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Middle Atlantic States
New Jersey Hoboken

Hoboken, New Jersey

Hoboken was first settled in the mid-1600s.

The1838 charter of the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company included the right to provide "pure and wholesome water."  This was restated in an 1855 amendment that allows the firm "to construct works for the supply of the inhabitants of Hoboken with pure and wholesome water, and to make contracts with any persons or corporations for that purpose."  The company never built a water system, and it is unclear if they ever made a serious attempt to do so, but they did oppose attempts by the city to introduce a water supply in the late 1850s.

An 1851 law established a Board of Water Commissioners to examine potential water supplies for Jersey City and Hoboken.  The board's report in December, 1851 was favor and an 1852 law authorized construction of works for Jersey City "and places adjacent." 

The 1855 charter for the city of Hoboken included the power "to make all necessary arrangements for a full and copious supply of good and wholesome water for public and private use."  Two further laws in 1856 and 1857 were needed to establish a Board of Water Commissioners, which contracted for a supply of water from Jersey City while Hoboken would construct and maintain its own distribution piping network.  The Mayor, Council, and Hoboken Land and Improvement Company were strongly opposed to this, and an injunction was secured in September, 1857 to prevent the water commissioners from selling $60,000 in bonds necessary to proceed with the work.  The injunction was dismissed by a judge, but three of the five water commissioners were dismissed for maladministration by the city council, effectively halting the project.  The dismissed commissioners sued the Mayor and Council and the New Jersey Supreme Court reinstated them in March, 1858.  The bonds were sold and construction undertaken, and water was introduced in October, 1858. 

The deteriorating quality of the Passaic River water provided by Jersey City led to Hoboken contracting with the Hackensack Water Company for a supply from the cleaner Hackensack River that was connected in October, 1882.  This water supply had its own problems, but they were resolved by introducing compressed air into the water supply.

 The Hackensack Water Company was reorganized in 1983 as United Water Resources, Inc., and in 1994 it acquired General Waterworks Corporation for $200 million.  Suez Water bought the company in 2000. United Water.

Water is provided by SUEZ North Jersey under a contract with the City of Hoboken. SUEZ North America has a Wikipedia page that includes its history.

1838 An act to incorporate the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company.  Includes supplementary and other acts.
SEC. 4. And be it enacted, That the said Company be, and they are hereby empowered, to improve all such lands as they are hereby authorised to own or purchase, by laying out that portion of the same which lies north of Fourth Street, in the village of Hoboken, into lots, streets, squares, lanes, alleys and other divisions; of leveling, raising and grading the same, or making thereon all such wharves, workshops, factories, warehouses, stores, dwellings, and such other buildings and improvements as may be found or deemed necessary, ornamental or convenient, and constructing on the lands of the said Company aqueducts or reservoir, for conveying, collecting and providing pure and wholesome water.

1855 A supplement to an act entitled "An act to incorporate the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company," passed the twenty-first day of February Anno Domini eighteen hundred and thirty-eight. March 17, 1855.
Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey, That the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company be and they are hereby authorised to construct works for the supply of the inhabitants of Hoboken with pure and wholesome water, and to make contracts with any persons or corporations for that purpose.

1855 An act to incorporate the city of Hoboken.  March 28, 1855.
Title IV.- Of the powers of the council. 40. Fifth. To control and regulate all the wells and pumps in the public streets and squares, and to make all necessary arrangements for a full and copious supply of good and wholesome water for public and private use.

1856 An act to amend an act entitled "An act to incorporate the city of Hoboken," approved March twenty-eighth, eighteen hundred and fifty-five.  March 15, 1856.

1857 An act to authorize the water commissioners of the city of Hoboken to contract for and introduce water into said city, and to provide for the payment thereof.  March 20, 1857.

1857 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, July 5, 1857, Page 7.
Water in Hoboken.-- An arrangement has been effected between the authorities in Hoboken and the Jersey City Board of Water Commissioners, for a supply of Passaic water for Hoboken.  A contract will be executed in a few days, and the work of laying the pipes will be commenced forthwith, so that water may be introduced by about the 1st of August.  Mr. B. Bramhall, President of the Board of Water Commissioners, and A. O. Zabriskie, Attorney for the Board, together with Mayor Clickener of Hoboken, and Gen. E. R. V. Wright, Counsel for Hoboken, have been constituted a Committee to draft a law, to be submitted to the Legislature at its next session, making Jersey City and Hoboken joint owners of the Passaic Water Works.

1857 Newark Daily Advertiser, August 31, 1857, Page 2.
Water at Hoboken-- The Water Commissioners of Jersey City have signed the contract for a supply of "pure and wholesome water' to Hoboken from the Jersey City water works; and on Friday evening last, the Hoboken Water Commissioner held a meeting and ratified and signed the contract.  The arrangement will be highly advantageous to Jersey City, and a great benefit to Hoboken.

1857 New York Tribune, September 16, 1857, Page 7.
Injunction upon the Water Commissioners -- On Monday, an injunction issued by Chancellor Williamson was served upon the Water Commmissioners of Hoboken, restraining them from further proceedings in contracting for water-pipes and laying them, and from negotiating the proposed water loan of $60,000.  It was issued at the suit of the Mayor and Council of Hoboken.  There is a strong party in Hoboken opposed to the contract which has been made with the Jersey City Board.  The Hoboken Land and Improvement Company, of which Mr. Stevens is principal, is the prominent figure in the opposition.  This company owns much unimproved property in Hoboken and this water tax will impose a surface tax of $2.50 upon each vacant lot.  It was the design of the Commissioners to have all things ready for the introduction of water by the 1st of December next, but the proceedings will delay the consummation of their plan.

1858 New York Evening Post, January 4, 1858, Page 3.
No Water Yet in Hoboken-- An application is to be made to the legislature of New Jersey for an act to incorporate the two cities of Jersey City and Hoboken, for the purpose of enable the inhabitants to secure for themselves the great advantages of water, public buildings, land assessments and improvements.

1858 Edmund Charles et al. vs. The Mayor and Council of the City of Hoboken, 27 N. J. L. 203, March 25, 1858, New Jersey Supreme Court | Copy of original order here |
1. Under the eighth section of the act of March 20th, 1857, to authorize the water commissioners to introduce water into the city of Hoboken, the power of removal conferred on the mayor and council is a judicial power, and cannot be exercised by the council alone.
2. Judicial powers delegated to two or more must be executed jointly.

1858 Irish American Weekly (New York NY), May 8, 1858, Page 4.
The Hoboken Water Commissioners are in a fair way to achieve the speedy introduction of the Passaic water into that city.  Mr. N. B. Weeb, of New York, has taken $40,000 of the water scrip at par, and this will enable the Commissioners to commence operations immediately.  The scrip is payable in twenty years, and bears seven per cent interest.

1858 Newark Daily Advertiser, June 23, 1858, Page 2.
Ground has been broken, and the work of laying pipe for the supply of water for Hoboken has already been commenced.

1858 Newark Daily Advertiser, August 24, 1858, Page 2.
The Water Commissioners of the city of Hoboken have given notice that the laying of the distributing pipes will be completed before the close of the present month, and will be ready to receive the water from the reservoirs of the Jersey City water works on the first day of September.  The City Council have appropriates $1000 to celebrate the event about the first of next month.

1858 Trenton State Gazette, October 6, 1858, Page 3.
Hoboken Water Works.-- The laying of the water pipes for the introduction of water is completed, with the exception of putting in a few connection pipes.  The contractor has notified the city authorities that the work is ready for letting in the water, but intimates as there are some differences between himself and the authorities, that they should be amicably arranged before making a formal delivery to the city.  An appropriation having been declined by the Coucil, the proposed celebration will fall through.

1858 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, October 30, 1858, Page 2.
Hoboken.-- The rejoicings in this pretty city are postponed in consequence of the indisposition of the inhabitants to pay for them.  There can be no question that the Water Commissionrs deserve great credit for their successful achievement, more especially since they have not expended all the money voted for it.

1869 A Further Supplement to an act entitled "An Act to authorize the Water Commissioners of Hoboken to contract for and introduce water into said city, and provide for the payment thereof," approved March twentieth, eighteen hundred and fifty-seven.  March 2, 1869.

1881 Jersey Journal, May 27, 1881, Page 1.
Drinking Water for Hoboken. An important proposal from the Hackensack Water Company."  At a meeting of the Board of Water Commissioners of Hoboken last night, Water Register Michael H. Murphy, read a communiation from the Hackensack Water Company, who made a proposition to supply the city with pure and wholesome water.  The Company propose to lay pipes from their works on the upper Hackenback River, to connect with the city, gratuitously, and to enter into a contract for a term of 10 years, at the same rates now charged by the Jersey City authorities.  The Company represent that their supply of water is inexhaustible, and that the quality if far superior to that furnished by Jersey City, and the the quantity will be greater and the pressure stronger.  The Company will enter into a contract for the term mentioned, at rates considerably lower than at present.  If necessary, they will enter into a contract for 10 years, at $75,000 a year.  The Water Commissioners considered the matter of vital importance, and laid the proposal over for careful examination.

1881 Jersey Journal, September 23, 1881, Page 1.
As the public are aware, Hoboken has completed a contract with the Hackensack Water Company for a supply of pure water from the watershed or source of the Hackensack River, on the border of Bergen and Rockland Counties, at rates fifteen per cent below those charged by the Jersey City Water Works.

1882 Truth (New York, NY), October 25, 1882, Page 3.
The Hoboken Water Works.  The New Water Supply of Hoboken Detained by the Bursting of a Pipe.  Last Monday evening the Water Commissioners of Hoboken, in company with the officials of the Hackensack Water Works, assembled at the reservoir to witness the turning on of the new Hackensak water into it.  Everything seemed propituous, but when the workmen turned the screw, a ridiculously weak stream poured in.
One of the large main pipes near the village of Hackensack burst, through atmospheric pressure, with a loud report, and the country in the immediate vicinity was flooded for a short time.  Workmen were immediately put on to repair the damage, but it will be several days before the Hobokenites will be able to cool their tongues with pure water.

1882 Camden Daily Courier, November 2, 1884, Page 1.
The gates through which Jersey City supplies Hoboken with water were closed yesterday morning  Hoboken has made a new contract with the Hackensack water company for a water supply.  Jersey City losses $80,000 per year by the change.

1884 Jersey Journal, July 8, 1884, Page 3.
Bad Water.- The Hackensack water, with which Hoboken is supplied, instead of being pure, wholesome and sparkling, as heretofore, is in abominable condition, totally unfit for drinking or even cooking.  The odor from the water is sickening and has a fishy, nasty taste.  Housekeepers are all complaining, and the physicians are advising people to abstain from drinking water. Beer is being consumed in enormous quantities, and in many German families it is substituted for coffee and tea. 

1884 Jersey Journal, December 16, 1884, Page 1.
Professor Leeds then gave a detailed account of the deterioration of the Hackensack water last summer, and described the air treatment which had been successfully introduced at the intake in New Milford.  Compressed air was pumped into the main at the Hackensack water works.  As a result the water now supplied to the upper part of the county and Hoboken is sparkling, bright and palatable.

1885 "The Purification of Water by Aeration," Engineering News, 13:134 (February 28, 1885)  Details of installation on Hoboken water supply.

1885 Hoboken, N.J. from Engineering News 13:285 (May 2, 1885)

1887 "Hoboken in a Ferment," The New York Times, April 16, 1887, Page 2.
Water Register Murphy suddenly disappears, leaving behind him good reason to fear that he has defaulted with a large amount.

1887 "A Hoboken Water Works Commissioner Short," The Leavenworth Times, April 21, 1887, Page 1.

1887 Plainfield Evening News, July 14, 1887, Page 1.
A commission will be effected in a few days for the settlement of the deficiency of ex-Water Registrar Michael Murphy, of Hoboken.  It is said that the officers of the Hackensack Water Company are anxious to adjust the matter amicably, and that they have agreed to accept 40 percent. of the deficiency.  The bondsmen will not take any steps to prosecute Murphy.

1888 "A Pump Breaks Down," The Post (Camden, New Jersey), December 7, 1888, Page 1.
The high service pup at the Jersey City reservoir broke down again yesterday, and the city had to contract with the Hackensack Water Company, to furnish water to old Hudson City.

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

1889 The Evening World (New York, New York), February 16, 1889, Page 1.
Mr. Michael Murphy, Hoboken's defaulting Water Register, has opened a palatial gin-mill in Buenos Ayres.

1889 The Hackensack Water Co., re-organized, v. The Mayor and Council of the City of Hoboken, 51 N. J. L. 220, March 25, 1889, Supreme Court of New Jersey
1. The act of March 20th, 1857 (Pamph. L., p. 500), providing water commissioners for the city of Hoboken, construed.
2. Under an act entitled “An act to enable cities to supply the inhabitants thereof with pure and wholesome water” (Pumph. L. 1876, p. 365), the city of Hoboken is authorized to contract for a supply of water for public and private use.

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

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

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

1907 History of Hoboken, Hoboken Board of Trade.
Pages 71-73:  Prior to 1882 Hoboken got its water supply from the Jersey City system. The first mains were laid in Hoboken in 1857.  All the mains are owned by the city; the water supply obtained being obtained under contract from the Hackensack Water Company.
Hoboken is not unlike many of our western cities, in the respect that it is situated upon a practically flat area, and as its water supply is drawn direct from two reservoirs, the elevations of which are 180 and 194 feet above tide, it means with stains of such diameters as would best insure low velocities and low friction losses that there should he no material variation in the water pressure throughout the entire city. The mains which connect with the reservoirs and which enter the city through Willow Avenue and Park Avenue, consist of a 12-inch, a 16-inch and a 24-inch, the combined capacity of which to the north line of the city is 12,000,000 gallons per day. The combined capacity of the reservoirs located in Weehawken is 85,000,000 gallons and the daily consumption of the city at the present time is 7,250,000 gallons. The water supply to the city is still further guarded by the fact that three separate lines of mains, a 20-inch, a 24-inch and a 36-inch connect directly the Water Company's main pumping station at New Milford with their reservoirs at Weehawken, and as the mains are laid over different routes it is quite unlikely that anything would happen that would simultaneously affect the three mains, or cause them all to be temporarily out of commission at the same time. The supply is drawn from the Hackensack River at New Milford, the daily flowage of which for several years leas exceeded 100,000,000 gallons. The Hackensack River rises in the high grounds west of Haverstraw, flows south through an unpopulated country, and its volume is constantly being added to by numerous natural springs and brooks. Rockland Lake is an important feeder and the Pascack Brook is the principal tributary of the main river. On the Pascack Brook the Hackensack Water Company has recently completed, and has now in use, an empounding reservoir, which has a capacity of 835,000,000 gallons, the object being to store a sufficient supply to provide for a long period of dry weather. This reservoir is one and a half miles long, practically one-half mile wide, and water at the dam, which is some 1,500 feet in length, is 30 feet deep. The water shed of the Hackensack River covers a drainage area of 114 square miles, all of which is under regular and systematic inspection for pollution of any and all classes. In cases of pollution where it has been found impossible to secure abatements by the company, or through the local health boards, such cases have been referred to the State Board of Health, whose practice is to immediately notify the offending parties, fixing a limited time in which the pollution must be permanently abated to their satisfaction, a refusal of which is followed by a necessary participation in legal proceedings. The foregoing brief statement in relation to Hoboken's water supply, together with the adequate provisions and facilities employed by the Hackensack Water Company to furnish and maintain it coupled with the fact that all water furnished to the city is now filtered, rendering the duality practically pure and colorless, show that for duality, abundance and possibility of service, the citizens of Hoboken can conscientiously claim that its water supply is second to none in the State.

1924 "Hoboken Water Supply," from History of the Municipalities of Hudson County, New Jersey, 1630-1923, Volume 1, Editor-in-chief Daniel Van Winkle.

1969 The Hackensack Water Company, 1869-1969: A Centennial History, by Adrian C. Leiby in collaboration with Nancy Wichman

2005 The Urban Origins of Suburban Autonomy, Richardson Dilworth.  This book has an excellent account of the Hoboken Land and Improvement Company and the Hoboken water supply.

© 2016 Morris A. Pierce