Ruins of a Water Works.
An abandoned reservoir intended originally for a distributing reservoir for the city of Rochester, N. Y., is fast passing into utter decay. Of this landmark Engineer J. Nelson Tubbs some time ago wrote an interesting story.
Mr. Tubbs was in charge of the water works department as chief engineer when the first conduit to Hemlock Lake was laid, and he was thoroughly familiar with the history of all the water works schemes that came to the surface before the conduit was laid to Hemlock lake.
The abandoned reservoir on the Henrietta road is now nothing but a cattle pond. The other day two reporters went over to the crumbling stone tower that stands in the centre of the inclosure, climbed to its top and peered into its dark depths. This tower is circular in form, of masonry, and is about 15 feet high. The water was to have entered at the bottom of the tower and to have overflowed from the top into the reservoir. Now the reservoir was occupied by three cows. The animals were enjoying themselves splashing about in a shallow pond of water near the north bank. The capacity of this old reservoir is about 70,000.000 gallons, and it is larger than the city’s reservoir at Rush. The Rush reservoir is, however, located on a plateau considerably higher than the abandoned one.
The old reservoir is now the property of the Aer family of patent medicine fame, and the estate would be glad to sell it. An effort was made to unload it on the city of Rochester, but the city had no use for a second-hand and abandoned reservoir and refused to make the Ayer estate an offer for the ruin. The estate will probably never realize anything on the reservoir. The banks of the reservoir were completed with the exception of a gap at the road through which the teams passed in and out during the construction of the banks. The gap was never filed because the reservoir was never used. Its high banks and its crumbling tower remain as a reminder of the greed of the schemers who built a cheap water works and then tried to unload it upon the city at a fancy price.
I)r. Curran recalled that the newspapers of the time were against the old water company’s scheme to sell out to the city. Dr. Curran thinks that had it not been for this aggressive war that the city would have been a purchaser of the old plant. The first water works company was the Rochester Water Works Company, organized in 1835 with a capital of $10,000. This company did nothing and in 1852 another company was incorporated under the same name. This second company expended the avails of $800,000 in bonds and $800,000 in stock, and after all this money had been sunk in the old reservoir on the Henrietta road and in the old wooden conduit, an expert engineer, McRee Swift, reported to the stockholders that the plant of the company was worth about $223,000, and that it would require expenditure of $410,000 before water from Hemlock lake could be delivered in Rochester.
The wooden conduit was twenty-four inches in diameter. The scheme of the old company was to tap the Honeoye creek at Smithtown, which is sixteen miles south of the city. The conduit was to commence there. It will be seen that the company did not propose to tap the lake proper but only the outlet. To insure a good supply of water in the outlet a canal was constructed from the shore of the lake just west of the present gate house north a distance of 1,800 feet. ‘1 his canal was twenty feet wide and seven feet deep and it had a weir, which, however, was only partially completed. This old canal remains to-day as it was left by the old company. It is along its bank that the city now has a small railway for the transportation of the garbage collec ed from the cottages to the place where it is buried.
In 1872 the old water company sold out to Thomas B. Rand and others and Mr. Rand organized a new company and tried to sell to the city. The citv was about to enter into a contract with the third company when it was restrained by an injunction obtained by the Board of water commissioners, appointed just previous to the reorganization of the company. The water commissioners went ahead with plans for getting water from the lake and the water company tried to sell out to the city again, offering the plant at first for $250,000 and then for $90,000, but the city was not prepared to buy. Then followed several years of litigation and discussion, the company trying injunctions and other legal modes to keep the city from going into the water business on its own hook. But the city won eventually and in 1882 the city bought what it thought might be useful of the old company’s rights and plant for the small sum of $26,000. After that the city had no trouble on account of the old company.