Sunday, June 8, 2014

Bricks, Red Bricks on the Old Croton Aqueduct

Yesterday was a beautiful June day and I took a tour of the Old Croton Aqueduct in Ossining New York - a tour that brought you below ground level down into the water tunnel now dry. Well, relatively dry that is.  Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct run the tour and there was a knowledgeable guide who was also on the board of the non profit.  Once inside, it is possible to grasp the number of red bricks that were required to construct the 41 mile conduit for New York City's water. The bricks surround you when you are inside the tunnel.

The construction of the aqueduct began in 1837 and began pumping its water into New York City by 1842.  The Cholera Epidemic of 1832 was a great motivator to bring a source of fresh drinking water to the city.

The tunnels are constructed of red bricks skillfully assembled then plastered over with a water resistant cement that would not crumble.  This may be the same cement devised by Canvas White in the construction of the Erie Canal in the previous decade.  This discovery was described in "The Wedding of the Waters" by Peter Bernstrin. (W.W. Norton Co. 2005) pages 212-214.

Our tour guide told us the need for red bricks spurred the brick making industry in Verplanck, Westchester County.  This made me recall a picture of the St Hilaire 's in Cohoes. The men of the family worked in a brick foundry supplying the red bricks for the construction of the textile mills.

By the way, the tour is highly recommended!

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