2. It Is on Land Taken from Madame Jumel

Morris Jumel Mansion
Morris-Jumel Mansion

Describing the High Service Water Works plans, the New York Herald reported in 1864 that “this is to be done by means of a tower erected on Madame Jumel’s property, at High Bridge.”

This is a reference to Eliza B. Jumel, the American-born widow of French merchant Étienne (anglicized to Stephen) Jumel and ex-wife of Aaron Burr. Residing nearby in the Morris-Jumel Mansion, now a museum, she owned extensive real estate holdings including about seven acres where the City wanted to locate the High Service Water Works.

plaque at the Morris-Jumel Mansion

She offered this land for about $79,000, “to avoid the expenses which the City would necessarily have to incur to ascertain the value of the property.” The City rejected this and pursued an eminent domain taking, resulting in a Court approved compensation of $45,000. This substantial price reduction was a moot point for Madame Jumel; the process was completed in December 1865, six months after she passed away at age 90.

1867 plan of New York City
Plan of New York City by Matthew Dripps, 1867. Map via New York Public Library’s Digital Collections

The map above from 1867 shows where the Water Tower and reservoir were to be placed and also indicates property boundaries (dashed lines) prior to the taking, including Jumel’s lands and the City’s aqueduct corridor extending south from the High Bridge.