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Pump Illustration
Pump Wheel
  • Urban History

    1876

    In the summer of 1876, the formation of the Boston Water Board signaled a major step forward. The new board replaced the Cochituate and Mystic Water Boards. In its first report, the board noted the importance of a high service station at Chestnut Hill. Such a station was needed to provide water to the higher regions of the city.

  • Urban History

    1880

    In 1880, the board appealed to the City Council for funds for high service, calling the need “imperative.” The board was particularly concerned that higher areas of the city have adequate water to fight fires. The Great Boston Fire of 1872 was fresh in the minds of the board.

  • Urban History

    1884

    In 1884, the City Council approved the high service plan with “substantial unanimity.” The City Council appropriated $766,000 for the high service system, including the most important part—the Chestnut Hill Pumping Station.

  • Urban History

    1886

    The MWM building was built by immigrants who were coming in great numbers to Boston at the end of the nineteenth century. They brought their skills and craftsmanship to not only create a working building but also one of beauty. This is important when looking at the buildings from the “gilded age.”

  • Architecture

    1886

    The “High Service Pumping Station,” now housing the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum, was designed by architect Arthur H. Vinal in 1886-1887 and seamlessly expanded by Edmund M. Wheelwright, in 1897-1898. The building was constructed at the height of what is sometimes referred to as Boston’s “Golden Age,” a period of great prosperity that lasted from the Civil War through World War I.

  • Engineering

    1887

    When the Chestnut Hill Pumping Station opened in 1887 it was equipped with two Holly-Gaskill pumping engines, each with a capacity of eight million gallons per day.

  • Public Health

    1889

    In 1889 the Water Board of the City of Boston established a laboratory for systematic study of the biology of the water-supply sources. The Chestnut Hill laboratory was the first in the country dedicated to biological water analysis.

  • Engineering

    1894

    The Leavitt pumping engine was installed in 1894. It became the lead pump and ran with respectable efficiency, but due to its unusual design, it required frequent maintenance. Once the more reliable Allis engine was installed, the Leavitt was used as a secondary pump. It was taken out of service in 1928.

  • Public Health

    1895

    By 1895, the Chestnut Hill laboratory had been in operation for six years, and the staff had made more than 12,000 microscopic and more than 6,000 bacterial examinations of water samples.

  • Architecture

    1897

    The architectural style used by Vinal and Wheelwright was Richardsonian Romanesque. The best example of H.H. Richardson’s work in Boston is Trinity Church in Copley Square. When one looks at the two buildings through the lens of architectural history, one can see the similarities. This led to MWM often being called the “Tabernacle of Steam.”

  • Engineering

    1898

    The Allis engine was commissioned in 1898.

  • Public Health

    1898

    After the Metropolitan Water Board took control of the Boston water supply system, the laboratory was moved from Chestnut Hill Reservoir to Beacon Hill. The biological laboratory was relocated to No. 3 Mt. Vernon Street on July 25, 1898.

  • Water

    1900

    Fayette F. Forbes, the Superintendent of the Waterworks in Brookline, MA quoted the following from page 32 of the 1898 report of the Massachusetts State Board of Health: "It has been found that many waters, when brought into contact with lead service pipes, as in lead distribution pipes, dissolve lead from the pipes and the water thus becomes dangerous to those who drink it. While the quantity of lead dissolved may be small, and a single dose might not harm the user of the water, the continued use of water containing lead is harmful, because lead is a cumulative poison. The exact amount of lead which may be taken into the system without producing harm is not definitely known, and may vary in different people; but it is known that the continued use of water containing quantities of lead as small as .05 of a part per 100,000 or about 1/33 of a grain per gallon, has caused serious injury to health."

  • Engineering

    1922

    In 1922 one of the Holly-Gaskills was replaced with the Worthington-Snow pumping engine. The Worthington-Snow engine could pump nearly twice as much as the Holly-Gaskill engine it replaced, providing more capacity for the High Service Station.