Digital Commonwealth

Massachusetts Metropolitan Water Works Photograph Collection, 1876-1930 (bulk, 1895-1921)

Massachusetts Archives

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The Massachusetts Metropolitan Water Works (MWW) Photograph Collection documents the construction of the Boston metropolitan water supply as it expanded westward between 1876 and 1925. Over 8,000 carefully labeled photographs were taken of each phase of the construction, from real estate takings through completion, by staff photographers and engineers. The collection includes various photographic formats, including dry plate glass negatives, glass lantern slides, and photographic prints. Construction of dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, pipelines, standpipes and many architecturally significant pumping stations and gatehouses are represented, spreading across about 50 Massachusetts cities, towns, and Boston neighborhood districts. Noted facilities include the Wachusett Reservoir, Wachusett Dam, and Wachusett Aqueduct.

An expanded Metropolitan Water Works continues to operate under the joint stewardship of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (water distribution system) and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (water supply reservoirs and their watershed management), and the original photographs in this collection are now in the safekeeping of the Massachusetts State Archives.

A comprehensive history of the MWW Photograph Collection is at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) Archives Management Office web page.

A brief history of the water system's growth, from a spring on Boston Common to the Quabbin Reservoir, is at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) web page.

Locations of 1,432 of the Wachusett Reservoir real estate photographs are shown on land survey blueprints in the Massachusetts Metropolitan Water Works Wachusett Reservoir Land Survey Plans Indexing Real Estate Photographs, 1896-1898 collection held by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

Locations in this Collection: