Digital Commonwealth

Lawrence, Mass., Water Department

Lawrence Public Library

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For 25 years, the citizens of Lawrence used wells and cisterns to supply water for domestic use. In 1848, John Tenney of Methuen, Alfred Kittredge of Haverhill, and Daniel Saunders of Lawrence, with other associates, formed a corporation called the Lawrence Aqueduct Company to bring water in from Haggett’s Pond in Andover. The capital of $50,000 was immediately deemed insufficient to cover the needs of the growing city.

Three years later, the Bay State Mills and the Essex Company built a 1,000,000-gallon capacity reservoir on Prospect Hill. The water in this reservoir was raised from the canal by pumping through iron pipes, and was kept on a level of about 152 feet above the crest of the Merrimack River Dam. Several corporations forming the Lawrence Reservoir Associated owned this property. Each company had its own system of distributing pipes. This system supplied the needs of most business as well as the Common Pond.

In 1871 and 1872, Henry Barton and other citizens argued for a municipal water supply; after investigation, the Merrimack River was decided for the source. Governor William B. Washburn signed an act passed by the legislature on March 8, 1872 to provide for the appointment of three commissioners appointed by the City Council to execute, superintend, and direct work approved by the authority of the act or subsequent acts. In May 1872, the voters approved a special committee on water supply and on April 18, 1873 an ordinance was passed providing for the election of a board of water commissioners.

A pumping station and a new reservoir (on Tower Hill) were constructed in 1874-1875. In 1893, the first filter was completed. This was the first municipal filtration system for the elimination of bacteria established in this country. This reservoir had a capacity of 40,000,000 gallons. The Tower Hill water tower was built in 1896 to increase water pressure on Tower Hill. A booster pump was installed on Phillips Hill in 1917 to increase water pressure in the Mt. Vernon Street neighborhood.

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