Monday, November 02, 2015

Boston Fun: The Waterworks Museum at Chestnut Hill Reservoir

On our last trip around Chestnut Hill Reservoir in Boston, we noticed a sign for the Waterworks Museum located nearby. Unfortunately, we had just walked around the reservoir, so dragging 4 already tired kids into a museum was going to be a recipe for disaster. We smartly held off on checking it out.

This last Shabbat, after lunch, we headed over to this free museum. We were met by a kind volunteer at the door, who got us setup to watch a short movie. Yelper's who liked the museum, weren't that impressed with the movie. But I actually found it quite informative and the kids found it entertaining. It certainly gave some key context to what we were looking at. Once the movie ends, you're free to wander through the large space that's filled with two (or is it three?) massive pumping engines. They are exactly what you'd hope late 1800's technology would be: massive wheels, gears, spiral staircases and dials.

Dovid was absolutely fascinated by the short videos that showed how the pumps operated. At one point, Tzipora got a little intimidated by the whole scene and explained she was sure it was going to turn on any minute and scare her. Chana took the whole scene in, and while we went to an upstairs observation deck, she started constructing an aqueduct out of the blocks they had on the table, making sure to bring fresh water to the people in the city (just like the movie advised her). If any of these children turn out to be civil engineers, it's fair to say that they got their start at this museum.

A few weeks ago I was talking to my Dad about some research he had conducted measuring E. coli in local water sources. Turns out, at the site of the Waterworks Museum was the Chestnut Hill Reservoir Biological Laboratory, the country's very first water testing facility. It was operated by George C. Whipple. That means that I was standing on the grounds that served as the origin for the work my Dad was conducting; just remarkable!

If you're in the Boston area, you should really plan to hit this remarkable space. Calling it a museum may be a bit of misnomer, as it's really just a room filled with some massive machines. You feel like you're in a working facility, rather than a staged museum. And while Chestnut Hill Reservoir now seems like a quaint little park, at the time, it was a state of the art water delivery system, helping to keep a thriving Boston in fresh water. This is truly a glimpse into one of the behind the scenes marvels that we so easily take for granted every day. Oh, and it's free, so if you spend 5 minutes staring at it and walking out, no harm done.

As noted above, we visited on Shabbat, so I don't have any photos to share. To give you an idea of what the space looks like, check out these two pictures:

Credit belongs to here and here respectively.

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