Above-ground remnants of the Croton Aqueduct

CrotonwatermanholeIt was an amazing engineering feat: the construction of an aqueduct from upper Westchester to Manhattan that would bring fresh water to New York City.

Built between 1837 and 1842, the Croton Aqueduct fed a growing metropolis’ huge need for clean drinking water as well as water for fighting fires.

The water had quite a journey to travel. From the Croton River it crossed the Harlem River over the beautiful High Bridge.


Then it flowed into a receiving reservoir in the West 70s between Sixth and Seventh Avenues (not quite yet the middle of Central Park; the park hadn’t been built yet).

From there it reached the Egyptian revival–style distributing reservoir at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, and then to streets and households all over Manhattan (who paid an annual fee for the water, of course).

CrotonaqueductinsideThe old Croton Aqueduct was in use until the 1890s (the Harper’s Magazine illustration at left is called “Shutting Off The Croton”), when it was replaced by a new aqueduct by the same name and used through the 1950s.

Amazingly, some of the 19th century aqueduct gatehouses (where the inverted siphon pipes that carried the water connected) still stand.

One is fenced off at Amsterdam Avenue and 118th Street (above). Completed in 1895, it replaced an older gatehouse at Amsterdam and 119th Street.

Another gatehouse, at Amsterdam and 113th Street, has been repurposed into a senior center.


A third gatehouse is on Convent Avenue and 135th Street in Harlem—it’s a beauty (above).

The gatehouses and manhole covers aren’t the only visible reminders of the aqueduct. Incredibly, part of an old reservoir wall appears to remain in the south wing of the New York Public Library building, which was built on the site of the distributing reservoir. Catch a glimpse of it here at Daytonian in Manhattan.

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8 Responses to “Above-ground remnants of the Croton Aqueduct”

  1. SquarePeg_Dem Says:

    Reblogged this on SquarePegDem's Blog and commented:
    The hidden treasures of old New York.

  2. Bob Kornfeld (Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct) Says:

    Very interesting, but a few factual corrections. The Old Croton Aqueduct was in service until the 1960’s. It was supplemented, not replaced by the New Croton Aqueduct. The New Croton Aqueduct is still part of the NYC water supply system and provides 10% to 30% of the city’s water. The Croton Filtration Plant under construction now in Van Cortlandt Park is for the New Croton Aqueduct, for the indefinite future.

    Also, there are still a number of sections of the stone and brick Old Croton Aqueduct tunnel extant in NYC, in the Bronx portion, Manhattan High Bridge Park, and some sections below 155th Street, including Central Park. The York Hill Receiving Reservoir is still there under the Great Lawn in Central Park, and part of its wall is still visible behind the police station on the 86th Street Transverse.

  3. ephemeralnewyork Says:

    Thank you for the clarifications; the NYC Parks website says the aqueduct hadn’t been used since 1959. I only meant to focus on Manhattan remnants of the old Croton Aqueduct here, but yes, there are more in the Bronx…and of course the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, which one of these days I intend to explore!

  4. P. Gavan Says:

    Here is the link from the Parks Dept. with information on remnants of the receiving reservoir in Central Park:

    Unfortunately, they never counted on it lasting so long, and in recent years many leaks in the pipeline have caused major flooding issues in Upstate New York. The DEC just completed a complete and very costly rehab of the whole system:

  5. Maggie's Farm Says:

    Tuesday morning links

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  6. A dazzling City Hall fountain sprays Croton water | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] took five years to build the Croton Aqueduct—the engineering marvel that brought fresh upstate water to Manhattan through a series of pipes as well as receiving and […]

  7. Rocky remains of Central Park’s 1842 reservoir | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] In 1842, it was the site of New York’s new, 31-acre Receiving Reservoir, the body of water built to store fresh drinking water piped in from upstate via the just-completed Croton Aqueduct. […]

  8. Edgar Allan Poe’s haunted walks on High Bridge | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] graceful feat of engineering, the High Bridge opened in 1848 and carried Croton Aqueduct water to […]

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