, Jerome Avenue to the East, and what would become Mosholu Parkway and Van Cortlandt Park to the north. They also removed the existing Old Boston Road from across the site. This open area is reflected in the Map of Location and Environs published by the Aqueduct Commissioners in 1895 (Illustration 28). The detailed design of the reservoir was produced by the Aqueduct Commissioners during the years that the Olmsted and Croes street plan was under construction all around it, and it is likely that their guidance was sought.

The Jerome Park Reservoir was not included in the recommendations for a new aqueduct in the report of Isaac Newton, Chief Engineer of the Croton Aqueduct (under the Department of Public Works) in 1882. Its necessity was supported in the report of W. E. Worthen, C. E., who was subpoenaed by the Aqueduct Commissioners to testify at a public hearing in early 1884. Worthen wrote that, “No provision has been made in the Quaker Bridge plans for additional storage reservoirs within the city limits…This is the fundamental error of the project.”

The decision to build the Jerome Park Reservoir was reached by the Aqueduct Commissioners in early 1884, soon after their appointment. It was not yet known when the site would be obtained or the funding approved. The first objective was the completion of the New Croton Aqueduct conduit.

The purpose in constructing the Jerome Park Reservoir was to create a storage and distributing reservoir along both the Old and New Aqueducts. It would provide water to the city if either or both of the Aqueducts had to be shut off for repairs. Also, it would provide local supply in the area of the 23rd and 24th Wards. According to Church, ì80 to 100 million gallons were reserved for the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Wards,î a more generous plan than the 15 million delivered by the Bronx River Pipe Line. An examination and surveys for a Receiving and Distributing Reservoir at Jerome Park were performed in 1885.

Church pushed for immediate construction of the Jerome Park Reservoir, believing that the cityís water supply was in danger of serious interruption until it was completed. The project was delayed due to the opinion of Newton that it would not be needed for at least ten years.

The schematic representation of the Jerome Park Reservoir shown in the system map of 1887 shows a curvilinear form reminiscent of the New Central Park Reservoir. The location and environs plan published by the Aqueduct Commissioners in the 1895 report (Illustration 28) has a similar but revised form, and is completely integrated with the Olmsted and Croes street plan, including two “Proposed New Avenues”, Reservoir Avenue (from Sedgwick Avenue east and south to Kingsbridge Road) and the Sedgwick Avenue North (from Van Cortlandt Avenue West northeast to Goulden Avenue).

A more detailed plan published in 1895 (Illustration 29) reveals a design that had advanced remarkably, and had achieved a level of landscaping sophistication that did not exist previously in the Croton System. It can be seen that rather than being like the New Central Park Reservoir, the 1895 design of the Jerome Park Reservoir actually had more stylistic kinship with the Lake and the Pond in Central Park, smaller bodies of water designed by Olmsted. In scale, it resembled the picturesque artificial lakes of the storage reservoir system in the Croton Watershed.

The 1895 design of the Jerome Park Reservoir called for sloped earth embankments rather than a retaining wall around most of the reservoir. This design also had two islands and a peninsula. Jerome Park Clubhouse Island and Oak Ridge Clubhouse Island, one in each basin, were planned for existing highpoints where existing clubhouses from the race track would be preserved. The peninsula, at the northwest side of the reservoir, was the intended location of Shaft No. 21. The roadway on the dividing wall (the East Basin Wall along the Goulden Avenue side of the as-built Reservoir) jogged to provide access to both islands. The bridge from Gate House 5 to Shaft No. 21 would have allowed access to Gate House 5 from the peninsula, which projected from the area where Fort Independence Park is today.

Chief Engineer Alphonse Fteley wrote in 1895 that, “…it is expected that the new reservoir will add greatly to the attractiveness of the surrounding grounds.”

The designers were instructed in 1895 to revise the plan to allow for more water storage without increasing the footprint of the site, so the islands and peninsula were eliminated to allow for more excavation. In the final design, as reflected in the plan from the 1907 Commissioners Report , the jog in the wall remains though the islands have been eliminated, and the bridge from Gate House No. 5 to Shaft No. 21 remains. Also stone face walls were planned all around the reservoir rather than the earthen banks, except for a short strip along the northern side, where a sloped concrete bank was designed.

The construction of the reservoir aroused several controversies. The Merchantsí Association demanded a grand jury investigation into poor workmanship at the New Croton Dam and Jerome Park Reservoir. It was reported that the reservoirís walls were not watertight, that, “…the commissioners seldom visit the Jerome Park Reservoir and that the [New Croton] dam was like a sieve with water spouts gushing through cracks with such force to permit a man to walk under the arch of the streams without getting wet…”

To investigate the allegations concerning the reservoir, a Special Committee of Engineers was set up under William Burr and John Freeman. Their 1903 report, submitted to the Aqueduct Commissioners, contains an evaluation and remedial recommendations for the concrete floor of the reservoir, the workmanship of the stone walls, and the use of ìstone dustî from the site as aggregate for mortar. The report did not find major flaws, but called for more careful inspection. The mortar composition was approved.

According to Walter H. Sears, Chief Engineer in 1907, “Assistant Engineer F. S. Cook had charge of the Draughting Bureau of the Aqueduct Commissioners, where all the important works constructed by the Commissioners were designed, from January 23, 1884, to March 1, 1905, when he was promoted to the position of Division Engineer and placed in charge of the construction of the Jerome Park Reservoir.”

Designs for the gate house superstructures were not shown in the 1887, 1895 or 1907 reports. Preliminary designs were underway as of 1903 (and probably much earlier), and proposed designs, along with a model of Gate House No. 5 were publicly exhibited by Cook at the 1904 Lousiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Mo., in a joint display of the Aqueduct Commissioners and the Department of Water Supply, but they were never permitted to be published in the Reports to the Aqueduct Commissioners.

The substructures of Gate Houses Nos. 1 to 7 were completed in 1905. Trowbridge and Livingston, Architects were retained to prepare plans and specifications for the superstructures , and their design drawings were dated 1906. Trowbridge and Livingston, Architects were a well known New York firm whose work included the St. Regis Hotel, and the B. Altman Department Store on 34th Street. We do not known why a consultant was retained for this project, while the other works had been designed in-house by the Aqueduct Commissioners. It may be that the of the Aqueduct Commissionersí engineers wanted to impress upon a fickle city government the significance of the reservoir.

The proposed superstructure designs for the reservoir gate houses were not published in the 1907 Report to the Aqueduct Commissioners. It is peculiar that there was such a strict prohibition against publishing the proposed superstructures, whether or not they had been funded or approved, or if their construction was postponed. Other proposed or schematic works had been published, and these were omitted in 1895 as well. This may reflect an ongoing effort by the Department of Water Supply, inherited from the Department of Public Works, to minimize the scope and cost of the reservoir, and to delay or prevent its being built.

The 1907 report states that, “…the construction of the superstructures has been postponed at the request of the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity until it is decided whether a filter plant is to be built in the East Basin of the Jerome Park Reservoir.” This is a reference to the 1905 Burr-Hering-Freeman Commission recommendation to filter the water of the Croton through a slow sand filter in the East Basin of the Jerome Park Reservoir. Jerome Park had originally been intended to purify water by subsidence, with the idea that most of the water of the new aqueduct would pass through the reservoir to allow settlement. The Burr-Hering-Freeman Commission recommended filtration of the proposed Catskill system as well (land was purchased in Peekskill for the purpose, but the Peekskill filters never materialized).

The Bureau of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity requested the Aqueduct Commissioners to suspend construction of the East Basin of the Jerome Park Reservoir until it was decided whether to build the filter there. In 1907 the Bureau requested permission to, ìinstall an experimental filter station by the National Roche Filtering Company at the Jerome Park Reservoir.î In 1910 it was decided to add chemicals to the water, particularly chlorine, in the gate houses of the West Basin, and not to filter the water.

There were several structures of the Croton system designed by the Department of Water Supply personnel even after the Aqueduct Commissioners were given general design responsibility. The Amawalk dam and reservoir was designed by the Department of Water Supply. The Amawalk dam made visual reference back to the heritage of the Old Croton Aqueduct: the spillway had the sinusoidal curve of Jervisís Old Croton Dam, and the neo-Egyptian portal over the tunnel entrance is reminiscent of the original receiving and distributing reservoirs. Perhaps this reflects a nostolgia for the days before the Aqueduct Commissioners.

The High Pumping Station on Jerome Avenue (Illustration 32) was also designed by the Department of Water Supply, under George W. Birdsall, Consulting Engineer, and constructed from 1901 to 1906. While contemporary with, and connected to, the Jerome Park Reservoir, the pumping station is stylistically different, being Romanesque Revival, rather than the style of the Aqueduct Commissionerís work. Also, the High Pumping Station is constructed of brick, whereas the Jerome Park Reservoir structures, like all of the works of the Croton system, were of stone.

While the High Pumping Station is a valuable historic structure in its own right, its stylistic and material differences from the architecture of the Aqueduct Commissioners can be interpreted as defiant or hostile. Brick is a less ìnobleî and more utilitarian material than stone. The High Pumping Station was constructed next to the Jerome Park Reservoir Keeperís House (Illustration 33), one of the finest of the architectural works designed in Cookís Draughting Bureau (the Keeperís House, which stood at the intersection of Jerome Avenue and Mosholu Parkway, was demolished in the late twentieth century to make way for Tracey Towers, a high-rise housing project).

Birdsall, who had been appointed Chief Engineer of the Water Works by Department of Public Works Commissioner Allan Campbell, had used stone for the nearby Williamsbridge Reservoir structures and Keepers House, part of the Bronx and Byram system completed in 1889. Birdsall was probably not appreciative of the public ridicule that the Bronx and Byram system had received at the hands of Churchís club-mates in the 1880’s, which had contributed to Churchís ascendancy to Chief Engineer of the Aqueduct Commissioners.

The Aqueduct Commissionerís work was descended from the Roman Revival work of the Old Croton Aqueduct with traces of Renaissance Revival, Italianate and Romanesque. The sub-structures of their work, such as the Jerome Park gate houses, tended to be pure, muscular Roman Revival. The style of their designs was consistent over the twenty-seven years that their works were under construction, while it also had an eclectic quality that enriched the system. The 135th Street Gatehouse and the New Croton Dam, for example, had a Romanesque flavor while maintaining the essential character of Croton system architecture. This consistency is appealing, because it gives the whole Croton system a coherence, even though it evolved in numerous campaigns in far-flung places over many decades.

The Aqueduct Commissioners prepared a new set of designs for the Gate House Superstructures at the Jerome Park Reservoir, that superseded the Trowbridge and Livingston designs. The new designs were produced by the Draughting Bureau while F. S. Cook had risen to the position of Acting Chief Engineer. They were completed in 1909, and were signed prominently by Cook . Contract Drawings and Specifications were prepared and approved by the Corporation Counsel of the Commissioners for bidding on September 21, 1909 for Gate Houses Noís 2,3,4,6 and 7, and on October 13, 1909 for Gate Houses Noís 1 (in Van Cortlandt Park) and 5.

The new design of the Gate House No. 5 superstructure included a tower nearly ninety feet tall with a red terra-cotta tile roof that would have projected a commanding presence across the expanse of the reservoir.

The Aqueduct Commissioners were gearing-up to complete the Jerome Park Reservoir, the gate house superstructures and the unfinished East Basin, as the final masterpiece of the Croton system.

The Aqueduct Commissioners were abolished on June 1, 1910, and their plans for Jerome Park were indefinitely shelved. In 1911, the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity constructed wooden frame sheds over the gate houses to shelter them until such time as superstructures might be constructed.

Because the Department of Water Supply, Gas and Electricity had decided not to filter the water, they turned over the unfinished East Basin to other city agencies for their use. In 1912 construction began on the Eighth Coastal Artillery (Kingsbridge) Armory, in the south end of the East Basin. In the following years, a number of public schools and other city facilities were constructed in the East Basin.

The trail of urgency, money and political intrigue was now leading further north, into the Catskill Mountains. In the 1890’s, it had been known that a Catskill system would most likely be built, and a corporation called the Ramapo Water Company had been empowered by the state legislature in 1895 to acquire property and lay pipe in the Catskill Watershed. In 1899, a move was made by the water department to rush through legislation to purchase high-priced water from the Ramapo Water Company, based on a tour of the Catskill Mountains by President Holahan, Water Commissioner Dalton and Chief Engineer George Birdsall. Characterized as an, ìUnholy alliance of Boss Plattís Republican machine which controlled the legislature and Boss Crokerís Tamany Democrats who ruled the city,î the move caused a major scandal in the press, which led to the repeal of the Ramapo Water Companyís charter.

The Catskill system then followed a somewhat more orderly development, after a study was performed from John R. Freeman, followed by a detailed survey by Birdsall and a major study by the Burr-Hering-Freeman Commission. There was legislation in 1904 allowing the city to borrow $200 million to build the Catskill system, and in 1905, the creation of a State Water Commission. It was a project of an unprecedented scale, and after construction began in 1907, interest in the Croton System waned. By 1910, most portions of the Catskill Aqueduct were under construction, except the great Hudson River siphon. Uptake and downtake chamber superstructures with a close resemblance to the proposed Jerome Park gate house superstructures were constructed at the Hillview Reservoir in 1915 from drawings prepared by H. Lincoln Rogers, Architect.

Gate house superstructures were finally constructed at the Jerome Park Reservoir in 1938, after being on hold for forty years. They were built by the Design Unit of the Works Progress Administration, under the direction of T. Hochlerner, Division Engineer, and Patrick Quilty, Acting Chief Engineer of the Bureau of Water Supply. The gate house superstructures at the Jerome Park Reservoir were built a year after construction had begun on the Deleware Aqueduct system, whose buildings are principally made of brick masonry. The Jerome Park Reservoir gate houses were constructed of brick masonry with stone trim in a muted Art Deco style that was integrated with the architecture of the original stone gate houses. (The gate house superstructures are discussed further in Section III.C below.)

This 1938 work at Jerome Park was about the same time as other works at city reservoirs under the WPA, including the infilling of Williamsbridge Reservoir to make a park/playground, the conversion of High Bridge Reservoir to a public swimming pool, and the demolition of the original Yorkhill Receiving Reservoir in Central Park to create the Great Lawn.

Portions of the Jerome Park Reservoir property were stripped from the reservoir to create parks: Fort Independence Park (1915), Old Fort Four Park (1913, 1931, and 1934), and Harris Park (1940, known as Harris Field and Harris Park Annex). Original reservoir landscaping — stone walls, gate posts and wrought iron fences — remain at some of these parks. The walls of Fort Independence Park along Sedgwick Avenue, for example, suggest how the reservoir perimeter landscaping appeared before the current cyclone fencing and barbed wire were installed.

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This report would not have been possible without the leadership and the tireless editorial assistance of Jerome Park Conservancy President Anne Marie Garti. Grants from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (provided through Senator Franz S. Leichter and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz), The New York Times Foundation, and the NYC Environmental Fund made possible the publication of the report. The current historical interest in the Jerome Park Reservoir and the Old Croton Aqueduct in the Bronx owes much to the inspiration and vision of landscape architect Gail Wittwer. Valuable contributions in research and documentation were performed by Karen Argenti, John Bartelstone, Sandra Sider and Heather McDaniel.

Thanks to Daniel J. Donovan of Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer’s Office for reawakening interest in Frederick Law Olmsted’s design of the Bronx, and for his assistance in comparing it with the as-built condition.

Thanks also to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Joel Miele for his cooperation, and to Douglas Greeley, Eric Axelson, Joe Hadden, Joe McGuire and Rocco Mastronardi for their assistance in accessing the reservoir.

An immense debt of gratitude is owed to Charles E. Beveridge, Editor of the Frederick Law Olmsted Papers, for his seminal research on Olmsted’s design of the Bronx, and his discovery of the drawings fourteen years ago.

Table of Contents


Jerome Park Reservoir Landmarked

The Jerome Park Reservoir adjacent to the Lehman College campus has been named a state and national historic landmark. The decision was announced June 7, 2000 by the New York State Board of Historic Preservation at its quarterly meeting.

Jerome Park Reservoir

“This is a validation of everything we have been saying,” said Anne Marie Garti, president of the Jerome Park Conservancy, which submitted the application for landmarking in the winter of 1998. “The official government bodies are giving the reservoir the recognition it deserves.”

The reservoir is the largest body of water in the Bronx. It was built by Italian stone masons at the turn of the last century. When it opened in 1906, it was a reservoir park, with handcrafted stone walls, a white pebbled path, and wrought iron fences ringing the water. During WWII, the reservoir was fenced off from the community.

The Jerome Park Conservancy has been working since 1994 to recreate a 125-acre park at the reservoir, to preserve and restore its features, and to make it an ecological resource for the 25,000 students who go to school across the street from the water.

“The designation recognizes the site’s architectural and historical significance,” said Robert Kornfeld Jr., chair of the Conservancy’s preservation committee, whose research became the basis of the historic register application. “One of the things that distinguishes the reservoir is that it’s also a park and was made to be a part of our community,” he said.

Listing on the state and national register does not provide the level of protection a city landmark would provide, but it opens up matching funds from the state and federal government for preservation and restoration efforts. “We don’t want it landmarked so it can be dipped in preservative,” Mr. Kornfeld told the Riverdale Press. “We want people to enjoy it and learn from it.”

The Conservancy seeks to open the reservoir’s outer fence to joggers and walkers, similar to the reservoir in Central Park. In addition, the Conservancy wants to make Jerome Park more accessible to students by offering classes that cover the site’s history, the water system and how the reservoir’s construction helped expand New York City’s population. Frederick Law Olmsted, the co-creator of Central Park, laid out the streets of Van Cortlandt Village, adjacent to the reservoir, and designed a park whose centerpiece was to be the reservoir. Work on the New Croton Aqueduct began in 1895. Italian stone masons began building the Jerome Park Reservoir on the site of a former horse racing track. Construction was completed in 1906.

“The reservoir is a living, breathing work of art,” said Ms. Garti. “We’re going to maintain it.” During a recent cleanup project around the reservoir, a decorative wrought iron fence dating back to the 1800s was found. Landmark designation could lead eventually to the placement of a replica of that fence around the reservoir.

Jerome Park Reservoir National Register of Historic Places Registration Form

Click here for the Jerome Park Preservation Report


The Tale of Two Annoucements: The Pedestrian Bridge

The Tale of Two Annoucements: The Pedestrian Bridge
MEDIA ALERT: VCP Annoucement
PUBLIC IS NOT INVITED – Croton Filter Project Annoucement

If you are the press you are invited to a Media Event on Friday, May 8, 2015 at 2 pm on the parking Lot at Shandler Field to the announcement that various governmental entitiies will fund the Pedestrian Bridge uniting East and West in Van Cortlandt Park.

If you are the public, you are not invited, but since it is on public lands, you can attend. Well, that is at least how it sounds on the various emails that have been circulated. I know, you think I am picking on the DEP for not inviting the public to the announcement, after all, it was the DEPs project, they really wanted to do it, they had the money all along, they willingly did the cost estimate.

No wait, that’s wrong. The PUBLIC wanted the Pedestrian Bridge. Since 1999 the PUBLIC fought to get the DEP to present the Study of alternatives, and costs.

The DEP fought the project every step of the way, and even now, are only paying for PART of the project even though it was in the 1999 Mitigation package in the City Council ULURP.

Don’t forget who walked across the imaginary bridge on that rainy cold day in March 2014. IT WASN’T THE DEP ……….It was the PUBLIC.

I urge you to go if you have the free time tomorrow afternoon. These government officials work for you, not their agency. Sometimes these things are forgotten. Sometimes government officials play games.


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