NEW York’s first water system was built between 1837 and 1842. Prior to those years, water was obtained from cisterns, wells and barrels from rain. Construction began in 1837 on a series of mostly underground conduits that would bring water from the Croton River in northern Westchester County to NYC’s spigots. Amazingly, it took only five years to finish the first connection given the technology available at the time.
Two reservoirs were built in New York City, one between the present-day lines of 6th and 7th Avenues and 79th and 85th Streets, and a smaller distributing reservoir on 5th and 42nd. The former was drained in 1930 and its site is now occupied by Central Park’s Great Lawn. The latter was torn down to make room for the main branch of the New York Public Library, which rose in 1911.
Many of the Old Croton Aqueduct’s New York City remnants are visible in the Bronx and even in upper Manhattan, as are some reminders of the New Croton Aqueduct, built in 1890 to replace the older. There are number of public trails that delineate the routes formerly used by the aqueduct and its branches that have recently been better paved and have large signs that contain the aqueduct’s history. This one can be found at Van Cortlandt Park South at Mosholu Parkway, and extends deep into the park.
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