This just in from the Office of Cultural Resources


The Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA), and the Massachusetts State Archives are informing you of the public accessibility through the Digital Commonwealth web portal of 8,800 photographic images that document the Massachusetts Metropolitan Water Works (MWW) System between 1895 and 1926, the system which provides metropolitan Boston with its water.

The MWW photographs document the real estate takings for and construction and operations of the Wachusett Reservoir, Wachusett Dam, Wachusett Aqueduct, Sudbury Reservoir, Sudbury Dam, Weston Aqueduct, Weston Reservoir, and the expansion of a water supply distribution system throughout metropolitan Boston (pipe lines, pumping stations, reservoirs, standpipes).

The images of real estate takings include residential homes and buildings; businesses; mills; town buildings; schools; churches; cemeteries; and railroad stations. About 50 Massachusetts cities, towns, and Boston neighborhood districts are represented in this collection. These images represent the Metropolitan Water Works System prior to the 1926-1940 expansion of the system that included the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir, and mostly derive from 7,839 glass plate photographic negatives that survive today.

Additionally, the photograph collection includes photographic images of Boston Water Works facilities between 1876 and 1895, before they were taken over by the Commonwealth in 1898.

This collection includes the photographic documentation of the Boston Water Board’s construction between 1890 and 1895, representing the Hopkinton Reservoir and Dam, and Sudbury Reservoir and Dam. Additional major facilities in this collection include water supply and distribution reservoirs of Ashland Reservoir, Ashland Dam, Bear Hill Reservoir, Bellevue Reservoir (standpipe), Chestnut Hill Reservoir, Fells Reservoir, Forbes Hill Reservoir (standpipe), Framingham Reservoirs, Framingham Dams, Lake Cochituate, and Spot Pond; and the water supply aqueducts of Cochituate Aqueduct and Sudbury Aqueduct. Pumping stations represented in this collection include the Arlington Pumping Station, Chestnut Hill Pumping Stations, Hyde Park Pumping Station, and Spot Pond Pumping Station; and pumping engines within these facilities. Other documented facilities include Upper Mystic Lake, Mystic Reservoir, Mystic Pumping Station, Waban Hill Reservoir, Chelsea Reservoir, pipe yards; and gatehouses associated with all MWW facilities.

Other subjects include forestry management around Wachusett Reservoir; sanitary improvement and protection of the watersheds, including Clinton sewerage treatment; brook and swamp drainage management; hydroelectric power plants and electrical transmission from MWW; pipe breaks along the distribution pipe lines; and railroad relocation.

This project is a collaborative inter-agency effort by DCR, MWRA and the Massachusetts State Archives. Free digital imaging of the collection was made by the Boston Public Library Digital Services, through its partnership with “Digital Commonwealth”, and funded by federal and state grants, including Institute of Museum and Library Services / Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) federal funds through the Massachusetts Board of Library of Commissioners.

An expanded Metropolitan Water Works continues to operate under the joint stewardship of the MWRA (water distribution system) and DCR (water supply reservoirs and their watershed management). DCR and MWRA share a common lineage and heritage back to the Metropolitan Water Works System that was established by the Massachusetts legislature in 1895. DCR and MWRA partnered with the Massachusetts State Archives to ensure that the original photographic negatives and prints of this archival collection are safely preserved for the Commonwealth at the Massachusetts Archives.