Click here to go directly to the content of this page
[graphic header] A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor
 [graphic] link to Corridor Home [graphic text] Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor
[graphic] link to Maps
[graphic] link to List of Sites
[graphic] Link to Learn More
 [graphic] Link to Itineraries
 [graphic] Link to NR Home
[graphic] Link to Previous Site[graphic] Link to Next Site

[graphic] Old Waterworks


[photo] Old Waterworks across bridge
Photograph courtesy of Historic Bethlehem Inc.

Begun in 1754 and enlarged in 1762, the Bethlehem Waterworks is thought to be the first municipal pumping system to provide drinking and washing water in the United States. Johann Christopher Christensen devised the system in 1754 to transfer spring water from the Monocray Creek flood plain to the Moravian settlement on the bluff above it. Six years later, Christensen enlarged the waterworks and installed it in a 24-foot-square limestone rubble structure with a red-tile covered hipped-bellcast-gable roof. The system's 18-foot undershot waterwheel powered three single acting cast-iron pumps which forced spring water through wood (later lead) pipes 320 feet (94 vertical feet) by a collecting tower, and from there water flowed by gravity to strategically placed cisterns throughout the community. Machines to raise water had been in use in Europe for centuries, but until the construction of the Bethlehem Waterworks, none had been erected in the American Colonies. In 1652 the Water-Works Company of Boston had constructed a gravity conduit system that used bored logs to convey water from wells and springs to a 12-foot-square reservoir, but the system had not fulfilled the expectations of its promoters and had fallen into disuse. Christensen, born in Schleswig-Holstein in 1716 and trained during his youth in a royal mill in Hadersleben, probably took his ideas for the Bethlehem system from his knowledge of the forcing pumps that had been in use in many German cities since the end of the 15th century. The system served the city until 1832.

By the 1960s the area had become an automobile junkyard. The stone pumphouse was restored in the 1970s, and the waterwheel and pumps were subsequently reconstructed based on the original plans that had been preserved in the Moravian Archives in Germany. The Old Waterworks is a National Historic Landmark.

The Old Waterworks is located at 459 Old York Rd., in Bethlehem, on the east bank of Monocacy Creek immediately north of Hill-to-Hill Bridge and immediately west of Main St. The Waterworks, administered by Historic Bethlehem, Inc., is open July 7-August 25 from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. There is a fee. Please call 610-691-0603 or visit the website.


 [graphic] Link to Canal History Essay
 [graphic] Link to Delaware and Lehigh Region Essay
 [graphic] Link to Scranton and the Railroad Essay
 [graphic] Link to Establishing the Heritage Corridor Essay

 

Corridor Home | Map | List of Sites | Learn More | Itineraries | NR Home | Next Site

 

Comments or Questions


JPJ

[graphic] Link to the National Park Service website