The Hackensack Water Works buildings were constructed between 1882 and 1931 on an artificial island in the middle of a New Jersey river. The completion dates of most of the buildings are displayed in terra-cotta reliefs above their entrances. The structures were a marriage of classical architecture and the cutting edge industrial technology of the day.
It operated as a water filtration and pumping plant until 1990 when it shut down. It was one of the first plants to bring safe drinking water to the public, which was an imperative necessity at the time since the cholera epidemic was at an all-time high because people kept dumping their shit water into their drinking water and then wondering why they were sick.
The Allis-Chalmers pumping engines were installed in 1915 and used for over 70 years. The last pumping station to be constructed (built in 1911) housed steam powered pumping engines that were 50 feet tall with two 32-ton flywheels that moved 607 gallons of water with each revolution. Initially, the Hackensack Water Works plant was able to supply 3.8 million gallons of water per day to approximately 30,000 residents. Through the years to come, the plant would install more and newer technology to drastically increase their efficiency output. In 1915 new, more efficient pumps were installed in the 1886 structure. They were well maintained and operated for more than 70 years until the Water Works was decommissioned.
The downfall of this plant began when the same company opened a new state-of-the-art facility within the same region. The new facility was capable of moving 50 million gallons of water per day at a significantly lower cost. The original water works facility began to be phased out and drastically shrank through the 70’s and 80’s. Operations would finally come to an end in 1990 after serving the area for 108 years. In 2001, the site was listed on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places. As the site fell into disrepair, the county wanted to see something done with the property to preserve its history. The latest plans for the Hackensack Water Works site are to shore up and restore the buildings to a level that would allow the county to open the facility to the public.