Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Late to the Game

Accession Number P75-54-0489g, Hughes Company Glass Negatives Collection,
Courtesy of the Photography Collections, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Originally in this blog, I set out to explore changes to the water systems in Baltimore -- both drinking water and waste water utilities.  What I found, however, is that the Hughes Collection did not support my interest in the history of the city's sewer system.  The story of the development of the sewers, although interesting, actually predates the 1918 annexation.

The municipal sewer system was constructed largely during the period 1900-1918.  This history is germane to Growing Baltimore because construction of a centralized, underground system of sewers forced municipal government to adopt planning principles that would later guide much of the growth and expansion of the city's infrastructure in the 1920s.

While most other major American cities had their wastewater infrastructures in place by the close of the nineteenth century,  the parochial nature of the old ward-based political system and city-state tensions created serious delays in the creation of Baltimore's municipal sewer system, despite the pleas of progressive reformers and Johns Hopkins public health experts.

In the aftermath of the Great Fire of 1904, public demand for rebuilding the city dovetailed with the rise of city planning and urban engineering.  The Maryland General Assembly and city voters agreed in 1905 to spend ten million dollars on the sewer system; in 1911, thirteen million more was borrowed to complete the project.

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