Beacon Hill Reservoir, Boston

The reservoir atop Beacon Hill in Boston, around 1860. Image taken by Josiah Johnson Hawes, courtesy of the Boston Public Library.

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The scene in 2015:

Long before the Wachusett and Quabbin Reservoirs, Boston’s municipal water supply was Lake Cochituate, a reservoir in Natick, Framingham, and Wayland. The project began in 1845, and it included not only creating the artificial lake, but also building a 14-mile long aqueduct that fed this stone reservoir atop Beacon Hill, just behind the Massachusetts State House. From here, the water was distributed throughout the city, using the hill’s elevation to carry the water downhill through the pipes. It occupied the majority of the block between Hancock, Derne, Temple, and Mt. Vernon Streets, and it had a capacity of over 2.6 million gallons.

The structure’s cornerstone laying ceremony in 1847 included a time capsule, which contained several publications and two silver plates, perhaps in the hope that, like the great Roman aqueducts in Europe, this public water supply structure would last for thousands of years. However, as it turned out, it lasted for less than 40. It closed by about 1880, and around three years later it was demolished to build a large expansion of the Massachusetts State House, which now occupies the site where this reservoir once stood.