6 years, 9 months on Open Salon__________________________


New York, New York,
April 22

Editor’s Pick
APRIL 5, 2012 9:57AM

Dam it!

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On Monday afternoon I stopped in at the New Croton Dam in Croton, NY to take photos and video footage of the 106 year old structure. "New" sounds odd for an old dam, but it replaced an earlier dam, hence the addition of "New" to its title.

As the aerial photo below indicates, the Croton Reservoir which was created by the dam covers a huge area of Northern Westchester County in the region north of New York City. This is one of many reservoirs that keep the city with an abundant water supply. The dam was built by the city and is city-owned.

There is much fascinating history relating to the city's reservoirs and a lot has been written about it, plus it has been the subject of numerous documentaries. This is one small piece of a huge system that is really quite mind boggling once you read about how much was built without the benefit of today's heavy equipment along with the genius of the water supply's engineers.

A lot of farm land was lost to the building of the reservoir system, even the farm we have lost 56 acres of low lying land in the l860s to the adjacent reservoir as it was being planned and constructed. The nearby Village of Katonah had to be moved to higher ground to avoid flooding by the nearby reservoir under construction, just as an example of the displacement caused in some areas by the reservoir system.

Two earlier stories about my reservoir can be seen here and here.

If you have never visited the New Croton Dam I hope my photo/video essay will offer a good overview of what an outstanding engineering achievement this was at the time of its construction.



The dam is to the left side of the reservoir and showsup in this aerial as a white straight line:



Close up aerial view that shows overhead what I photographed from the ground:


 Aerials courtesy of Google Maps.


One of the first photos I took on Monday upon entering the park which is adjacent to the dam and reservoir. Westchester County runs the park and not the City of New York, which owns the dam and reservoir:




Panorama of the immense spillway courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Most of the spillway is not visible from where I photographed the dam, just the end curved section of the spillway as seen in my two of my photos, plus the video:




The entire dam was constructed with cut and chiseled stone unlike more contemporary dams that are made of poured concrete. I came across a statistic that stated it is the second largest "hand hewn" dam in the world. I usually associate "hand hewn" with old house and barn beams so I was interested to read it described this way.




 A closer view similar to my first photo shown above:







An HD video I shot of the volume of water flowing over the huge spillway on Monday afternoon:




History of the New Croton Dam from Wikipedia:

The New Croton Dam, part of the New York City water supply system, stretches across the Croton River near Croton-on-Hudson, New York, about 22 miles (35 km) north of New York City. Construction began in 1892 and was completed in 1906. Designed by Alphonse Fteley (1837–1903), this masonry dam is 266 feet (81 m) broad at its base and 297 feet (91 m) high from base to crest. Its foundation extends 130 feet (40 m) below the bed of the river, and the dam contains 850,000 cubic yards (650,000 m3) of masonry. The engineers' tablet mounted on the headhouse nearest the spillway lists the spillway length as 1,000 feet (300 m) and the total length of the dam and spillway combined as 2,188 feet (667 m). At the time of its completion, it was the tallest dam in the world. New Croton Dam impounds up to 19 billion US gallons (72,000,000 m3) of water, a small fraction of the New York City water system's total storage capacity of 580 billion US gallons (2.2×109 m3).

The dam, in Westchester County, has an unusual spillway, part artificial and part natural, which forms a waterfall on the north side of the structure. New Croton Dam has a public park and trail head at its base and a road along its crest. Road use is limited to pedestrians and emergency vehicles.

The original Croton Dam (Old Croton Dam) was built between 1837 and 1842 to improve New York City's water supply. By 1881, after extensive repairs to the dam, which was 50 feet (15 m) high, Old Croton Reservoir was able to supply about 90 million US gallons (340,000 m3) a day to the city via the Old Croton Aqueduct. To meet escalating water needs, the Aqueduct Commission of the City of New York ordered construction of a new Croton system in 1885. Hydro engineer James B. Francis was brought in as a consultant for the construction.

The proposed dam and reservoir were to cover 20 square miles (51.8 km²) of land occupied by public and private buildings, six cemeteries, and more than 400 farms. Condemnation disputes led to "protests, lawsuits, and confusion" before payment of claims and the awarding of construction contracts. The work force on the new dam included stonemasons and laborers who had worked on the original dam. John B. Goldsborough, superintendent of excavations and hiring for the project, also recruited stonemasons from southern Italy, who re-located to New York.

Work began in 1892 at a site four miles (6.4 km) downstream of the original dam, which was submerged by the new reservoir. New Croton Reservoir was eventually able to supply 200 to 300 million US gallons (760,000 to 1,100,000 m3) a day via a new aqueduct that carried water to Jerome Park Reservoir in the north Bronx, New York City.

Building the dam meant diverting the river from its normal path and pumping the riverbed dry. To accomplish this, workers dug a crescent-shaped canal 1,000 feet (300 m) long and 200 feet (61 m) wide in the hill on the north side of the river, secured the canal with a masonry retaining wall, and built temporary dams to control the water flow. The initial construction lasted eight years, and extensive modifications and repairs went on for another six. Working conditions were often difficult. A silent film, The Croton Dam Strike, released in 1900, depicted labor-management problems related to the dam's construction.

The bridge over the spillway was replaced in 1975 and again in 2005. In that same year, because of the September 11 attacks on New York City, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection proposed permanent closure of the road across the top of the dam. Pedestrians and emergency vehicles were allowed to use New Croton Dam Road, but all other traffic was re-routed. The department made plans to replace temporary vehicle barriers with permanent barriers after completion of a New Croton Dam Rehabilitation Project in 2011.




Except where noted, all photos and text are © 2012 by B+Co., Inc.


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Wonderful. You capture the coursing water so very well.
Great post and photos. I can't help but think, I wonder how many dead bodies the mob has donated to the reservoir!:-)
I love this stuff. I wish you could have gotten closer to the top, so I could see the detail work. I know. Me, me, me. :)

Thanks for sharing this!
So nice to see it again. I have crossed that bridge so many times. As I often write you, I so miss the beauty of Westchester, my home for so many years.
John, this is truly a marvel of engineering..Hand-cut stone...totally amazing! thanks for a great piece of beauty and history...
What a wonderful post, D, and great pics to match. R
[r] excellent, designanator!!! what a gift. the pix are great and the video to add the sound was an extra gift! love the idea of its being hand hewn! best, libby
It is a stunning structure -- and not what I think of when I envision a "dam."
Thank you for sharing the pictures and video and information! I read about this dam in Edward Ruthurford's book "New York", but I've never seen it. Thanks for that.