Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

Error and the human condition, being bound tightly together, generally keep a sullen kind of company. Yet as unpromising as that pair might seem, their offspring sometimes attain startling beauty. Certainly the grace and charm of Philadelphia’s Fairmount Water Works, on the east bank of the Schuylkill River, derive both from the human condition and the fitful attempts to improve it. Indeed, the Water Works’ beginnings can be traced to a common – but appalling – fact of life in early America: epidemic disease. A major outbreak of yellow fever that killed thousands of Philadel­phians during summer 1793 compelled civic leaders to search for the cause of the plague (see “Plagued! Philadelphia’s Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793” by William C. Kashatus III in the spring 1993 issue of Pennsylvania Heritage).

None knew the cause or cure, but many offered opinions and suggestions, both solicited and unsolicited, that frequently pertained to the city’s supply of water. Benjamin Franklin had noted years earlier that cess­pools throughout the city were uncomfortably close to the city’s public wells. Others pointed to the general filth of the city and advocated flushing streets and alleys with clean water. Physicians who embraced a prevailing medical theory championed building more fountains, whose spray would “create an elasticity in air so necessary to health” and promote a proper balance in the “body’s humors.”

Spurred by still another plague of yellow fever in 1798, the Select and Common Councils appointed a Watering Committee – the direct forebear of today’s Philadelphia Water Department – to find a perma­nent solution to Philadelphia’s water supply problems. The committee in turn sought the advice of America’s first professional architect and engineer Benjamin Henry Latrobe (see “Benjamin Henry Latrobe: The Artist As Commentator” by John C. Van Home in the spring 1986 edition). Latrobe quickly saw, as had others before him, that Philadelphia had two choices: to bring in fresh, uncontaminated water from a distant, elevated source by canal or aqueduct, or, somehow, to draw water from the Delaware to the Schuylkill rivers, which frame the city.

With the latter choice, engineering considerations and popular opinion favored the Schuylkill River. It was close to the city, which would allow Latrobe to build the new system quickly. Equally important, Philadelphians regarded the river as a pristine country stream. Since the colonial period the city had grown along the western bank of the Delaware River and residents knew they had already begun to pollute it. Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764- 1820), therefore, recommended pumping water from the Schuylkill River, near Chestnut Street, into a tunnel. Once in the tunnel, the water would flow by gravity to a building in Centre Square (the site of Philadel­phia’s present-day City Hall), where another pump would lift the water to a reservoir in the dome of the building. Gravity would take over again to distribute the water through wooden mains, made from bored logs, to hydrants and subscribers. Philadelphia was the first large American city to regard water delivery as a municipal responsibility, and sought early on to have the utility pay for itself by charging water fees.

Unfortunately, such a simple description of Latrobe’s proposal fails to convey how radical his thinking actually was, for to power the pumps, he recommended steam engines. At the time, obtaining energy from steam was a new and largely untested (as well as dangerous) technology. There was only one other steam engine in all of North America and the very appearance of early steam engines – fuming, hissing, rattling, incomprehensible horrors towering four stories high – was daunting. Men who ran these machines lived with the daily possibility of sudden injury or death from explosions and steam burns.

Even the building Latrobe envisioned at Centre Square was extraordinary. Instead of recommending a simple and unadorned structure that would reflect the workaday mission of the machinery inside, he wanted to house the pump and reservoir in an elegant Greek Revival style structure, an echo of his distinctive design for the Bank of Pennsylvania. Despite these rather unconventional elements in Latrobe’s proposal, the Watering Committee accepted it with the provision that the system be in operation by October 1799. Actual construction of the system reflected a nascent tradition in American public works: The entire project was behind schedule – operation did not begin until January 1801 – and well over budget.

The Watering Committee was nonetheless satisfied that it had met the challenge of providing the city with a safe, adequate water supply. Before long, though, flaws in Latrobe’s design became apparent. Although his building was handsome, the pump, steam engine, and boiler barely fit into the allotted space. Working in those close, cramped quarters with the hissing boiler and thumping engine in full cry on a warm, humid summer day was probably as close to a preview of hell available in nineteenth century Philadelphia. The reservoir, moreover, held but twenty-five minutes’ supply of water if either steam-powered pump failed – and fail they did, with disheartening frequency. Steam engines turned out to be far more cantankerous and less reliable than anyone had imagined, requiring constant repair and replacement of parts.

What finally spelled the end of the Centre Square system, however, were continuing outbreaks of disease and mounting costs. Yellow fever epidemics struck Philadelphia again in 1802, 1803, and 1805, and the quality of water was once again (but wrongly) suspect. That, and the expense of keeping the steam engines fueled and working sent the Watering Committee in search of a new, permanent solution to the city’s water problems.

As a practical source of water, Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s Centre Square system fell short of its grand ambitions. To dismiss his effort merely as a glorious experiment, however, is to overlook its three central contributions to the Fairmount Water Works: use of advanced technology, architectural distinction and, most of all, Frederick Graff.

A native Philadelphian, Frederick Graff was born (most probably) in 1774 in a house on Market Street just above Seventh. (The Graff House was reconstructed in 1976, less in honor of Graff than to commemorate its most famous resident, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson rented two rooms from Graff’s father, where he wrote the Declara­tion of Independence. He liked the proximity of his quarters to the State House, now Indepen­dence Hall.) After acquiring civil engineering experience in the design and construction of canals, Graff had joined Latrobe as an assistant at the inception of the Centre Square project. He helped the architect make the drawings that were to persuade the Watering Committee and, later, to guide construction. When the system was complete, Graff super­vised the machinery at Centre Square. Designing, building, and operating enormous public works seemed to come naturally to Frederick Graff. According to one account, Graff, while listening to the Watering Committee members debate a new system, sketched a complete plan for it on a scrap of paper.

In 1811, the Watering Committee turned to Graff and John Davis, another Latrobe assistant, to find an alternative to Centre Square. Not surpris­ingly, the pair ultimately made a recommendation similar to that of their mentor; they suggested that water be drawn from the Schuylkill River using steam. But their proposal to the Watering Committee differed significantly from Latrobe’s. Graff and Davis advocated eliminating the steam engine and pump at Centre Square by storing water in an elevated reservoir near the source. The site, called “Faire Mount” in founder William Penn’s plan for the city, was fifty-six feet higher than the top of the city’s tallest building, and its broad, flat crown could easily accommodate reservoirs holding millions of gallons of water. Benjamin Henry Latrobe’s original plan was vulnerable at the two points where steam engines were used; Graff and Davis’ new scheme called for only one such point, at the pumping station, and employed two engines to ensure continuous operation. The Watering Committee saw the merit of the proposal submitted by Graff and Davis, and construction began on August 1, 1812.

The recommen­dation – bold but practical – embodied the kind of inno­vative thinking that was to become Graff’s calling card. When he believed in the soundness of an engineering tech­nique, he would act without hesitation. Throughout his career at the Water Works, Frederick Graff was ever ready to re-evaluate his opinions about design and technology. Under the curious, enthusiastic, and responsive Graff, the Fairmount Water Works was not so much a “completed” public utility as it was a work in progress.

Graff’s designs for the Water Works’ first building, the Engine House, set the aesthetic direction for the facility throughout its many additions and changes. His plans for the Engine House clearly reflect Latrobe’s influence. Shunning a purely functional structure, Graff instead chose to build what appeared to be a commo­dious and handsome but spartan country house in the Federal style. Unlike Latrobe’s building, however, Graff’s had enough interior room to adequately house the serious business of the Water Works: steam engines, boilers, pumps, and flywheels. In fact, Graff’s choice of steam engines revealed much. about his approach to using new tech­nologies. Both Latrobe’s and Graff’s engines powered vertical, double-acting force pumps, but there ended the similarity.

Graff’s south engine, built by Philadelphia craftsman Samuel Richards, was a low-pressure engine capable of raising more than two million gallons daily, about two-thirds of the reser­voir’s capacity. Except for the use of cast iron in some of its parts, Richards’ machine was essentially identical to those manufactured by Boulton and Watts, an English firm. This engine represented a proven technology of the time, and Watering Committee members would probably have been happy enough if Graff had ordered two.

Philadelphian Oliver Evans advanced an irresistible proposal for the north engine. His Mars Works would build a high-pressure, noncondensing steam engine of Evans’ own design. Evans claimed his engine would save on fuel-an important consideration-and that it could move three and a half million gallons of water each day. Evans also offered powerful incentives. The committee would not have to pay for his machine unless it worked satisfactorily; if it proved inadequate, he would remove it without charge. At Graff’s recommendation, the Watering Committee again gambled on technological progress.

On September 17, 1815, the Fairmount Water Works began supplying Philadelphia with water as the south engine began regular operation. Although Evans had delivered his high-pressure steam engine in March of that year, it was not officially accepted by the Watering Committee until mid-December 1817. Plant engineer George E. Sellers remembered Evans’ steam engine as being the one in service most of the time. For Graff, the advent of operations at the Water Works meant he could concentrate on continu­ally refining the system to make it more reliable and efficient. He designed new hydrants, valve chests, and stopcocks, in addition to supervising the construction of air chambers to reduce water hammer gener­ated by the pumps.

No matter how dedicated or inspired Graff’s efforts were, they were not enough to save Fairmount’s steam engines. Although far more reliable than the early Centre Square engines, his were doomed for the same reason. In 1819, he estimated that the machines cost more than thirty thousand dollars to operate annually, a princely sum. Because the single greatest cost was for fuel – thousands of cords of oak – economical operation of the engines proved impossible. Faced with a second steam system that could not pay for itself, the committee decided to end its long experiment with steam engines.

Fortunately, neither the committee nor Graff wanted to abandon the Fairmount site – the allure of a virtually unlimited supply of dean water and the cost advantages of distributing water by gravity were simply too strong. The problem at hand was to find a reliable, yet inexpensive, way to power the Water Works. The solution was the most ancient source of wholesale power, the river itself.

Any solution that involved obtaining power from water would have meant damming the Schuylkill River to create a storage pool and a fourteen-foot fall of water to turn the machin­ery. Members of the Watering Committee, recognizing the growth in surrounding commu­nities, realized that others might have their own plans for the river. A dam upstream from Fairmount, they reasoned, might hamper their plans for water power, and so committee members moved swiftly to purchase the rights to use the river as a source of power from the Schuylkill Navigation Company. Meanwhile, Graff and the committee investigated the advantages of different kinds of waterwheels, eventu­ally settling on an improved type of breast wheel that reportedly had worked effi­ciently in similar applications.

Construction and operation of the Engine House – not to mention installation of the steam machinery – challenged Graff, but he was forced to confront an even more difficult task. He knew there was a dam to build and which kind of waterwheel he would use. Beyond that, everything was open to speculation – and question. No one in America had ever faced a public works project of such intricacy and scope. Moreover, there were no models for Graff to study or use. Whatever solutions were to be found would have to come from his own imagination.

He began with the Mill House, which had to contain eight fifteen-foot-wide wheels, pumps, ancillary equipment, and administrative offices. These specifications dictated a building two hundred and thirty-eight feet long; in less skilled hands it might well have turned into a monstrosity, but Graff again applied the lessons he had learned in assisting with the Centre Square design. His design for the building’s exterior invoked Latrobe’s use of neoclassical elements, including decorative arches and elevated temple-like structures at each end of the building. Combined with the Engine House, the total effect was of a vast public space of immense civility.

Construction of the dam called for an expertise more specialized than Graff’s, and the Watering Committee accepted a proposal submitted by Capt. Ariel Cooley of Massachusetts to build this vital component. Cooley needed two different construction techniques to erect the dam. For the larger part, a twelve hundred and four foot diagonal thrust upstream, he used hickory cribs filled with stone, fastened together, and anchored to bedrock just below the riverbed. The smaller section, near the eastern shore of the river, where bedrock lay buried under many yards of mud, was a two hundred and seventy foot long earthen mound dam. Water held back by the dam was then directed into an enormous millrace, or forebay,that measured four hundred and nineteen feet long, ninety feet wide, and from sixteen to sixty feet deep – every cubic inch of which had to be blasted from solid rock.

Considering the scope of these projects, their importance to the city, and the imperative that the parts all work together, there would seem to be no premium on time for their construction. Graff, Cooley, and the committee actually com­pleted their work in a relatively brief period. Plans for the renovated Fairmount Water Works were approved on April 8, 1819; the first wheel turned a little more than three years later, on July 1, 1822. Fairmount’s old steam engines and pumps saw their last day of service on October 24 of that year. They were sold for scrap in 1832.

The change from steam to water marked more than a change in the Water Works’ source of power. Instead of being managers of a marginal enterprise, Watering Committee members became – almost overnight – executives of one of the most profitable businesses in the city. Their prestige grew and the committee enjoyed the wherewithal to pursue other objectives. In later years, an invitation to the committee’s Corporation Dinner, held annually to celebrate the laying of the Mill House cornerstone, was certainly no ambiguous sign of social prominence.

A more subtle difference accompanied the change in power. Steam was inherently dangerous; three men were killed in boiler explosions at the Water Works. Graff designed the Engine House to meld with the neighboring architecture, but he never encouraged the public to view the machinery. Water power was decidedly more benign, setting the stage for the public’s use of the space at Fairmount. Complete public access was deferred for a number of years as city officials tried to kindle interest in plans for an industrial and transportation center on land adjacent to the Water Works. (Those plans never came to fruition and were finally shelved in 1829.) After some debate, the Watering Committee decided to use the land south of the Engine House along the river as a public garden. Few municipal actions anywhere have had such an impact as the decision to create a public area at Fairmount.

The effect was electric. The Schuylkill River’s natural beauty, the graceful edifices, the curious technology (of great interest to nineteenth century Americans), and the fashionable ideas about mankind and the control of nature converged powerfully to focus attention on the glistening Fairmount Water Works. Lewis Wernwag’s grand covered bridge, the “Colossus of Fairmount,” arching the river near the southern boundary of the complex, underscored the perception that this small place was, indeed, the center of harmony between industry and nature.

Public enthusiasm for the Water Works began to build in Philadelphia and soon spread throughout the world. In certain ways, the success of the operation seemed preordained. Members of the Watering Committee wanted to show their customers what their subscriptions had purchased. Merchants and tradesmen were keen to showcase their city to attract capital and talent. Others took justifiable pride in their emerging know-how. Europe­ans, enervated by the industrial squalor of their own chaotic capitals, craved the order and sanity they found at the Fairmount Water Works. It seemed that something at Fairmount was bound to appeal to nearly everyone.

The grounds were enhanced by the addition of gazebos and the majestic ornamental sculptures by William Rush , a member of the Watering Committee. A fountain, fed by the enormous pressure of water in the reservoirs that towered above it, shot jets of water sixty feet into the air. (Those who still believed in the “body’s hu­mors” must have found this a special attraction!) Visitors could find refreshment in the old Engine House, remodeled in 1832 and outfitted as a restau­rant. Continuing improvements over the years opened still more areas to the inquisitive public. Refurbished walkways to and around the reservoirs provided breathtaking views of the city and countryside. A new walkway across the mound dam afforded an expansive perspective of the river.

The Mill House remained the centerpiece of the sprawling complex. Frederick Graff had clearly anticipated public use of the building, because his original plans included two entrances that admitted guests to a gallery specifically designed for observation of the working machinery. By 1843, visitors could see the full complement of eight breast wheels working in virtual silence as they drove the pumps that lifted tons of water to the four main reser­voirs that held more than twenty-two million gallons of water. It was an engineering marvel that even the most phlegmatic visitor regarded with awe. What began as Philadelphia’s municipal water supply became one of America’s premier tourist attractions. Eventually, the Water Works supported a welter of smaller industries. A row of hotels sprang up on the west bank of the Schuylkill. Steam excursions chugged hourly to the Water Works. And there were trams and taverns and teahouses.

Through the years the Fairmount Water Works inspired writers and artists. Literary figures as diverse as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Frances Trollope (mother of English novelist Anthony Trollope) – not to mention many others who failed to achieve celebrity – wrote in praise of the Water Works, irrespective of their views of America or Philadelphia. (Dickens and Trollope, whose words furnished the title of this article, were less than enthusias­tic about the former colonies.) Perhaps because of the dramatic visual appeal, images of the facility seem to outnumber descriptions. Professionals and amateurs alike turned their talents to rendering scenes of the Fairmount Water Works, and their depictions appeared in every medium imaginable. Philadelphia’s renowned Tucker and Hemphill Factory offered gilded porcelain vases that featured hand-painted vignettes of the Water Works. The firm of Clarenbach and Herder used a scene of the frozen river, with the Water Works dominating the back­ground, to advertise its ice skates. Photographers seized upon the Fairmount Water Works as a subject. Stereoscopic photographs, which afforded three-dimensional views of the grounds and machinery, were particularly popular. So many photographs were taken over time that viewers could take a complete tour of the facility without leaving home. The fame (and efficiency) of the Fairmount Water Works prompted thirty-seven munici­palities to call in Frederick Graff as a water system consultant!

While the Water Works flourished during the 1830s and 1840s, few could have foreseen that its very success would lead to its undoing. Initially the threats came from close to home, as city authorities received proposal after proposal to develop the land around the complex. To its credit, the Watering Committee fended off all the schemes put before the city during those years.

When Graff died in 1847, he must have thought his legacy was intact – complete to the point that his son Frederic succeeded him as superinten­dent of the Fairmount Water Works. What Frederic Graff, Jr., (1817-1890) thought of his inheritance is unknown, but he was to grapple with forces far more powerful and insidious than balky steam engines. He had to deal with economics and pollution.

An abundant supply of clean water had been a boon to Philadelphia, pushing economic development to unprecedented heights. Water provided more than a way for the local popula­tion to slake its thirst. A dependable supply of water made fire protection reliable, giving entrepreneurs confidence to make capital investments and improvements. Water fed the seemingly insatiable machines of industry, too. Many manufac­turers and food purveyors used water in their processes, most of whose byproducts were simply returned to the river without even a passing thought about water quality.

The abundance of good, pure water attracted people to Philadelphia, people who used water in ways never imagined at the ti.me the senior Graff designed the Mill House. That the public could see all eight waterwheels in use by 1843 was, in itself, an ominous sign. The Fairmount Water Works opened with three wheels in operation; Graff predicted the city would need eight at the end of the nineteenth century.

The economic development of Philadelphia inevitably triggered the rise of neighboring communities. These satellite settlements also needed increased water supplies and were intent on obtaining it, whether Philadelphia approved or not. Many of the municipali­ties employed steam engines to draw water from the river, decreasing the supply available to Philadelphia. Heavier traffic on the Schuylkill Navigation Company’s canals, which used water from the pool behind the Water Works’ dam, also drew water away from the operation. Given such increasing demands on the river, as well as a burgeoning population, the Water Works had trouble obtaining enough water to operate the machinery. The location of the Water Works, and the design of the breast wheels, added to the difficulty. Because the Schuylkill is a tidal river up to Fairmount, the downstream level of the river brought the waterwheels to a standstill twice a day at high tide.

Frederic Graff, Jr., re­sponded by installing an experimental Jonval hydraulic turbine in 1851. He improvised a turbine room between the Engine House and the Mill House, with a pump room in front of the Engine House terrace. A French innovation, the Jonval turbine was essentially a waterwheel laid on its side and submerged in water. This design had the advantage of being able to run regardless of the tide and made more efficient use of the water’s energy. The experi­mental turbine was successful enough to prompt the city to install three more Jonval turbines between 1859 and 1862 in the new Mill House carved from the mound dam. The Water Works’ appeal to visitors was expanded by making the new building’s roof a public terrace and by adding boat docks.

But progress had exacted its price.

Visitors were still welcome to watch the turbines at work, but the interesting parts of the machinery were encased in an iron housing. By 1872, the change from water wheels to turbines was completed. The switch from breast wheels to turbines probably marked the beginning of a decline in the public’s fascination with the Water Works’ machinery.

Political change, too, affected the Fairmount Water Works. In 1854, the smaller districts that made up the balance of Philadelphia County were consolidated into the city proper, and the district’s competing steam-powered systems fell under city control. City officials realized that Fairmount’s water power still held many economic benefits, but consolidation permanently changed Philadelphia’s equation of water supply and demand. Before consolidation, Philadelphia comprised two square miles of land; after consolidation, it measured one hundred and thirty. The city would require more than one facility. The Fairmount Water Works became a single – albeit still important – component in a much larger enterprise.

Politics aside, the inexorable forces of economic develop­ment and pollution continued to stalk the Water Works and would, in the end, claim it. Philadelphia and other commu­nities along the Schuylkill did not only take water from the river. After they had used the water, they had to dispose of it – and the universal solution was to return the fouled water to the river. Frederick Graff and the Watering Committee harbored concerns about the quality of Philadelphia’s water as early as 1840. Tests per­formed during the decade indicated that contaminant levels in the Schuylkill River were below those reported in other cities.

Nonetheless, the test results apparently did not allay the committee’s fear of pollution, because it quickly purchased Lemon Hill, the former country estate of Robert Morris (1734-1806), financier of the American Revolution, when it was offered for sale in 1844. The location of the property, directly above the Water Works on the bank of the Schuylkill, gave Fairmount at least some protection from industrial development. During the following decade, Frederic Graff, Jr., launched a spirited campaign to protect more land in the watershed from development. He finally prevailed in 1855, when the city adopted his views as policy and purchased Sedgley, another large estate. That year the name Fairmount Park was used for the very first time to describe the combined Lemon Hill-Sedgley parcel.

That action put the city’s imprimatur on a progressive philosophy about open, public space that had been a part of Philadelphia from its earliest beginnings. William Penn’s original plan for the city accommodated five substantial public squares. Graff extended Penn’s vision by designing graceful buildings that became a focal point for Philadelphia’s citizens, which led naturally to the development around the Water Works of a public space.

The younger Graff, in his struggle to spare the river from the unintended bitter fruit of his father’s success, helped to create Fairmount Park, the largest park and open space in any city of the world. Accord­ing to him, the Fairmount Park Commission, formed in 1867, had as its earliest goal the protection, expansion, and administration of the Schuylkill River watershed (see “A Walk on the Wild Side: Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Creek” by Susan Oyama in the fall 1993 issue). Sadly, he was fighting a losing battle. Municipalities, businesses, and citizens flagrantly ignored laws that prohibited them from using the river as a sewer. Deteriorating water quality and decaying, obsolete equipment had caught up with the Fairmount Water Works by the dose of the century. Sand filters to treat the polluted water, a new technology, might have extended the life of the Water Works for a few years, but there was no place at Fairmount to install them. Between 1900 and 1909, four filtration plants were erected in less developed parts of the city, and in 1909 the city completed plans to take the Water Works out of service.

Two years later, the Philadel­phia Aquarium opened in the renovated Engine House. It became an important tourist attraction, becoming America’s fourth largest aquarium by 1929, and occupying the Engine House, the old Mill House, and the new Mill House. The Aquarium’s ill luck was to be at the mercy of municipal politics for operating capital. Capricious funding and official indifference literally bled the Philadelphia Aquarium to death; it closed in December 1962. For the first time in one hundred and fifty years, the Fairmount Water Works fell silent.

The graceful buildings and beautiful grounds remained dormant and derelict until social forces once again directed public attention to the site. In the 1970s, Americans’ interest in the treasures of history as embodied in the great buildings of the past was revived. At about the same time, govern­ment agencies, environmental organizations, and concerned citizens groups launched concerted efforts to restore and save the country’s rivers and streams. Nothing could have been better for the Fairmount Water Works. During the 1976 Bicentennial, the U.S. Depart­ment of the Interior named the Fairmount Water Works a National Historic Landmark. The Fairmount Park Commis­sion and the Philadelphia Water Department, at the urging of the Junior League of Philadelphia, have worked hard to restore the site’s public areas and to find adaptive uses for the historic buildings and structures.

Today, visitors gain deeper insights about this extraordi­nary place from the Water Department’s Interpretive Center at the Fairmount Water Works. The facility’s primary mission is to explore the perilous relationship between urban development and the natural environment. It also strives to educate the public about the pivotal role the Water Works played in the industrial, social, and technological development of Philadelphia and the region. The Schuylkill River has also played a part in the preservation of the Fairmount Water Works. Strong odors from the water – for many years its signature – have disappeared, and the water is clearer and cleaner. More than forty species of fish have returned upriver as far as the Water Works complex. In the spring, mallards fly over the old Mill House and dabble for food behind the dam. And visitors to the Water Works last year spotted a blue heron wading in the shallows. All in all, it’s an inviting place for those who seek the solace of flowing water or who would steal a glimpse of Frederick Graff’s glorious vision reawakening.


For more information about the Fairmount Water Works, write: Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center, Philadelphia Water Department, 1101 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19107; or telephone (215) 687-4712.


For Further Reading

Auvergne, Caroline. “Philadelphia’s Fairmount Waterworks.” Early American Life. (April 1989).

Blake, Nelson Manfred. Water for the Cities: A History of the Urban Water Supply Problem in the United States. Syracuse, N. Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1956.

Carter, II, Edward C., John C. Van Horne, and Lee W. Fornwalt, eds. The Journals of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, 1799-1820: From Philadelphia to New Orleans. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980.

Gibson, Jane Mork. “The Fairmount Waterworks.” Phila­delphia Museum of Art Bulletin. (Summer 1988).

Hamlin, Talbot. Benjamin Henry Latrobe. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1955.

Kashatus, III, William C. “Plagued! Philadelphia’s Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793.” Pennsyl­vania Heritage. 19, 2 (Spring 1993).

Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. Philadelphia: A History of the City and Its People. Philadel­phia: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1912.

Powell, John H. Bring Out Your Dead: The Great Plague of Yellow Fever in Philadelphia in 1793. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1993.

Trollope, Frances. Domestic Manners of the Americans. London: Whitaker, Treacher, 1832.

Van Horne, John C. “Benjamin Henry Latrobe: The Artist As Commentator.” Pennsylvania Heritage. 12, 2 (Spring 1986), 26-31.

Wainwright, Nicholas B., ed. A Philadelphia Perspective: The Diary of Sidney George Fisher Covering the Years 1834-1871. Philadelphia: Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1967.

Warner, Sam Bass, Jr. The Private City: Philadelphia in Three Periods of Its Growth. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987.

Weigley, Russell F., ed. Phila­delphia: A 300-Year History. New York: W. W. Norton, 1982.


The author would like to express his indebtedness to Jane Mork Gibson and Caroline Auvergne, whose writings and original research were essential in writing this article. He would also like to acknowledge the contributions of Ed Grusheski, director of the Philadelphia Water Department’s Fairmount Water Works Interpre­tive Center, and C. Drew Brown, P.E., the Water Department’s manager of public education.


William O. Owen, who resides in Strafford, is a public affairs consultant specializing in financial and environmental issues. Although he grew up in the state of Washington, he has lived on the East Coast since 1967. He relocated to Pennsylvania in 1975 to pursue graduate studies in journalism and public opinion at Temple Univer­sity in Philadelphia. The author has been fascinated by the Fairmount Water Works since first visiting the historic complex in 1985.