Documentary History of American Water-works

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Middle Atlantic States Pennsylvania  Altoona

Altoona, Pennsylvania

Altoona was incorporated as a borough in 1854 and as a city in 1868.

Altoona was authorized to use surplus water from the Pennsylvania Railroad water system n 1855, but did not do so until a private company was formed for the purpose in 1859.  Water was distributed through iron pipes and began service on December 15, 1859.  The water supply proved to be inadequate, and in 1871 the city bought the water system and built a new reservoir.

The Altoona City Authority was created by the City of Altoona in 1946 for the purpose of financing capital improvement projects.  The Authority assumed operational responsibility of the water system from the City in 1981.

In 2009, the name was officially changed to the Altoona Water Authority.

Water is provided by the Altoona Water Authority, which has a short history page.

1855 An act relative to supplying the borough of Altoona with water.  May 2, 1855.

1857 An act to incorporate the Altoona Gas Company.  April 24, 1857.

1859 A supplement to an act to incorporate the Altoona Gas Company.  April 6, 1859.  Name changed to Altoona gas and water company.

1861 "Water Works of the United States and British North-American Possession," American Gas Light Journal 2:202 (January 1, 1861)
Altoona, Pa., Cast-iron pipe.

1871 An act authorizing the city of Altoona to provide a supply of water and to borrow money.  March 9, 1871.

1871 A supplement to an act authorizing the city of Altoona to provide a supply of water and to borrow money, approved the ninth day of March, Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one.  May 13, 1871.

1872 A further supplement to an act authorizing the city of Altoona to provide a supply of water and to borrow money, approved the ninth day of March, Anno Domini one thousand eight hundred and seventy-one, amending the sixth and seventh sections thereof.  February 23, 1872.

1873 An act authorizing the city of Altoona to charge lot owners with water rates.  April 10, 1873.  Allows a "frontage tax" to be imposed.

1880 History of the City of Altoona and Blair County: Including Sketches of the Shops of the Pennsylvania Railroad Co., by James H. Ewing
Pages 63-65:  Water Supply.  The stream of water first introduced by the Pennsylvania Railroad company, and from which the public was for a time supplied by the gas and water company, was found insufficient, the increase of railroad shops requiring, at least in the summer, all the water of the stream. The city council was urged to supply the town from some other quarter, and finally selected Kittanning and Burgoon runs, about four miles west of the city. A twenty-inch pipe brings the water from a dam at Kittanning Point to a reservoir located on Prospect Hill, which has a capacity of 3,275,000 gallons. This improvement cost over $200,000.
Pages 153-154:  Water Department.

1881 Altoona, from Engineering News, 8:342 (August 27, 1881)

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

1883 History of Huntingdon and Blair Counties, Pennsylvania, by J. Simpson Africa
Page 151:  Fire Department.—The question of protection from the all-devouring element, fire, is one that early engages the attention of every town. Altoona has been no exception to this universal interest, for the borough authorities as early as 1854 took the matter into consideration.‘ Subsequently the propriety of purchasing an engine was broached, but nothing definite was accomplished until April, 1859, when a fire company was organized. The prime movers in this were A. H. Maxwell, Alex. A. Smyth, and A. C. Vauclain. A subscription was circulated, and with the money raised a hand-engine was purchased of the “Good Will Fire Company," of Philadelphia, and the organization here adopted the same name. The engine arrived in Altoona Oct. 22, 1859. At this time there was no water supply for the place. Two months later water was introduced into the borough, and the people felt secure in their possession of a fire-engine, water to supply it, and a company to man it.  On the event day that water and gas were first introduced into Altoons (Dec. 15, 1859), celebrated by a grand parade, the Good Will made their first appearance in public, equipped in dark pants, white shirts, black belts, and glazed caps.
Pages 154-155:  Water and Gas Departments.- The matter of a water supply early engaged the attention of the citizens of Altoona. In 1855 the State Legislature, by an act approved May 2d, granted the borough authorities certain privileges and powers to enable them to supply the place with water. By a resolution of Council, March 8, 1859, the Legislature was asked to transfer the authority conveyed by the act and vest it in the “ Altoona" Gas and Water Company," a joint-stock association, “which,” says the resolution, “a number of the citizens of Altoona now propose to form,” and “we, the Council and chief burgess of Altoona, deem it inexpedient in our corporate capacity to make the expenditure necessary to comply with said act.” The company above referred to was incorporated April 9, 1859. Its first officers were W. H. Wilson, president; William M. Lloyd, treasurer; B. F. Rose, secretary; John Shoemaker, Enos M. Jones, Charles J. Mann, Rev. A. B. Clarke, and George B. Cramer, managers; and Thomas S. Francis, superintendent. May 9, 1871, the name was changed to “Altoona Gas Company,” and Sept. 10, 1872, the water-pipes were sold to the city authorities. The reservoirs at Pottsgrove, with the company’s interest in the water-power at Pottsgrove mill, and in the main from thence to the Twelfth Street reservoir, were sold to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. In 1858 the right of way was granted to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company to lay water-pipes in any of the streets or alleys of the borough, and the same year an act of the Legislature was procured authorizing the Council to contract with the railroad company for their surplus water, which act was subsequently amended, granting authority to issue bonds for that purpose.
In the fall of 1859 the Council located water-plugs at the following places: Figart’s corner, Methodist Church, Kipple’s, McDowell’s, Cunningham's, West Ward school-house, corner of Kate and Virginia, Welsh’s corner, Warfel’s, Conrad’s, Beck's, Campbell’s, Brethren Church, etc.
The public was for a time supplied by the “ Gas and Water Company," from the water introduced into the city by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, but it was soon found to be insufficient for both, and in the summer season hardly adequate to the wants of the railroad-shops. Therefore the City Council selected Kittanning and Burgoon Runs, about four
miles west of the city, as a source of public supply. At Kittanning Point is a dam, from whence a twelve-inch main runs to a reservoir on Prospect Hill, which has a capacity of over three million gallons. This improvement cost over two hundred thousand dollars, and nearly as much more was expended in putting in sewers, in macadamizing streets, etc.  Still the water supply is inadequate to meet the present wants of the city; for two or three years past there has been a great scarcity of the needful element, and although water-pipes have been laid nearly all over the city, the still-needed want of more reservoirs to store suflicient water to tide over an extended drought has only the present year (1881) engaged the active efforts of the authorities. It is proposed to build another reservoir on Gospel Hill, and to increase the size of the main pipes.
The gas company, as before mentioned, was incorporated in 1859, as the “Gas and Water Company of Altoona.” Gas was first introduced into the pipes December 15th of that year.  Having sold their water property in part to the city, and the remainder to the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, the name was, on May 9, 1871, changed to “Altoona Gas Company,” which it still retains.

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

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

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

1894 "A Narrow Escape for an Earth Dam, Altoona, Pa., Water-Works," Engineering News 31:473 (June 7, 1894) and 31:536 (June 28, 1894)

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

1899 "Flood-water Channel of the Altoona, Pa., Reservoirs," by Charles W. Knight, Journal of the New England Water Works Association 14(2):153-162 (December, 1899) 

1911 Twentieth Century History of Altoona and Blair County, Pennsylvania, and Representative Citizens, by Jesse C. Sell
Pages 288-289:  Water supply.

© 2018 Morris A. Pierce