Monday, January 10, 2011

All's Well That Ends Well

Twin Pumps Helped Downtown Buffalo Keep Cool Up To 1891
View is Looking N.E. Across Main St. - Mansion House is White Building on
Right at Main St. Corner of Exchange - NYC & Hudson River RR tracks in Forerground
    A familiar  early photo of Buffalo shows the Twin Pumps that stood at Main Street and The Terrace near what was the entrance to Memorial Auditorium.  The two pumps standing side by side, were operated manually by two slim, curved pump handles made of wrought iron, about 4 feet long, with a ball at the end of each handle about the size of a small orange.  The pumps stood on a stone slab about 4 feet wide, 6 feet long and about 10 inches high.  On each corner of the plot reserved for the pumps was a stout oaken post to fend off wagons that might be inclined to drive too close.
  In the 1860's the public wells numbered well over a hundred in the city.  The well of the twin pumps must have been of great capacity, because it supplied cool, sparkling water for the whole Terrace area, and it was greatly esteemed by factory and office workers in the district during the hot summer months. Men, women and children with buckets could be seen coming from all directions for the water.
  Among the regular patrons of the Twin Pumps, were the editors, compositors and  pressmen of the various newspapers, who kept apprentices busy all day long carrying water. These papers comprised The News, Times, Courier and Express, all grouped in the downtown area.  In those days cartmen, with small stake wagons used to stand at the street intersections waiting call to take ones trunk to the depot or do what was called "general carting." The one horse wagons were all over town on street corners, much as taxi cabs occupy those spots today.
Twin Pumps on far Left of Picture - Main & Terrace 1866 -
Liberty Pole in Center, Spaulding's Exchange on Left
  A particularly large assembly of carters occupied the spot on the Terrace near the Twin Pumps, and the cart stand was seldom vacant, day or night. At noon day meal time the popular method of feeding the horses was to hang feed bags on their noses, and follow it up with generous pails of well water.  Along in the early 1890's the well patrons began to complain about the water; it seemed to have changed in color and taste--too much iron or sulphur or something. One patron, more curious than the rest, took a bottle of the water over to the City Health Office and had Bacteriologist Bissel make a chemical analysis of it.
   Dr. Bissels report had a startling effect on drinkers of the well water, and the few remaining pumps throughout the city were ordered sealed by the Health Department.  It seemed that too many carts and horses had surrounded the Twin Pumps and turned the spot into an outdoor livery stable, and it was suspected that the seepage from the horse stand was getting into the water through the cobblestone pavement, which the health department said was not conducive to health.  Although there was no record of anyone getting ill by drinking the water, that was the end of well water pumps on street corners throughout the city.

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