Water for Gotham: A History

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Princeton University Press, 2001 - History - 376 pages
4 Reviews

Water for Gotham tells the spirited story of New York's evolution as a great city by examining its struggle for that vital and basic element--clean water. Drawing on primary sources, personal narratives, and anecdotes, Gerard Koeppel demonstrates how quickly the shallow wells of Dutch New Amsterdam were overwhelmed, leaving the English and American city beleaguered by filth, epidemics, and fires. This situation changed only when an outside water source was finally secured in 1842--the Croton Aqueduct, a model for urban water supplies in the United States.

As the fertile wilderness enjoyed by the first Europeans in Manhattan vanishes and the magnitude of New York's water problem grows, the reader is introduced to the plans of Christopher Colles, builder of the first American steam engine, and of Joseph Browne, the first to call for a mainland water source for this island-city. In this vividly written true-life fable of the "Fools of Gotham," the chief obstacle to the aqueduct is the Manhattan Company. Masterminded by Aaron Burr, with the complicity of Alexander Hamilton and other leading New Yorkers, the company was a ruse, serving as the charter for a bank--today's Chase Manhattan. The cholera epidemic of 1832 and the great fire three years later were instrumental in forcing the city's leaders to finally unite and regain New York's water rights.

Koeppel's account of the developments leading up to the Croton Aqueduct reveals it as a triumph not only of inspired technology but of political will. With over forty archival photographs and drawings, Water for Gotham demonstrates the deep interconnections between natural resource management, urban planning, and civic leadership. As New York today retakes its waterfront and boasts famous tap water, this book is a valuable reminder of how much vision and fortitude are required to make a great city function and thrive.

  

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Review: Water for Gotham: A History

User Review  - Converse - Goodreads

The quirky story of how New York City eventually, despite itself and Aaron Burr, got clean water from the Croton Aqueduct by about 1840. Read full review

Review: Water for Gotham

User Review  - Carolyn - Goodreads

Very interesting read but I wish the book would have continued past the construction of the Croton Aqueduct and included more information on New York's modern public water supply. Still, the book was a surprisingly good read considering municipal water supply is a pretty dry subject. Read full review

Contents

Give Us Cold Water
1
Manahata Goes Dutch
7
English WellBeing
17
Tea Water and the Works That Werent
28
New City Old Trouble
50
Aarons Water
70
Fools of Gotham
102
Catching the Croton Bug
139
The Work Begins
185
Taking the High Road?
218
Filling the Big Teapot
246
New Yorks Water from Then to Now
285
Notes
293
Index
341
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

GERARD T. KOEPPEL, a resident of Manhattan, is a writer and journalist. He was an editor at CBS News for eleven years, and previously a reporter, producer, and writer at NBC, Mutual, and other radio networks and stations.

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