Friday, November 11, 2011

History Flows On, Part I

From Dave Brigham:

Honestly, I could keep this site going simply by posting about the out-of-the-way places I find in and around my adopted hometown of Newton, MA. But if I changed the blog's title to "The Backside of Newton," people might think I was consumed with Sir Isaac, or Juice or Fig.

So I'll keep things the way they are, but the content I post here is going to remain skewed toward Eastern Massachusetts, 'cause I don't get around much.

As with many things in Newton and surrounding towns that I've posted about before (see June 27, 2011, "War of the Worlds," and May 19, 2010, "Nuclear Dump Playground?"), the aqueducts that are the subject of today's piece are things I've driven past countless times and wondered about.

There are two of them: the Cochituate and the Sudbury. The Cochituate was built between 1846-48 and conveyed water from Natick's Lake Cochituate through several towns before reaching its final destination, Boston. The aqueduct was taken out of service in 1951, replaced by other systems.

The Sudbury was constructed between 1875-78 and brought water from Framingham to Boston. It, too, was taken out of service many years ago, replaced by three other delivery systems. However, in May 2010, the Sudbury was put into emergency use when the Weston Aqueduct suffered a major rupture. The Sudbury remains part of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's (MWRA) emergency backup service (thanks, Wikipedia!).

For that reason, I shouldn't have been surprised when two MWRA workers questioned why I was taking pictures of visible remnants of the aqueduct. I assured them I was only interested in the history of the water system. I told them I ran a web site featuring abandoned factories and old bridges, and that satisfied them enough to point out the Cochituate aqueduct, which at certain points in Newton runs adjacent to the Sudbury.

One of the things I love about living in and traveling around New England is that I'm surrounded by the past. Just off a main drag running north to south through Newton, you find this pleasant entrance to the Sudbury Aqueduct:

Sudbury Aqueduct #6

After disappearing underground for about half a mile, the aqueduct reappears in the spot where I encountered the MWRA workers. This picture was the one they seemed most concerned about.

Sudbury Aqueduct #1

Pop the lock off this old hatch and you'd be able to lower yourself into the aqueduct. Obviously, the MWRA is concerned about somebody accessing the water supply and poisoning it. I guess I have an honest face. Or perhaps they took down my license plate and are shadowing my every move.

As I said, they were nice enough to direct me across the street to the trail that follows the old Cochituate Aqueduct. I don't know for sure that the waterway was made from bricks, but I'm guessing it was based on this picture.

Cochituate Aqueduct #1

The trail continues on through some private property, and while I didn't go that far, I enjoyed this sign.

Jolly's Hollow #1

My final stop on the tour took me to an old gate house near the Mason-Rice Elementary School. The building is small but quite impressive, and you can hear the water rushing underneath.

Sudbury Aqueduct Gatehouse #2

A hop over a fence and a scramble down a small hill lands you at this grate, where you can actually see the water rushing by.

Sudbury Aqueduct Gatehouse #1

Stay tuned for the second and third parts in this series.

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