The Tale of the Incredible Old Croton Aqueduct

by Lesley Escobar

In life, many individuals are greatly attracted to the glamorous materialistic items and lovely distant scenery offered. There is a bigger yearning to obtain the things we want than focusing on the necessities we assume are always there. New Yorkers live in one of the most popular and iconic states in the world; it can be difficult to not fall in love with its beauty and the feeling of stardom. However, it seems that people tend to overlook what made the state what it is today, its critical and hardworking history. The pavement we step on, the buildings we lift our heads to see, the transportation that helps us travel, and especially the water that we use every day, were made responsible because of the amazing humans before us. The structure that helps grant New Yorkers water has been with us for a long time, you may have not just known it yet. Today I’ll be sharing the tale of the incredible Old Croton Aqueduct.

Let’s take a blast to the past, nearly 200 years ago, where we find ourselves in the 1830s with a bright and promising state called New York. The state had streets full of homes followed by patches of farms, people were out in the town on horseback, and it seemed like most of Europe was coming over to enjoy the glory too. It was a grand time, but even this majestic place could not escape inevitable hardships. New York was beginning to face a battle that hit hard for the safety and health of the community. People at home were coming down with illnesses that made their eyes spill with tears. Others were watching flames grasp everything they have ever worked for turn into ash right before their eyes. People would quickly run to fetch water to help. There was always a heart-dropping feeling, wondering whether the few drops of murky liquid would be enough to save everyone’s worst fears. Eventually, some very intelligent people wanted to provide a solution to slow down these misfortunes. The substantial objective of the structure is that it needed to be built to help supply crisp water to New York and protect the water supply from damage. There was some turbulence with the project’s first engineer, but in 1836, John B. Jervis took upon the ultimate responsibility to get the job done. Jervis finalized the design of the aqueduct and its stupendous counterparts, then the construction began with the help of mostly Irish Immigrants in 1837. The structure design was intricate and inspired by Roman times; it had the details for full functionality and allure to charm everyone who would go to visit the trail for years to come.

In the following five years, in 1842, the 41-mile aqueduct was built with a dam to run water from Croton River to New York City. This was a huge accomplishment. The sight of water filling the tremendous reservoirs was the event of the season; the community had to commemorate this with a joyous celebration on October 14th. The water trickled down sites of the gorgeous New York Public Library and Great Lawn of Central Park. Some individuals were so ready to use the water that they even made lemonade with it. New York endured a struggle, but it led to remarkable change which only encouraged more beautiful growth to flow through our world.

In the 1880s, New York was growing due to industrialization and technological advancements; it was captivating more and more packs of people like a moth to a light. However, it caused a miscalculation because the aqueduct was estimated to supply water for centuries and it turned out that it could no longer support the population. No need to fret because chief engineer B.S. Church tripled the size and deepened it underground by 1890, allowing us to enjoy water. Although it may not flow through previous sites, in the awaited future it would run from Van Cortlandt Park at start of the Yonkers border to the Croton Dam in Cortlandt.

Now that we know the climacteric history and how crucial this system is for New Yorkers' everyday life, it is time to deep dive and marvel at the contribution and influence the aqueduct has on our society today. In 1968, New York bought a 26.2-mile portion of the Aqueduct route, it would officially have the title of a Historic Park, recreational resource, and trail. This was and still is a delightful chance for the public to seize a moment with loved ones or for themselves. They have the opportunity to breathe in raw fresh air, feel liberated of the outside world, connect with mother nature and the olden days, all in one. Preserving areas like these is vital because it is a piece of the past that if we were to lose, we would not be able to repossess it ever again. In the same that we preserve our history, our mission should be to save our planet. Earth has faced many travesties due to several elements, one being pollution. “Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct” has contributed tremendously. They are a private non-profit organization that dedicates themselves to protecting the Aqueduct and help spread information about the trail. The organization also has a goal to focus on taking care of the trail by organizing cleanups and getting rid of invasive plants. This is a wonderful step in helping to care for our earth, especially at a time when it needs so much. It deserves to be a National Historical Landmark because it aided New York when it needed it the most. It continues to share, educate, preserve, amaze, and bring a smile to people’s faces through the view and promising organization.