District News Articles

  2. It’s hard to say exactly when someone hollowed out a material for the transport of water but the Romans are generally credited with first mass use of pipes to transport water. In fact the word plumbing is derived from the Latin word for lead “plumbum”, the substance the Romans used for their water pipes.
    What might surprise people is that after the fall of the Roman empire another material emerged as the favored way to transport water to homes - wood. The English began using wooden pipes during the 16th and 17th centuries and settlers continued this trend upon their arrival in America in the late 1700s through the 1800s.
    Logs were generally cut in 7-9 ft lengths, and the centers bored out to allow for the passage of water. Sometimes logs were split in half, the centers cut open, and then put back together with a series of iron straps. On each log, one end was tapered, and the other end opened so they would fit together. The seams between logs were sealed with pitch or hot animal fat.
    Wooden water mains remained the material of choice for water distribution until the early 1900s when piping material took a huge leap in durability and reliability with the advent of cast iron and concrete. The last documented use of wooden pipes occurred during World War II when about 100,000 feet of these pipes were installed in place of corrugated iron or reinforced concrete pipes (due to wartime shortages of these materials) in drainage culverts, storm sewers and conduits, under highways and at army camps, naval stations, airfields and ordinance plants.
    Here is an interesting piece of trivia: In the early 1800s fire fighters began to realize that they could bore into the logs to get water thereby helping them fight fires more effectively. When the firemen were finished fighting the fire they would insert a plug closing off the flow of water. This practice is where the word "fire plug" got its origin. Eventually municipalities began tapping the water mains at a certain spot on each block so firemen didn't have to dig down to find the main every time there was a fire on the block. You will recognize these “fire plugs” as fire hydrants today.