Connecting Houses to Water Networks
Water and Sewerage Districts, 1857
The private provision of water, evident in the stories of both the Clarke and Noble families, began to change in the 1850s, as the City of Chicago began a public system. Households within the water and sewerage district could access the public water supply by 1857. By then, the Clarke House was within the district which offered water and sewer connections, while the Noble House was still far outside it.
The Chicago water system grew dramatically over the course of the nineteenth century. In 1858, there were more than 72 miles of water pipe and 4000 water taps (both public fountains and private connections) in the infant system. By 1904 the network had grown to more than 1978 miles and 300,000 taps.
Palmer Houses, Account Books, 1889-91
When Potter Palmer built more than fifty large houses on Chicago’s Near North Side between 1889 and 1891, the area had ready access to the city’s water and sewerage systems. Palmer hired an army of specialized workers to install plumbing and gas fittings, bells and speaking tubes, sewerage and cold-air ducts, steam warming and ventilation, furnaces and electrical connections. These excerpts from Palmer’s account books show the many skilled craftsmen who worked to install such features in the houses. These systems added thousands of dollars to the costs of the buildings.
See also: Construction
Clearly seen here are the expensive building materials employed on facades of these houses built speculatively by Potter Palmer between 1889 and 1891. In addition, Palmer invested hundreds of dollars in infrastructure systems within each house, making indoor plumbing, gas lighting, and central heating possible.
Riverside in 1871
Railroads ran out from Chicago’s center to a growing hinterland by the mid-nineteenth century. Settlements emerged around stops along these rail lines for farmers, industries, commuters, and various institutions. Real estate speculators who hoped to attract commuters to new subdivisions offered amenities such as paved streets and a community water supply. Riverside was among the first and most famous of these speculative commuter enclaves. Potential residents were offered “the conveniences peculiar to the finest modern cities, with the domestic advantages of the most charming country, in a degree never before realized.”
The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago © 2005 Chicago Historical Society.
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