Documentary History of American Water-works

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New England States Connecticut Meriden

Meriden, Connecticut

Meriden was incorporated as a town in 1806 and as a city in 1867.

The Meriden Water Company was incorporated in 1864 by Isaac C. Lewis, Horace C. Wilcox, Dennis C. Wilcox, George R. Curtiss, Samuel J. Curtiss, William W. Lyman, Nathan Fenn, Orville H. Platt, and John Osborne "for the purpose of supplying the town of Meriden, including the villages of Meriden and West Meriden and Prattsville, with an abundant supply of pure water for public, mechanical and domestic use."  This company did not build anything.

The city of Meriden was authorized to build water works in 1868 and built a gravity system that began operating in January, 1870 using cement-lined wrought-iron pipes.

Water is provided by the City of Meriden.

1864 Incorporating the Meriden Water Company.  January 9, 1864.

1868 Amending the charter of the city of Meriden.  July 24, 1868. Authorized the city to build water works.

1869 Constitution (Middlebury, Connecticut), January 6, 1869, Page 2.
The Meriden authorities have engaged McRee Swift, an eminent engineer of New York, and George N. Bishop of Middletown, to examine and survey the various localities proposed for the city water works and report the result.  The engineers began operation on Wednesday.

1869 Hartford Courant, February 24, 1869, Page 4.
Mr. Swift, civil engineer, in his report submitted to the Meriden Water Commissioners and Common Council, recommends that the city take was from West Mountain instead of Black Pond.

1869 Amending the charter of the city of Meriden.  July 8, 1869.  Authorized to construct compensating reservoir for Hert Manufacturing Company and other parties in the town of Berlin.

1870 Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), January 1, 1870, Page 2.
The new water works at Meriden, had a trial on Saturday, the gate being raised at the reservoir three-quarters of an inch, one-sixteenth of its capacity.  Two lengths of hose were attached to a hydrant, corner of Main and Hanover street, and a horizontal stream of 186 feet, was thrown.

1870 Columbian Register (New Haven, Connecticut), February 5, 1870, Page 2.
Meriden. Wednesday last, [26th,] the water from the public water works was tried at the different points in the city.  Applying the hose to one of the hydrants at the highest point in the city, the water was thrown up about seventy feet.  The reservoirs lacks about twelve feet of being full.

1870 Hartford Courant, February 1, 1870, Page 4.
The value of the city water works in case of fire was demonstrated in Meriden on Sunday evening.

1880 An act amending the charter of the city of Meriden.  March 12, 1880.  City authorized to hire watchman for reservoir.

1881 Meriden, from Engineering News 8:480 (November 26, 1881)

1882 Meriden, from "The Water-Supply of Certain Cities and Towns of the United States," by Walter G. Elliot, C. E., Ph. D.

1888 "Meriden," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 1.

1889 "Report of the Water Committee," from Municipal Register of the City of Meriden, 1889

1890 "Meriden," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 2.

1891 "Meriden," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 3.

1892 "The Additional Water Supply of Meriden, Conn.," Engineering News 27:99 (January 30, 1892)

1897 "Meriden," from Manual of American Water Works, Volume 4.

1906 An Historic Record and Pictorial Description of the Town of Meriden, Connecticut; A Century of Meriden "The Silver City," by Charles Bancroft Gillespie and George Munsor Curtis.
Page 82:  1869, the water works were finished.

1956 150 years of Meriden; published in connection with the observance of the city's sesquicentennial, June 17-23, 1956
Pages 100-102:  One of the first necessities was for the provision of an adequate water supply system. For this, an amendment to the new charter was found necessary. It was approved July 24, 1868. But long before that date a controversy had arisen over reservoir locations. Mayor Parker on April 6, 1868 appointed a committee to search out and recommend sites. The relative merits of West Mountain and Black Pond were debated vigorously.
Meriden had suffered frequent water famines, and pumping had to be done from outlying ponds. The problem of recurring
water scarcity was not to be solved overnight, even after it had been approached in a concentrated and orderly manner. The West Mountain location was approved, and in June 1869 a bond issue of $20,000 at 7 per cent was authorized. Construction of Merimere, the first reservoir, was begun. By 1873, it was reported that 1,554 families were being served with water through the pipes of the new system. In 1890, Kenmere reservoir was added, and Hallmere came next in 1895. In 1905, the Taylor farm of 96 acres was purchased for additional watershed. A further important step was taken in 1907, when the city bought the Fellows farm on Johnson Hill for a storage reservoir, but the storage basin was not completed, with pumping facilities, until 1913. In the following year, pipes were connected with Kenmere, and the new set-up was ready for service. It has served satisfactorily since that time, with certain changes and improvements as water demands increased. But the largest single water source to supply Meriden had already been made available to form a link in the system.
On February 1, 1909, the Broad Brook property of 23 acres was purchased for $5,000, a bargain if there ever was one. The city appropriated $350,000 in 1913 for the development of this reservoir, which was placed in service October 2, 1916. A filtration plant was added at Broad Brook in 1927. A new pumping station was built at Kenmere in 1931.
Meanwhile, the growth of the city was making constantly increasing demands upon the water system. Insufficient water pressure on the east side was an almost constant complaint in dry seasons. Taking advantage of the plentiful labor to be obtained at low cost, with government aid, during the depression, a pumping station was built under WPA at the corner of Charles Street and Parker Avenue for the low figure of $6,205. This proved only a partial solution to the problem.
Residents on the high hills of the eastern section continued to complain of low pressure, especially during the summer months. During the administrations of Mayor Francis R. Danaher, a remedy was proposed in the form of a "Memorial" water tower, from which water could be fed by gravity to the east side. But nothing was done to place this measure in effect. Subsequently, it was discovered that water pipes of small diameters were impeding the flow of water. The system was overhauled at many points to replace the pipe of old mains with pipe of larger diameter. Even earlier, the work of pipe laying had not been neglected. Under FERA, 9,655 feet of pipe were laid, and WPA installed 8,438 feet. In 1933, 13,378 feet of water pipe went under the ground, water sheds were cleared, and much of the system was practically rebuilt. But there has been no let-up in the demands for more water, and the future has to be considered.
Under Mayor Henry Altobello, the problem has been intensively studied by state and city engineers, and an independent firm has been engaged to make a survey. The full results of that survey are still to be made known, and action awaits the final recommendations of the engineers. But one measure has been advocated repeatedly under the present administration: the construction of a storage basin on the summit of one of the eastern hills. The use of Black Pond water, to be fed by way of New Dam, with a hook-up to Foster Lake could keep such a basin filled, it has been argued. Measurements of the water potentials of these sources has been made. But active steps to set the project in motion have not been taken up to the time of this writing. 

2017 Morris A. Pierce