A series of remarkable photographs from the library’s Geographic File (PR20) documents the construction of the Central Park Reservoir,  located between 86th and 96th streets.  Built between 1858 and 1862, the 106-acre reservoir is 40 feet deep and holds over a billion gallons of water. Once a critical part of the city’s fresh water system, it received water from the Croton Aqueduct and distributed it throughout Manhattan.

According to the handwritten captions, the photographs were given to Mayor Daniel Tiemann by Fairchild, Walker and Co., the contractors hired to construct the reservoir.

Hon. Daniel F. Tiemann with compliments of Fairchild Walker Co. North Gate House – New Reservoir (during construction) viewed from the north wall of the Reservoir, looking east.

North Gate House – New Reservoir (during construction) looking north, out from the Reservoir.

North Gate House – New Reservoir (during construction) viewed from the north east, looking into the Reservoir.

The reservoir was decommissioned in 1993, deemed obsolete due to the new water main under 79th Street that connected with the Third Water Tunnel, and because of growing concerns about contamination. In 1994, the reservoir was renamed for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in recognition of her contributions to the New York City, and because she enjoyed jogging along the 1.58 mile running track that surrounds it. In 2003, an unsightly seven-foot chain link fence was replaced by a four foot tall steel fence with cast-iron ornamentation, based on the design of the fence that was installed when the the reservoir was completed in 1862.

“The Reservoir, Central Park, New York City,” Postcard file (PR-054).

This post is by Marybeth Kavanagh,  Reference Archivist.

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