Inside the Brooklyn Aqueduct. Image via Brendan Clinch (2016)
A few days ago, the Ridgewood Reservoir was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, following its addition to the New York State Register of Historic Places in December. This important piece of infrastructure, built in 1859 to supply high quality water to the independent city of Brooklyn, is now a 50 acre natural oasis.
Located along the Brooklyn/Queens border, the Ridgewood Reservoir once drew upon natural streams in what are now Queens and Nassau counties, connected by a 12-mile-long masonry conduit called the Ridgewood Aqueduct. Made obsolete by the construction of the Catskill Aqueduct, the reservoir’s three basins have been reclaimed by nature. A lush and dense forest has grown in its two outside basins while a freshwater pond with waterfowl sits in the middle basin. The historical site is situated amidst the diverse communities on the Brooklyn/Queens border — there’s even a Carmelite monastery just nearby.
The non-profit organization NYC H2O, has been behind much of the efforts to raise awareness and fight for the historical status of the Ridgewood Reservoir. NYC H2O provides education programs on New York City’s water system — bringing 3,000 Brooklyn and Queens students to visit the site since 2014. The organization also wrote the Historic Register Application for the Reservoir.
NYC H2O’s Executive Director Matt Malina testified at the New York State hearing that:
“The Ridgewood Reservoir is a majestic place that deserves to be listed on the National Historic Register as a cultural and ecological treasure to be discovered by generations to come. In the course of bringing a new generation of New Yorkers to visit and experience the site, we realized that that we had become stakeholders in advocating for its preservation. The support of elected officials, community leaders and organizations has been critical to preventing its demolition and in advocating for its future.”
NYC H2O has also fought to reopen the historic red brick gate houses, which once controlled the flow of water from the reservoir to Brooklyn’s homes and businesses.
Untapped Cities is working on coordinating tours to the Ridgewood Reservoir this summer. Sign up for advanced notice of the tours!