RESTORE THE COCHITUATE GATE HOUSE
by A. Richard Miller
visits since 070628; last
WRITTEN FOR THE CELEBRATION OF
THE INTRODUCTION OF THE COCHITUATE WATER
INTO THE CITY OF BOSTON
My name is Water: I have sped
Through strange, dark ways, untried before,
By pure desire of friendship led,
He sends four royal gifts by me:.
Long life, health, peace, and purity.
(You can read
the rest of this poem here.)
Boston's first public drinking water reservoir, and in the second half
of the 19th Century it was highly celebrated. Between
Boston lay the great Cochituate
map). Between Cochituate's North
Pond and the Aqueduct stood the Cochituate Gate House - the aqueduct's influent gate house,
which regulated the flow of water. A city-sized
faucet! A granite wall shielded its underwater inlet door and
silt beneath from wave action, and thus kept that drinking water clear.
Cochituate Reservoir and Aqueduct were constructed
Later, to increase the capacity of this reservoir, higher dams were
built - and the Gate House was
taken down, the shoreline wall raised, and the Gate House
rebuilt in place! Cochituate Reservoir continued to serve metropolitan
Boston until it was placed on stand-by in
1931. By then Dug Pond in Natick and Dudley Pond in Wayland had been
disconnected, Cochituate Reservoir was only 2% of Boston's water
supply, and it was the
most difficult 2% to keep clean. In 1947, it became Cochituate State
can still view the
historic Cochituate Gate House, as
east along Route 30. But up close,
one sees its derelict condition. The Gate House deserves
only to celebrate the once-great Cochituate Reservoir. But its
wrought-iron roof trusses, and those of the Brookline
Gate House at the other end of Cochituate Aqueduct, have even
greater historic significance - they may be the oldest ones
of their type remaining in the entire USA! And once it is
preserved, perhaps this old Gate House also will serve in new
The original north elevation of the Cochituate Gate House,
as well as its floor plan and a cross-section of
the aqueduct itself, are seen in the above portion of an architectural
which is reproduced in "History of the Introduction of Pure Water into
the City of Boston", by N.J. Bradlee (1868). It was scanned
this image by Dennis De Witt of the Brookline (Mass.) Preservation
hole remained unrepaired until this web page pressed for more in 2007.
A tarp went on soon, and a temporary patch the next year, to slow the
destruction inside. The Gate House was completely re-roofed in 2014.
the view looking northwest, with the south wall on the left.
The steel door is locked, but its right edge is slightly ajar.
that gap, one sees this interior view of the east wall, including the
false ceiling and the gratings over two outer stilling wells.
Settling the Silt: The stilling wells did just that;
they held the water still long enough to settle out any wave-generated
silt (fine particles which suspend in water). To see how stilling wells
work, just place some silty water in a clear bottle. Shake it. Then set
it down, and see it slowly clear.
The designers of the Cochituate Reservoir intended to introduce "pure
water" to the city of Boston, and that meant clear, colorless water
without bad odor or taste.
Silt - decomposed plant matter from upstream swamps and animal
droppings from horses and cattle - was their enemy. They built a deep
granite wall along this shore, so waves wouldn't wash against silt.
They lined the boat tunnels with smooth stone, to reduce turbulence and
erosion where water runs quickly.
On a larger scale, the reservoir designers placed the Gate House on
North Pond for a similar reason. Lake Cochituate's chain of ponds flows
northward. The most silt-laden water enters at the south end, from
Pegan, Course and Beaverdam Brooks. By intaking aqueduct water from
North Pond, the designers knew that Fisk Pond, South Pond, Middle Pond
and several smaller connector ponds all would also act as settling
ponds, making Lake Cochituate's water remarkably clear for the thirsty
Bostonians. They further reduced the silt introduction to those ponds,
by equipping Beaverdam Brook and Pegan Brook with settling ponds of
their own. Those were occasionally cleaned out so they'd continue to
function well. Like the water quality, that's no longer considered a
Here's an interior view of the north
wall, including the main well -- the entrance to the Cochituate
outside, a near view of the lovely old stonework.
|The Cochituate Gate House once was the "water
faucet" for greater Boston. Its roof frame, and that of the Brookline
Gate House at the other end of Cochituate Aqueduct, may be the oldest
wrought-iron truss structures remaining in the USA. Today these
historic structures cry out for
For related material, see my web page
for Cochituate State Park.