Bangorism–Bangor Water Works

Take a closer look at Bangor’s people, places and events with “Bangorism”–a new feature from the Bangor Historical Society and REALTOR Tricia Quirk.

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Bangor Water Works

Waterworks damLOGOPerched on the banks of the Penobscot River, just outside of Bangor’s downtown, sits the remaining buildings of the Bangor Water Works, that was once called an “engineering marvel”.

Located on the site of Major Robert Treat’s 1773 tavern in an area known as “Treat’s Falls” the Water Works provided domestic and industrial water and increased fire protection for the growing city.

Prior to the Water Works Bangor residents got their water from wells or collected rain water in cisterns. The city’s poorest residents, who couldn’t afford wells or cisterns, found other alternatives but did not have “an abundant supply of one of the greatest blessings”, something residents found unacceptable.

Citizens were also demanding that something be done about the “effluvia” (unpleasant and harmful smell or secretions) coming from the Kenduskeag Stream at low tide. The smell was due to the sewer system that had been established just after the end of the Civil War. It moved waste into the Stream and then to the Penobscot River. When the tide was low, leaving the Stream with little or no water in some places, the odor became unbearable.

A February 1875 Act by the Maine Legislature changed everything. It authorized use of water from the Penobscot River and established Bangor’s first Water Board with George Stetson, Graham Boynton and the Water Works future Supervising Engineer, Luther Eaton serving as its members. They were tasked with planning, designing and implementing a system that would bring water throughout the city for an estimated $5 per household per year. The creation of the Water Works came from this board.

The Water Works concept also solved another problem.

In 1875 the city’s 20 street lights were gas powered. With the creation of the Water Works, city leaders saw the opportunity for the river to eventually provide…

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