Sunday, December 21, 2008

1822 Original Rochester Aqueduct

Submitted by Richard Palmer

Lyons Advertiser, Aug. 2, 1822

The Erie Canal.

Aqueduct across Genesee River. - This important work is placed
on a rapid of some length, and about twenty-four feet fall, which is
formed by one of those rolls of land, and barriers of hidden rock,
which, though at several miles distance from it, evidently mark the
course and sinuosities of the shore of Lake Ontario; and is perhaps
the most elevated ramification of land and rock which protrudes from
the natural bank known by the name of the Big Ridge.

On the lower part of this rapid, and within half a mile of the
great falls of Genesee, in the village or Rochester, is the point
selected for the erection of this structure. The bed of the river
here is solid silicious lime rock, nearly allied to that kind called
swine stone. The eastern shore is nearly precipitous; the western is
shelving; and the whole distance across is about 600 feet, over which
the aqueduct is now erecting.

Against the eastern shore the work commences with an abutment,
which will average about 20 feet in thickness, and about 6 in height;
from these the arches spring, of which there will be nine, of 50 feet
span. The first five of these are supported on piers, which, from the
shelving position of the bed of the river, will be from 8 to 4 1-2
feet high; their length is 36 feet 6 inches, including at each end a
pedestal, surmounted by a dome, out of which rises a pilaster,
connected and bound into the parapet walls of the aqueduct.

In planting these piers, extraordinary caution is used to
secure the permanency of the structure, by bolting the courses to the
rock below, and to each other; and by cramping them at the joints in
such manner as to ensure nearly as much strength as is combined in an
unbroken stone. The arches are three feet thick at their foot, and
diminish to and a half at the apex; they rise eleven feet, and their
length is twenty-six feet and six inches. The ends of each arch, or
as they are termed, 'the rings,' are cut in rustic, and projected one
inch, to prevent the superincumbent pressure from abrading the quoins
of the joints.

The materials of which this work is constructed are red
sandstone and gray silicious limestone. The sandstone is of a hard
texture, and is procured about three miles from Rochester, on the
banks of the Genesee river, in blocks of two feet and a half to three
feet and a half in thickness, and three to seven feet long; the
limestone is brought from a quarry near the head of Irondequoit bay,
also distant about three miles. These stones are cut into their
required forms at the quarries, and when transported to the aqueduct
are fit for use, without additional labor.

Above the crown of the arch, and at that point where the bottom
of the aqueduct meets the level of the canal, is a belt, or plinth,
running through the whole length of the structure, and projected
about three inches beyond the walls, above which are to rise the
parapet walls. These are to be five feet hight, five or six feet
thick at their base, and to fall back, or batter, on the inside, one
foot. All these parts of the work are to be of the best cut stones,
as well as the piers, spandrells, pilastres, and arches; they are to
be laid in the best water cement, and the interstices in every part
completely saturated with grout made of the same material.

The whole of this important work, when finished, will contain
11 or 12,000 perches, in which will be 48 or 50,000 feet of well cut
stone. In addition to the arches above described, the work will be
prolonged at each end, from the river to a certain distance, in order
to include within its extent two race-ways; one excavated on the west
side by Col. Rochester, and one on the east side, by Messrs. Johnson
and Seymour, to convey water to the numerous and very valuable
hydraulic works, with which the banks are studded, immediately below
the aqueduct, and the water for which must pass under the aqueduct,
through sunken culverts of about 25 or 30 feet span.

After passing the culvert on the east side, a wall in
continuation, extends about 120 yards, nearly at a right angle with
the aqueduct, and parallel to the race on that side, the object of
which is to secure the canal bank and water, and effectually separate
them from the afore-said race. Still lower, and parallel to the
above, is another wall, which unites with the parapet wall of the
aqueduct, at the south end of the culvert, and which it became
necessary to build, for the purpose of separating the race from the
Genesee river. The length of this wall is about 800 feet, and it
encloses an embankment for the greater security of the race.

The great work was contracted for and begun by Capt. William
Brittin, of Auburn, in 1821. He commenced his operations on it, but
died suddenly, while it was only in a partial state of preparation.
It has since been placed by contract in the hands of Mr. Alfred
Hovey, of Montezuma, to whose energetic exertions and intelligence,
together with those of the principal builder, Mr. John W. Hayes, the
public is looking with the most implicit confidence for the
completion of this important and interesting undertaking.

So far as the work has yet advanced, they have paid the most
careful attention to the plans and model of the structure; and their
skill in the execution of it, as well as their zeal for its
accomplishment, has not been surpassed, and I think rarely


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