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John Caspar Wild--Fairmont Water Works, 1837-1838

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"The earliest Water Works building was constructed in 1812 to feed the water needs of a growing Philadelphia. Built in the years that preceded the industrial revolution, it was seen as an engineering marvel, drawing visitors from all parts of the world. People had simply never seen anything like it. A trip to Philadelphia in the nineteenth century always included a visit to this spectacular public park.

The earliest building housed two steam engines which pumped water up to reservoirs on the "Fair Mount" behind it. The location was chosen because it was the highest point in the area, hence the name Fair Mount, and would provide a good launch-point for the gravity-fed water systems that the city depended on in those days. The Philadelphia Museum of Art now sits on Fair Mount where the Water Works reservoirs lived for more than a century.

The dam, which is actually a spillway since it allows water to flow over it, was constructed to direct water around the back of the pump house and through the building, turning giant water wheels and driving the pumps. Previously, the pumps were steam driven, requiring enormous, expensive loads of fuel, and creating a dangerous environment for those who worked in the immediate area. The conversion to waterpower was a lucrative move for the city.

The reservoir had a capacity of 3 million gallons. The first steam driven pumps could fill the reservoir in one day.

The water distribution system in Philadelphia in the early 1800s consisted of wooden logs (Spruce and Yellow Pine) with the center bored out.

Each of the original steam engines consumed more than 3,000 cords of wood per year in order to pump 2 million gallons of water in a 24 hour period."
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  1. NormaNoMates5:34
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You're welcome, NormaNo, I'm glad you enjoyed the painting. :-)

Thank you Bommom - it's good to have info with a good picture!


You're welcome Leanne; thanks for the visit. :-)


Very interesting and a lovely painting. Thanks for posting all the information. Leanne


It evidently was quite a marvel in its day. I can recall my mother taking us kids to see it a couple of different times when we were small. Of course, by then, it had been replaced and it was just a bit of history that she was trying to make sure we didn't miss--sort of like also going to the art museum and to Independence Hall.


I didn't do the figures, but that sounds like an expensive water distribution system!

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