Documentary History of American Water-works

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Middle Atlantic States New York Phoenix

Phoenix, New York

Phoenix was incorporated as a village in 1848.

The first water works was built in 1879 by John Isaac Van Doren, a local manufacturer.  The system used pumps at one of his factories to supply water from the Oswego River.

The Phoenix Water Company was incorporated on July 13, 1886 and built a new system that was operating by 1887.  It ran into financial difficulties and was sold at auction in June, 1894.  The Phoenix Water Supply Company was incorporated on August 6, 1895 and took over the assets of the old company.  This company was in turn bought by the Phoenix Fuel, Light & Water Company around 1905, was declared bankrupt in 1912 and reorganized as the Phoenix Gas and Electric Company.  The water system was apparently not transferred to the new company, as it was owned by the Duffy Company, which housed one the village water pumps in its silk mill that was destroyed by a fire in 1916.  The village bought the system around 1917 and built a new pumping station.  A new system was approved in 1929 but not built, and another new system was approved in 1931.

Water is provided by the Village of Phoenix.

1886 Sandy Creek News (Sandy Creek, New York), May 20, 1886, Page 5.
The Phoenix water-works project contemplates the purchase and extension of the Van Doren system now in limited operation.

1886 Watertown Daily Times, July 15, 1866, Page 2.
The Phoenix Water Company, capital $100,000 filed certificate of incorporation with the secretary of state Tuesday.

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

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

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

1895 "New Corporations Registered," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 6,1895, Page 1.
August 6.  Phoenix Water Supply Company (reorganizaton of Phoenix Water Company)

1895 Landmarks of Oswego County, New York, edited by John Charles Churchill
Page 751:  August 22, 1887, as the result of a special election held August 19, the village trustees granted a franchise to A. J. Belden, R. B. True, J. I. and G. L. Van Doren, L. J. Carrier, Ralph G. Barnes, and Van R. Sweet to construct a system of water works. An organization was effected that year under the name of the Phoenix Water Company with J. I. Van Doren, president; L. J. Carrier, vice president; and Van R. Sweet, secretary and treasurer. The capital was $40,000. A large well was sunk and a stand pipe erected, and the system was put in operation in 1888, water being pumped from the river above the dam.

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

1902 "Grip's" Historical Souvenir of Phoenix, by Edgar L. Welch
Page 4.  The Water Supply is the Oswego river, the intakes being above the village where the water is free of all contamination. The pumping station is capable of supplying two and a half million gallons every twenty-four hours. Since the plant was instituted in 1887, no fire has ever got out of the building in which it started, and there has seldom, if ever, been a total loss.

1905 Report of the Attorney General
Pages 494-496:  Whether the Commission is authorized to give its consent to the issue of bonds for the purchase of a water supply by the Phoenix Fuel, Light & Water Company.
The Phoenix Fuel, Light & Water Company took over the properties of a realty company, a natural gas company, and the Phoenix Water Supply Company

1912 Sixth Annual Report of the Public Service Commission, Second District, for the year ended December 31, 1912.
Page 25:  Phoenix Fuel-Light and Water Company. Incorporated April 19, 1905.  Also water works from Phoenix Water Supply Company.

1914 Eighth Annual Report of the Public Service Commission, Second District, for the year ended December 31, 1914.
Page 29:  Phoenix Gas and Electric Company incorporated December 2, 1913.  Succeeded to the franchises, etc., of the Phoenix Fuel-Light and Water Company, which was adjudicated a bankrupt June 21, 1912 and sold to Robert J. Pendergast March 15, 1913, later succeeded by the Phoenix Gas and Electric Company.

1914 Reports of Decisions of the Public Service Commission, Second District, from May 8, 1913 to December 31, 1915.
Page 192-195:  Application of Phoenix Gas and Electric Company for approval of its incorporation and franchises. Decided August 4, 1914.

1916 "Fire Wipes Out Business Part of Phoenix," The Fulton Patriot, September 27, 1916, Page 1.
Water supply fails.  Next the Duffy silk mills caught fire, and here was located the fire pumps for the village.  When this building went the water supply of the village was ruined. 

1917 "Oswego Told About Rates of Insurance," The Republican Journal (Ogdensburgh, New York), January 13, 1917, Page 3.
They warned the caretaker of the Phoenix water works that if a fire broke out in the business block lining the river the pump would be put out of commission.  That is exactly what happaned.

1920 Annual Report of the New York State Department of Health for the year ending December 31, 1920
Page 282:  Phoenix.  A reinspection of the water supply of the village of Phoenix was made on July 7, 1920, by Mr. Earl Devendorf, assistant engineer. A previous investigation of the supply was made by this Department in 1914. Phoenix is an incorporated village of about 2,000 inhabitants located in the southwestern part of Oswego county, about 20 miles northwest of the city of Syracuse. The public water supply is owned and operated by the village under a Board of Water Commissioners. The water supply is obtained from the Oswego river, from which the water is pumped direct to the distribution system, the excess over consumption going to a standpipe located in the village. The watershed of the Oswego river above Phoenix covers many square miles and receives the indirect sewage from the inhabitants on the watershed as well as the direct sewage of the cities and villages, the larger of which are the city of Syracuse and the village of Baldwinsville. The fire supplies of the Oswego River Paper Mill, the Three River Paper Mill, and the Phoenix Toilet Paper Company are pumped from the river and are cross-connected to the village supply. While the cross-connection makes little difference at the present time, as the public supply is obtained without purification from the river, when the supply is treated or a new safe supply obtained the connection should be eliminated or equipped with a double check and gate valve. As a result of the above investigation it was concluded that, as pointed out in the previous report, the Oswego river is grossly polluted and its water unfit for human consumption without adequate purification; and it was therefore recommended that the village authorities install a suitable treatment plant, or obtain a new water supply adequate in amount and of a satisfactory sanitary quality, and that pending the installation of a new supply of safe sanitary quality the village authorities warn the public not to use water from the public supply for drinking or culinary purposes.

1927 "Progressive Phoenix," The Fulton Patriot, May 4, 1927, Page 9.
The enterprising village board and water commissioners are considering the prospect for a new water supply for the resident part of the village.

1929 New York State Department Reports, Volume 38
Pages 484-490:  In the Matter of the Application of the Village of Phoenix for approval of its acquisition of a Source of Water Supply and of its Financial and Engineering Plans for the Construction of a Water Supply System.  Water Supply Application No. 506. Approved as modified, Water Power and Control Commission, May 7, 1929.
A public water supply system was installed in this village by private enterprise some thirty-eight years ago.  The system was purchased by the village about 1917.

1931 New York State Department Reports, Volume 40
Pages 688-694:  In the Matter of the Application of the Village of Phoenix for Approval of Its Acquisition of a Source of Water Supply and of Its Financial and Engineering Plans for the Contract of a Water Supply System.  Water Supply Application No. 652, Approved as modified, Water Power and Control Commission, September 1, 1931

1932 John Isaac Van Doren (1854-1932) Grave

1974 The Story of Schroeppel, by Evelyn L. Sauers
Page 61:  Phoenix.  The new system which brought water to your home from the river in 1888 meant that a flush toilet and a self-draining bowl and tub were a possibility.  Sometimes they were - like the front parlor - kept for use when company came and the privy in the shed was still used everyday, especially by the kids.  In fact, the Cherry Street School didn't have flush boilers until the new one was built in 1925!

2016 "The 100 year anniversary of the Great Phoenix Fire 1916," Oswego News, September 19, 2016.
At the time, the Duffy Company owned the Phoenix water Works, and in its power plant was one of the two pumps that supplied Phoenix with water. With the fire having spread to the Duffy Mill, the pump was out of commission by 11 p.m., as electric wires feeding the motors had already been burned off. The second pump located at the Springs also quit for similar reasons.

2018 Morris A. Pierce