Ever wonder where your water comes from? Before you say “from the tap,” think again. It had to get to the tap from somewhere. But where? And how?
That’s where we come in.
The Waterworks Museum is located on the site of the original Chestnut Hill Reservoir and pumping station. By the 1880’s, Boston’s water system couldn’t keep up with the rapid growth of the city and its water needs. Chestnut Hill was identified as the location for a new reservoir and main pumping station. The original station was built in 1887, but by the 1890’s, it was clear that demand had quickly outstripped the ability to transport sufficient water. The need for more water resulted in the installation of increasingly powerful (and enormous!) pumping engines, which operated every day until the 1970’s, when the site was taken offline, and Boston’s water supply shifted to the Quabbin Reservoir. The Chestnut Hill Reservoir, however, is still used as a back-up source of water in case of emergencies.
So why visit us?
We tell some important regional stories about clean water, health, people, brilliant engineers, and magnificent architecture. Our stories tell how Boston grew to be the city it is today.
You can explore the remarkable machinery, wonder at the massive wrenches that kept the pumps running, and marvel at the beautiful architecture. You can take a walking tour of the Chestnut Hill Reservoir, the centerpiece of an extraordinary landscaping project, or venture out on an all-day bus excursion, led by experts on all things water-related. You can attend special events, talks, or if you are a teacher, visit with a school group. In the future, you will be able to hear podcasts of some of our events!
If that’s not enough, come because it’s a fun way to learn about your city’s history!
Our Background Story
Our tax-exempt nonprofit 501(C)(3) nonprofit educational organization, Metropolitan Waterworks Museum Inc. (MWM), took title to the 22,000 sq. ft. Waterworks Museum in 2009. The museum is governed by a Board of Directors, and is is operated by a professional staff. The Waterworks Preservation Trust is the fiduciary for an endowment that benefits the Museum.
The Waterworks Museum consists of the Great Engines Hall, housing three historic, steam-powered pumping engines, and a two story glass-enclosed pavilion, featuring the Overlook Gallery, available on an advance-booking basis to non-profit community and civic groups in Allston-Brighton, Brookline, and Newton.
The Friends of the Waterworks, Inc., the MWM’s predecessor, advocated since 1991 for the preservation of this former eight-acre Metropolitan Water Works site and the historic building. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts passed legislation in 2005, authorizing the sale of this site, including its three historic buildings, for re-development, subject to preservation restrictions.
MWM took title to this condominium unit from the private developer of Waterworks Park. The Waterworks Museum is part of the Museum Building, which also contains four condominium residences. The remaining buildings, including the new curved Watermark Building, contain an additional 108 condominium residences. We want your visit to be extraordinary, but we ask that you remain respectful of our residential neighbors.
The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum uses its architecturally magnificent building, mammoth steam pumping engines, and the adjacent historic Chestnut Hill Reservoir to interpret unique stories of one of the country’s earliest metropolitan water systems. Through educational programs and exhibits focused on engineering, architecture, urbanism, public health, and social history, the Museum connects these stories to current issues and future challenges.