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Oradell in Bergen County, New Jersey — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

History of the Hackensack Water Works

 
 
History of the Hackensack Water Works Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, December 15, 2018
1. History of the Hackensack Water Works Marker
Inscription.  
History of the Hackensack Water Works
and Van Buskirk Island in Oradell
The New Milford Plant of the Hackensack Water Company opened on Van Buskirk Island in 1882. The facility supplied the clean drinking water that allowed Bergen County to develop and prosper. The buildings and supporting storage reservoir system were expanded a number of times. This treatment facility operated continuously until 1990.

In 1993 the Hackensack Water Company donated Van Buskirk Island and the company's 19th and 20th century buildings to the County of Bergen.

For almost two decades ideas and plans for what to do with the island and the buildings were debated and argued. Now, a meeting of the minds of all parties involved — neighbors, towns, officials, conservationists and preservationists — is emerging. The way to the future beneficial use of Van Buskirk Island County Park is on the horizon.

Beginning
Earliest humans who made use of the natural resources of the Hackensack River included memmbers of the Lenni Lenape tribe, a branch of the Delaware Indians.

In 1677 David de Marets
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(Demarest) received a deed for the land which included present day Oradell. The area was settled by, among others, the Demarest, Cooper (Kuyper), Van Buskirk and Van Wagoner families. Most early settlers were farmers but there were also millers. Around 1802 dams were built for the mills being built along this oxbow section of the river. This area is also the northern most navigable waters of the Hackensack River, a major shipping route for the schooners that regularly sailed south to and from New York. Starting in pre-Revolutionary War times, its mills and docks built here helped it become an important industrial center.

In 1837 John and Jacob Van Buskirk acquired 11 acres on the west bank of the Hackensack River including what became known as Van Buskirk's Island where they built a gristmill.

The Hackensack Water Works is located on the property of the Jr. & H. Van Buskirk Gristmill, which was located on the southwest corner of the island. This 1881 map shows the land, outlined red, purchased by the Hackensack Water Co. for its facilities. The land included buildings, a mill pond, slough, two mill races, two dams, and "Old Creek."

Construction and Work
The development of the Hackensack Water Works buildings and the innovations in water delivery and filtration systems are nationally significant as a model of water works engineering from
History of the Hackensack Water Works Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, December 15, 2018
2. History of the Hackensack Water Works Marker
1882-1931. As historian Clifford Zink wrote: "The buildings and structures... display a splendid integration of engineering and architecture, combining classical design with technological innovations." The water system improvements preserved here illustrate the innovations that enabled cities and towns to deliver purified water on a large scale for the first time. This clean water was critical to the growth of Bergen County and our nation.

The plant's infrastructure not only exists above ground but also continues several stories below. The complicated, subterranean network of pipes, valves, and reservoirs were designed to withstand regular inundation by water. This extremely complex plant employed hundreds of local residents to build and run its operations.

Research
By the mid-twentieth century, the Hackensack Water Company had extensive chemical laboratories, employing a large team of scientists to constantly analyze and monitor the water, and to also develop and improve the filtration and purification processes. Their tasks included monitoring bacteria in the water and the levels of chemicals used to treat the water. These most-modern of labs were said to have set new standards of excellence in water filtration systems.

Industrial Artifacts
The largest and final addition to the Pumping Station complex was built in 1911.
History of the Hackensack Water Works Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Michael Herrick, December 15, 2018
3. History of the Hackensack Water Works Marker
The Allis-Chalmers Co. constructed and installed the steam-powered, monumental No. 7 vertical triple expansion (VTE) pumping engine: 50 feet tall with two 32-ton flywheels moving 607 gallons of water with each revolution. In 1915 No. 3 Allis-Chalmers 36-MGD pumping engine was installed in the 1886 building. Although smaller than No. 7, it had nearly twice the capacity. The company operated them for over 70 years. They were kept polished and in immaculate working order until the plant closed.

"I can remember witnessing three of the old Allis-Chalmers steam engines at New Milford working in harmony to pump ut water in the summer... There was a melodious type of rumble through the plant hat always reminded me of Jules Verne's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and Captain Nemo when you looked at those pumps. That's what I would think when I was just a young kid looking at them. It was just unbelievable." - Ted Hoffman recalling a visit to the Water Works as a child

Community Outreach
Since the completion of the Hackensack Water Company's first buildings, the community and the company have had a close relationship. The success of the company depended on: the local workforce it employed; its role as a local resource supplier; and on it fulfilling its role as a "good neighbor."
The company relied on the support of Bergen County's
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residents. Today this vital relationship with an involved community continues to strengthen and grow, helping to create the multi-faceted Van Buskirk Island County Park.

The Public Charrette
On November 14, 2009, 32 Oradell and New Milford residents met with experts and officials to share ideas, concerns and create visions for the future of the Hackensack Water Works and the island. They represented a broad spectrum of ages, backgrounds, interests and expertise. Divergent views led to creative solutions. The ideas expressed during this all-day meeting continue to guide the on-going design process.

Pictures
Historic Mill: Oradell Library
Historic Map of Van Buskirk Island: United Water
Section (Collector Block Details); John Bowie Associates and Jane Mork Gibson "The New Milford Plant of the Hackensack Water Company, Historic Structures Report," 1998
Bags being dropped off on canvas apron on upstream side of cofferdam to cut off flow through sheeting: United Water
Historic Photo (Water Works, Bird's Eye): Bergen County (Lantern Plates, 54)
Historic Photo (Man and Woman Research): Bergen County (Lantern Plates, 61)
Historic Photo (Table with beakers): United Water
Historic Photo (Man Listening): Bergen County (Lantern Plates, 58)
Pump No. 7: www.job-journalistenbuero.de
Pipes of No. 7: www.job-journalistenbuero.de (Marker Number 1.)
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceNotable Places. A significant historical date for this entry is November 14, 2009.
 
Location. 40° 56.77′ N, 74° 1.558′ W. Marker is in Oradell, New Jersey, in Bergen County. Marker is at the intersection of New Milford Avenue and Elm Street, on the right when traveling west on New Milford Avenue. Located at the Hackensack Water Works. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Oradell NJ 07649, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Vision for the Van Buskirk Island County Park (within shouting distance of this marker); Ecology Along the Hackensack River (within shouting distance of this marker); Water at the Hackensack Water Works (within shouting distance of this marker); Richard T. Cooper House (approx. 0.3 miles away); Hagler’s Diner (approx. 0.4 miles away); New Milford World War I Memorial (approx. 0.6 miles away); New Milford Veterans Memorial (approx. 0.6 miles away); Oradell (approx. 0.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Oradell.
 
Also see . . .  New Milford Plant of the Hackensack Water Company on Wikipedia. (Submitted on February 12, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.)
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on February 12, 2019. It was originally submitted on February 12, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut. This page has been viewed 553 times since then and 49 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on February 12, 2019, by Michael Herrick of Southbury, Connecticut.

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Feb. 25, 2024