Friday, January 11, 2008

Stony Brook Covered - Green to Williams Street

This is a nicely detailed article from the Jamaica Plain News, published just months after the previous entry posted here from the Boston Globe. If you've read a few of these articles describing the work of city police or local businessmen, you may recognize the standard sycophantic voice so common in those days. Every police captain is efficient and brave, every construction project is marvelous and efficiently managed. The journalism of the time seems to run from general civic boosterism to PR spin. From our more cynical time, we can let the propaganda pass, and enjoy the look into life as it was.

I still have to post something about the Napier auto works. Eventually...

Jamaica Plain News October 26, 1907

The Stony Brook Conduit Work.

Jamaica Plain Section of About 1600 Feet Nearly Done, Completing the Conduit to Williams Street -- Plans Being Drawn for Another Section.

Though many residents may not have been fully aware of the fact, so quietly has the work gone forward. Jamaica Plain has been a scene of a large and expensive and very important piece of city work the past summer, which is now rapidly nearing completion. This work has been the construction of the Stony Brook conduit from Green street to a point the other side of Washington street near Williams street, the last section of which will be completed by the middle of November, thus making a continuous completed section of this mammoth enterprise from the Back Bay Fens to the point on Washington street above. The completion of this section through Jamaica Plain marks the end of the construction of the large conduit through the thickly settled portion of the city and shortens the length of the underground waterway yet remaining to be built by a substantial distance.

The length of the piece of construction that is now being completed is 1555 feet, extending from Green street along the rear of the Napier automobile works and the large Sturtevant blower plant, across the open stretch of field to Washington street and to the further side of it a short distance. The work was divided into four sections and let out to contractors for construction. Section one, extending 460 feet from Green street toward the Napier factory, was built by the Metropolitan Construction Company, and was completed some time ago. Section two is some 367 feet in length and takes in the course along the rear of the blower works. This is the section that is now being finished and completes the entire piece of work, and the contractor is Alexander McGahey. Section three was built by Timothy J. O'Connell and was 385 feet in length, being completed during the summer. Section four was built by James D. Fallon and was 334 feet in length. This was also completed during the summer. The total cost of the four sections, making the 1555 feet constructed in the installment of work is about $230,000. The aggregate of the bids of the four contractors do not foot up to this figure, but the city pays for the cement, steel, chipped stone and some other material in addition to the work of the contractors, because it can buy in much larger quantities, purchasing at on time enough for the whole piece of work instead of for one section, as a contractor would have to do.

The section that is now being finished and which is the final link in the chain of four sections has been one of the most difficult to construct owing to its location between rows of brick buildings with only a narrow place to carry on the work, but is has been done very rapidly, and is an exceptionally fine piece of construction of its kind. The chief engineer, in speaking with a representative of the News, said it was one of the best pieces of work he had seen during his experience in sewer and conduit construction, and has been among the most rapidly built. Of the 376 feet in this section, built by contractor McGahey, only about 50 feet remain to be closed in, and a representative of the News paying a visit to the scene of construction this week found it a very interesting as well as stupendous piece of work.

An average of about 50 men is employed on the work, and they are under the personal direction of Superintendent George Phillips, ex-superintendent of sewers for Boston under the late Mayor Collins. The smoothness and precision and rapidity with which the work moved attested the able management of Superintendent Phillips, and his knowledge and skill also accounts in large measure, no doubt, for the fine quality and rapid progress of the construction.

The big "hole in the ground," more than 20 feet deep and equally wide, with its skeleton frames, timbers and stays, among which men who look no bigger than boys to one standing on the planks above, were busily digging and toiling, presented an animated and interesting sight to an observer; and as one watched the work, the wonder was not that such construction cost so much, but how it could be done for the price it is, on such a mammoth scale is material used and the work carried forward.

The conduit itself is twenty feet wide and sixteen feet high, and is made of reinforced concrete. The side walls are three feet and six inches thick, made of cement and reinforced at intervals of 12 or 14 inches with one inch wrought steel rods. The bottom consists of a layer of cement eighteen inches thick with two courses of cement on top and very skillfully joined to the side walls. The arch that covers the top is fourteen inches thick, built of brick and cement.

The dimensions of the conduit are easily described, but the actual work of constructing it is not so simple. In the first place a large temporary flume has to be built to carry the water of the brook by the section while the work of construction is going on. A dead drain of tile has to be laid in the bottom of the excavation through which, by a steam pump, the water that settles in the ditch is drawn out so as to leave the bottom dry for the laying of the cement that form the floor of the conduit. Sixteen foot planks have to be driven along the sides of the excavation to prevent them from caving in. Massive timbers have to be put in place as supports, and skeleton frames on which the arch of the brick and cement is laid have to be made and put in place and are moved along in the trench as the work of covering progresses by means of a single rail track on which they rest, this being supported by timbers from the bottom of the conduit. In the midst of all this the big iron scoop, which holds about a cartload of dirt, is being hoisted out as often as it can be filled by the shovellers and carried along an overhead wire cable to a distant place and dumped, and bricks, mortar, timber, tiles, crushed stone, etc, are being lowered into the trench as needed, making the scene one of great activity, and some danger to any who are careless and unobserving.

As fast as a section of the overhead arch is completed and the masonry dry, the skeleton wood frames are moved forward and the dirt that is excavated is thrown over the arch and the surface leveled down, hiding all trace of the waterway and engineering skill that is underneath.

In addition to the conduit that is to carry the water of Stony Brook, a brick sewer is being built at the same time for the sewerage of the district covered by the Stony Brook watershed. The conduit itself is for the brook and the surface water only, owing to the fact of the conduit emptying into the Charles river, where the sewerage, if carried with the water of the brook, would soon form a deposit at the mouth and have to be removed. This sewer runs along one of the horns of the arch of the conduit, its top rising almost to the level of the top of the arch.

The work on the last of the four sections of the present piece of construction will be finished by the middle of November, and will complete one of the largest and in some respects one of the most difficult divisions of the great enterprise. The construction of all four sections of which this division of the conduit is composed has been very successfully done and at as small a cost as was possible for such a big piece of work. It has been free from accidents of any serious nature, and has gone forward with very little to attract public attention, or even the attention of residents of Jamaica Plain, including those in the vicinity of the actual work. Its successful completion at this time gives encouragement to the people of the section for the steady pushing forward of the work till the conduit is completed its entire length.

The division now being finished has been under the charge of resident engineer Mr W.F. Maloney, who, with his draughtsmen and assistants has an office in Mr. Meehan's block on Green street. Mr. Maloney and his workers are now engaged in plans for another division of the conduit to be built next year. These plans provide for a section sixteen-hundred feet long, extending from the end of the present work just beyond Washington street to a point about 800 feet this side of Lotus place. This section the engineers say will be very difficult to construct and more expensive than most of the other sections owing to the presence of beds of quicksand in the section through which it must pass. The conduit having to go through these beds of quicksand presents a serious problem to the engineers. It will be necessary to drive five inch hard pine creased sheathing with a pile-driver along both sides of the trench while work is going on instead of using the three inch soft wood sheathing using a hand sledge ordinarily required. The extra work will require additional time and increase the expense of this section, but these additional difficulties will not be allowed to prevent the opening and carrying on of the work as rapidly as soon as the engineer's are completed and everything in readiness for operation. It is understood this next section will be constructed by contractors who will bid for the work in open competition.

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