San Leandro Record

September 11, 1875


The San Leandro Water Works

On Saturday last we visited the San Leandro Water Works and through the kindness of Mr. Frank Boardman, the young able and efficient engineer and Assistant Superintendent, learned the following interesting facts concerning the great work that has been going on within a mile and a half of our town. Although the work is being done so near home, very few of our people know anything about the magnitude or object of the work, further than that a reservoir is being built to supply Oakland and San Leandro with good pure water in large quantities. They are not aware of the fact that almost within our city limits, there is being constructed a dam that is to hold the waters of the San Leandro creek, forming a lake nine miles long and an average of three miles in width, which when completed, will be one of the finest lakes in the State, althoug it will be a year before its completion is accomplished.

The idea of the great work was first conceived by Mr. Chabot in 1868, when the Company was incorporated under the name of the San Leandro Branch of the Contra Costa Water Works, by the following gentleman: Messers, Chabot, Barstow, Wm. Hazelhurst, S. Huff and hall, and work commenced shortly afterwards. The preliminary survey was made by Louis Castro, County Surveyor. The subsequent engineering was done by Mr. Frank Boardman. The first work done on the dam was in February 1874, and work has continued without interruption. About six hundred men are employed, five of whom are Chinamen. The Chinamen do the greater part of the hard heavy work, such as blasting, carting, laying pipes, etc., the white men doing the skilled work and "bossing." The Company have houses erected near the works, where the men are accomodated with board and lodging, also stables where about one hundred and eighty horse are taken care of; blacksmith and wheelwright shops where are made all the carts the Company use and where all repairing and horse-shoeing are done, first-class mechanics being employed to do the work.

During this week, the breast of the dame presented a picture of great activity, and a very interesting scene it was. The glare of the forge, the ring of the smith's hammer, the noise of the wheelright's saw, the hurring to and fro of busy men, all go to make up a picture, to the visitor, exceedingly interesting, and giving him to understand that a grand thing is being acheived there.

The dam is being thoroughly and safely constructed, stories to the contrary notwithstanding. Mr. Boardman informed me that before a cart-load of dirt was dumped into the dreek bottom a trench was dug down thirty-three feet to bedrock after which the process of filling-in and tamping down was commenced. Although no masonry was put in the foundation, thus formed, Mr. B. says, it is as solid as mortal may can make it. After the foundation had been made as above described, the space between the two hills were the dam is being built, five hundred feet long and five hundred feet wide is being filled in with rock and dirt, and tamped down so as to make it as solid and compact as the hills which it joins together. At the present time the work has reached a height of forty-five feet from the bed of the creek, and before the rains set in will be completed to a height of sixty-four feet. This much of the dam is intended to suffice for this winter, after which five hundred feet will be added to each side of the work already completed, making the total width of the dam fifteen hundred feet at the base. A tunnel from the lake to the hill, nine hundred feet in length, through which the mail pipe runs, together with a second tunnel to let off the surplus water is already completed, and pipe laid down to within a mile of Oakland, and water supplied all along the line for irrigation purposes and for sprinkling the County road. At present the water is the reservoir is not high enough to allow it to blow through the tunnel, in consequence of which the water is pumped up by a powerful engine, which is kept a work night and day. The quantity of water supplied at present being about ten thousand gallons per hour. As soon as the rains set in this will be done away with and the supply will be unlimited and ready to be used for household purposes, wherever the pipes are laid to. A main pipe will be laid to San Leandro as soon as a right of way through a strip of land belonging to Mr. Newgent can be procured.

We would recommend to all lovers of enterprise and work which displays more than ordinary engineering, a visit to the dam. A scarcity of time prevents from giving a more extended description of this grand work.

Since the above was in type we find tha the gentlemen named above ere not all of the original incorporators; but the first president and trustees of the incorporation.


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