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DCR, MWRA, and the Massachusetts State Archives have made available 8,800 photos that document the Metropolitan Water Works System (MWW; predecessor to both DCR and MWRA) between 1895 and 1926. Working with the Boston Public Library Digital Services, through its partnership with Digital Commonwealth, federal and state grants were used to digitally transform the collection at no cost to the inter-agency collaborators.
This treasure trove of photographs documents the construction and early operation of the water supply distribution system throughout metropolitan Boston at the start of the 20th Century. The collection covers the:
The images include homes, businesses, mills, town buildings, schools, churches, cemeteries, and railroad stations. About 50 different cities and towns, as well as several Boston neighborhood districts, can be seen in this collection. These pictures, mostly derived from 7,839 glass plate negatives, represent the Boston area’s drinking water system prior to the 1926-1940 expansion that culminated in the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir.
To access the pictures, go to the MWW Photo page.
Once you are on the MWW Photo Collection page, there are a various ways to search the files:
Associated with the MWW Photo Collection is a set of 72 Wachusett Reservoir land survey blueprints. These blueprints were annotated by the MWW engineers with the photo number of 1,432 real estate images. There are links on the survey page and the photo collection page to connect to each other. You can find the place of a picture from the photo collection on the survey, or vice versa:
Utilize two separate windows – one for the blueprints and the other for the photos – to compare the image to its location on the map!
DCR Archives has compiled a comprehensive history of the MWW Photograph Collection along with a PowerPoint summarizing the archival preservation of this collection:MWW Photograph Collection History MWW Photograph Collection Preservation Downstream Spring 2015 - Digital Archives
You can go to the DCR Archives web page for more information about the entire agency’s documented history.