New York City hosted the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing, Queens. To show off the city’s water system that tapped mountain springs as far as 100 miles away, the Cartographic Survey Force, a branch of the Works Progress Administration, constructed a 3-dimensional model of the system out of wood and plaster for @ $100,000 (about $1.5 million in today’s dollars). Measuring 32 feet by 20 feet it never made it to the Fair and instead was put into storage; some said it because it was too big, but others have said it was to protect the City’s Water system from spies as the country was beginning to contemplate war. It was shown once in 1948 at the city’s Golden Jubilee and then forgotten. In 1991, a DEP architect discovered that the map was stored in the Jerome Avenue Pumping Station (built 1906) when he started to renovate that landmark building. The map in rough shape after 40 years of neglect, was restored to its former glory in 2006.
You can now see the map for yourself and hear about its story from NYC H2O Director Matt Malina. A question and answer session will follow with Bryan Diffley and Peter DiSpensa, both civil engineers who worked on the water system.
This is a family friendly event. The Queens Museum also has a scale model of the entire city that is not to be missed.
About the Presenters
Matt Malina is the director and founder of NYC H2O, an NGO that offers education programs about NYC’s water and ecology. Malina started NYC H2O in 2009 after attending a teaching workshop about the NYC water system in the Catskills. He recognized the opportunity to expand public education on NYC’s model water system, while inspiring citizens to become responsible stewards of natural areas including watersheds. Because of his background in education, he recognized the learning opportunity that the water system offered across many disciplines and he developed the Reservoir Tour Program for Schools in 2014.
Bryan Diffley is a civil engineer and was the Project Manager on the High Bridge restoration. He has worked on water infrastructure here in the City for three decades on projects like City Tunnel #3, the Jerome Park Reservoir and water mains in every borough.
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