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During the year, the Board of Water Supply endorsed the Bronx Parkway project, designed to bring people from the ‘Zoological Park’ (presumably the Bronx Zoo) to the Kensico Reservoir. The expectation was a “large number of people may wish to view the Kensico dam, which will be one of the largest and most beautiful dams in the world, the fine bridges and the vast basin containing the aeration fountains or to tour the reservoir.” It’s nice to see so much pride in what they were doing. On the financial side, since the Bronx River would be used to carry any overflow, they felt that having New York City owning the land around the river would reduce the possibility of damage lawsuits.
Looking southwest from the east end of what would eventually become the dam we can see the old 1885 dam with the remains of the spillway on the far left, the old gate house closer to the center, and excavation progressing for the new dam on the right. By the end of 1912, excavation for the Kensico Dam was about 80% complete. The 125-foot tall wooden towers supporting the 1860-foot cableways installed during 1912 are also visible in the top right of the photo.
Excavation is in progress at what will be the deepest part of the dam. Excavation of the site was performed both by steam shovels and by hand. Excavating the gorge was complicated by very fine sand that required the shovels be placed on rafts so they wouldn’t sink. In addition, as the area was excavated, sand from the sides would slide down and refill the excavated area. Eventually rock fill was placed at the upstream end of the gorge to keep the sand in place. To the west of the gorge for 600 feet about 10 feet of excavation was required to reach a suitable limestone base. For the remaining 700 feet to the western end of the dam, 10 to 25 feet of earth had to be excavated to reach the base mica schist. East of the gorge the dam sits on gneiss.
By the end of the year, the highways around the new reservoir were practically complete, including the large Rye Outlet Bridge now carrying NY-22, which was completed. Clearly the above photograph was edited, since there was nowhere near that much water in the reservoir in 1912, but I assume the actual structure is real. If so, it appears there were light fixtures on the bridge originally. The road and bridge were opened to traffic on July 25th.
The map above shows the temporary railways and construction buildings in place in 1912. I believe the ‘Contractor’s Camp’ is Camp Kensico, which housed as many as 652 people during the year. Also shown is the 50-acre Cranberry Lake Quarry purchased during the year. 15 miles of railway supported the operation at this time.
This cross section drawing of the dam would be used in future reports to show the extent of construction. In 1912 these we still just plans, but represent well what was eventually constructed. During the year a full-size model of the upper 25 feet of the downstream face of the dam was constructed.
This early rendering of the Kensico Plaza shows a very different plan from what was eventually built. Almost none of the footpaths shown were ever constructed.
At the influent weir where the aqueduct water enters the reservoir, excavation was largely complete by the end of 1912 but very little concrete had been poured. Construction of the bypass aqueduct was nearly completed during the year, with only 67 feet of masonry left to pour. At the upper and lower effluent gate chambers where most water exits the reservoir, excavation was nearly completed during the year. In the aerators, 1532 of the 1750 bronze nozzle bases were placed during the year, a third of the floor panels were set, and most of the supply piping was laid. At the Kensico Dike on the west side of the reservoir, the south half of the dike was graded and the soil dressed, but no grass was planted.
A small aeration plant was constructed for New Rye Lake, the temporary reservoir that was used to continue to supply the Bronx with water after Lake Kensico was drained.
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Synopsis written by Robert Mortell, 2013.