Examples of old infrastructure in America

Popular Mechanics has some examples of “the oldest working infrastructure” in American cities:

Water System: Philadelphia Water Department. The City of Brotherly Love has one of the oldest water systems in the United States. While the pipe that broke two weeks ago was built in 1895, the average age of a Philly water line is 78 years, and the wastewater lines average 100 years old, according to the city’s water department. Eighty-seven percent of the more than 3000 miles of water mains are made of cast iron, which was the preferred building material until the 1960s. Drawing water from the Schuylkill and Delaware rivers, the system supplies 1.5 million Philadelphia residents. The mains are supposed to function properly for 100 to 120 years. The Philadelphia Water Department is still investigating what caused the most recent break…

Concrete Road: Court Avenue, Bellefontaine, Ohio. Using concrete as a road surface was unheard of in the late 1800s, until George Bartholomew pioneered its use by paving Court Ave. in Bellefontaine, Ohio. Bartholomew learned about cement production in Germany and San Antonio, then moved to Bellefontaine because of the neraby deposits of limestone and clay, the two main ingredients in cement. He had to fork over a $5000 bond to convince the city council to let him pave the square around the town’s courthouse, guaranteeing that the concrete would last at least five years. To preserve the historic avenue, Bellefontaine closed the street to traffic in the late 20th century but reopened it because of the traffic and parking problems the closure caused. Court Avenue is still open to light-vehicle traffic, but a statue of Bartholomew at the end of the street keeps trucks off the concrete…

Hydroelectric Power Plant: Mechanicville Hydroelectric Plant. The Mechanicville Power Station sits perched on the Hudson River about 20 miles east of Schenectady. It was built in 1897 to provide power to Schenectady’s burgeoning industry, and today is the oldest three-phase power plant still in operation in the United States. The system uses two three-phase, 40-cycle 32,000-volt circuits, and each of these operates at 6000 kw. These circuits are each capable of handling the station’s entire output, so that service is uninterrupted if one of them goes down. Each of the seven generators runs at 40 Hz and provides 750 kw.

Old infrastructure isn’t necessarily bad if it is well maintained and still meets modern needs. Why, those Romans built aqueducts that have lasted thousands of years – can’t some of our infrastructure do the same? Actually, this brings to mind the David Macaulay book Motel of the Mysteries where a future archeologist discovers a long-lost American hotel room and comes to some interesting interpretations. What exactly will survive from our society?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s