He dipped into the archives and found contemporary “Watering Committee” records of the installation on that stretch of Spruce going on between October 1811 and October 1812. Philadelphia, then gearing up with the rest of the country to go to war with Britain for a second time, was a center of art and engineering in the young republic. Its water system was among the best that early 19th century American modernity could provide. [ The fake news that haunted George Washington ] Designed in 1801 by Benjamin Latrobe, the architect of the U.S. Capitol Building, the Philly system used two steam engines to pump water from the Schuylkill River up to the domed, neoclassical Centre Square Water Works, where the wooden tanks could hold about 25 minutes worth of water at a time. Gravity then shot the water through a wooden-pipe network that grew to more than 45 miles in length by the time metal pipes became the norm in the 1830s. Philadelphia’s Centre Square Water Works was plumber bucktown chicago 773-717-7550 designed by architect Benjamin Latrobe (Library of Congress) The local government commissioned the system because, as the documents of the day detail, “the speedy introduction of a copious supply of wholesome water is deemed essential to the health and preservation of this city.” Cooking and bathing water were a necessity, Levine said, along with firefighting and public health. The unfiltered Schuylkill was an upgrade from the household wells that often shared yard space with the family latrine. Experts also thought that regularly flushing the streets of horse poop and rotting garbage could prevent infectious diseases, such as the yellow fever outbreak that devastated Philly in the 1790s.
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