Feb 27, 2018

200-Year-Old Wooden Water Mains Discovered in Philadelphia

The pipes were likely to be installed around 1812

Philadelphia discovers 200-year-old wooden water mains

This past May while replacing a water line, construction workers in Philadelphia discovered 200-year-old water main made of wood. The Philadelphia Water Department was able to identify the relic of Philadelphia’s 19th-century infrastructure after workers initially thought the item to be a buried tree trunk.

Upon further analysis, officials believe the water mains were originally installed around 1812 which was based off a November 5, 1812, report from Philadelphia’s Water Committee, which mentioned laying water pipes in the subject area around that time.

The wooden mains were a part of the city’s water collection and distribution system since they were first implemented in 1800. Two steam-powered pumping stations were involved, with one pumping water from the Schuylkill River while the other pumped water to a building fitted with a wooden reservoir that provided water to the city’s distribution system via gravity.

The wooden mains utilized by the city were relatively short-lived, however, as the city stopped installing wooden water mains in 1832. The city switched predominantly to cast-iron water main installation by 1819.