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Episode Info: For centuries before the Quabbin reservoir opened, Boston struggled to provide enough clean, fresh water for its growing population. One of the solutions to this problem was a new reservoir built at Chestnut Hill in the 1880s. The pumping station at this reservoir was home to enormous steam powered pumping engines, and it’s preserved today as the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum. Eric Peterson joins us this week to talk about the history of Boston’s water supply, steam power, and a brilliant engineer who designed the steam pumps that provided Boston’s water. Please support us on Patreon and check out the full show notes at: ED Leavitt A posthumous profile of Leavitt from the Journal of the Boston Society of Civil Engineers. Leavitt’s obituary in the Cambridge Chronicle. Another profile in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Model of a Leavitt engine held by the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. ED Leavitt’s papers are at the Smithsonian, including a few pictures. Hoisting engine Pumping engine model Mining engine Mining engine If you enjoyed this episode, be sure to visit the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum. It’s really a terrific museum, and one that most people never see. Boston Book Club Our pick for the Boston Book Club this week is called Eden on the Charles, the Making of Boston, by Michael Rawson. You may have noticed that I’m a bit of an infrastructure nerd, and this is one of my go-to books about the infrastructure that makes up Boston. We’ve used this book as a source for our shows about annexation, perambulating the bounds, and the Mother Brook. It’s both a history of 400 years of urban planning in Boston, and the mirror image of that, which is the environmental history of the city. Here’s how the publisher’s website describes the book: Drinking a glass of tap water, strolling in a park, hopping a train for the suburbs: some aspects of city life are so familiar that we don’t think twice about them. But such simple actions are structured by complex relationships with our natural world. The contours of these relationships—social, cultural, political, economic, and legal—were established during America’s first great period of urbanization in the nineteenth century, and Boston, one of the earliest cities in America, often led the nation in designing them. A richly textured cultural and social history of the development of nineteenth-century Boston, this book provides a new environmental perspective on the creation of America’s first cities. Eden on the Charles explores how Bostonians channeled country lakes through miles of pipeline to provide clean water; dredged the ocean to deepen the harbor; filled tidal flats and covered the peninsula with houses, shops, and factories; and created a metropolitan system of parks and greenways, facilit...
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