Water Division History

Learn about the history of the Water Division in Jamestown and view images of the water division dating back to the mid-1800s.

Purchasing the Jamestown Water Company

In 1903, the City of Jamestown purchased the Jamestown Water Company from the American Water Works and Guarantee Company of Pittsburgh for the sum of $600,000. This purchase brought to a close a long series of negotiations which had been pending for a good many years, during which time the municipality had been debating whether to purchase the water system as it then existed, or to construct an entirely new plant of their own.

Establishing a Board of Commissioners

A Board of Commissioners was established for the purpose of operating the Water Department. The early days of their existence were rather trying for they had naturally inherited many problems and much grievance from the former owners. In 1914, the Water and Light Commissioners were consolidated and known as the Board of Water and Lighting Commissioners. Finally, in 1923, the City Charter was revised and as part of that revision, the Board of Public Utilities was established to assume control and jurisdiction of the municipal utility systems.

The Start of the Water Works System

In the mid-1800s, an early Jamestown settler, "Father Hart", was president, Board of Directors, and office boy for Jamestown's first water works system. Father Hart and his horse Larry, cart and water barrels were the distribution system. The rates were reasonable, 15 cents a barrel, or two barrels for a quarter.

The old man and his load of water were a familiar sight on the village streets in Jamestown's early days. The old man and his rig did a good, steady, conservative, though not rushing, business.

Wooden Pipeline

In September of 1873, the Trustees of the Village of Jamestown called a meeting to vote on a proposition for a municipal water works, primarily to provide fire protection. Five thousand dollars was appropriated to lay a small wooden pipeline from the Warner Dam, up Main to Fifth Street and down Main to Fenton Place. The pipe had plugs for hose attachment at convenient intervals. A pump was installed with a water wheel to drive it and the waters of the Outlet were to run the wheel when there was sufficient water.

First Public Water Supply for Jamestown

The Kents established the first public water supply for the Village of Jamestown. They drilled 12 wells near where Fairmount Avenue and the Erie Railroad intersect and laid nearly 13 miles of mains and built a pumping station. Soon after, the wells were determined as inadequate, so wrought iron main was laid from Chautauqua Lake, near the old Celoron ballroom, to the pump station. That main was a complete failure as well.

Pumping Station

In 1888, several townspeople, knowing of certain small, hand-driven wells of great volume near Levant, built a pumping station there and for a number of years, it provided the City with all of the ground water that it needed.

Buffalo Street Pump Station

The American Water Works and Guaranty Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania purchased the water works in 1889 for $300,000. The city residents built further and further away from the Outlet and higher and higher into the surrounding hills over the next few years until it was impossible for the pumps at Levant to raise the water. So, the Buffalo Street Pump Station was built in 1892 to serve as a booster station.

The City of Jamestown purchased back the water works in 1903 for $600,000. During 1912 and 1913, the City built the 5 million gallon, English Hill reservoir (a second 5 million gallon chamber was added in the 1960s) and doubled the force main from Levant.

National Board of Fire Underwriters

The National Board of Fire Underwriters made a survey of the City with reference to the ability of the Water and Fire Departments to take care of fires and conflagrations that might happen in the City. 

In the August 10, 1910 report, the Underwriters called on the Water Department to set about providing, with the least possible delay, a reservoir with an ultimate capacity of at least 15 million gallons, to be located on the top of English Hill, a 24-inch line connecting it with the system and a second 16-inch force main from Levant. The report required adding a large amount of large diameter pipe to the system, together with a number of minor requests and recommendations, all of which were to be completed in the period of five years from the date of the report.

Buffalo Street Reservoir

The initial 1,500,000 gallon Buffalo Street Reservoir was built in 1925. The reservoir was built of rock, 100 feet inside diameter and 18 feet deep, with a concrete floor and a corrugated iron roof supported by light steel trusses.

Rebuilt years later, the reservoir was moved slightly on the property and the peaked roof was removed. The new flat roof was covered with earth and grassed over.

Today, the Water Division of Jamestown's Board of Public Utilities continues to extract ground water from approximately the same area. Together with water drawn from the Cassadaga aquifer, the BPU provides this natural resource to approximately 48,000 residents of the following areas:

  • Portions of the following towns:
    • Busti
    • Ellicott
    • West Ellicott
    • Kiantone
    • North Harmony
  • City of Jamestown
  • The Villages of Celoron, Falconer and Lakewood