Bethlehem Waterworks

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Bethlehem Waterworks
Bethlehem Waterworks Oct 11.JPG
Bethlehem Waterworks, October 2011
Bethlehem Waterworks is located in Pennsylvania
Bethlehem Waterworks
Bethlehem Waterworks is located in the US
Bethlehem Waterworks
Location Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 40°37′9″N 75°23′0″W / 40.61917°N 75.38333°W / 40.61917; -75.38333Coordinates: 40°37′9″N 75°23′0″W / 40.61917°N 75.38333°W / 40.61917; -75.38333
Area 6.2 acres (2.5 ha)
Built 1753 (1753)
Part of Historic Moravian Bethlehem Historic District (#12001016)
NRHP reference # 72001142[1]
Significant dates
Designated NHL May 29, 1981[2]
Designated NHLDCP October 6, 2012

The Bethlehem Waterworks, also known as the Old Waterworks or 1762 Waterworks, are believed to be the oldest pump-powered public water supply in what is now the United States. The pumphouse, which includes original and replica equipment, is located in the Colonial Industrial Quarter of downtown Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, between Monocacy Creek and Main Street. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1981.[2][3][4]

Description and history[edit]

The Bethlehem Waterworks building is located in the floodplain of Monocacy Creek below the historic center of Bethlehem. It is a 2-1/2 story building, built out of limestone rubble, that is about 24 feet (7.3 m) square and covered by a red tile roof. It is set over an otherwise open holding pit, which was originally fed by a wood-lined trench from a nearby spring. There are doors on three sides, one of which is at a higher elevation owing to the sloping terrain; it provides access to a storage area on the upper level, while the other two provide access to the mechanisms on the inside. The machinery includes a replica waterwheel, reproduced from the original specifications, which were preserved. The wheel was originally turned by water supplied from the creek, and provided the power needed to move water up to the settlement above.[3]

Bethlehem was settled in 1741, as the first of a number of Moravian communities in North America. The earliest portions of this water supply date to 1755, with the pumphouse constructed in 1762. The wheel powered cast-iron pumps that forced water through pipes (originally wooden, later lead) up the hillside, where it was stored in cisterns throughout the town. Johann Christopher Christensen, the engineer who built it, was probably familiar with similar pump systems found in German cities since the 16th century. His system was imperfect, with overpressure bursting wooden pipes and other problems.[3]

The system is believed to be the first pump-powered water supply to be implemented in what is now the United States. The town of Boston, Massachusetts had a municipal water supply as early as 1652, but it was purely powered by gravity.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "Old Waterworks". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2011-06-06. Retrieved 2008-02-11. 
  3. ^ a b c d George R. Adams (October 1977). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: Old Waterworks" (pdf). National Park Service.  and Accompanying 6 photos, exterior and interior, from 1976 and 1977 (32 KB)
  4. ^ "Old Waterworks". Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor. A National Register of Historic Places travel Itinerary. Retrieved 2011-10-29. 

External links[edit]