Hampden Reservoir

Only long-time residents of Baltimore can remember the Hampden Reservoir, buried since 1960 under debris from the construction of the Jones Falls Expressway and used as Roosevelt Park. The Hampden Reservoir was completed in 1861 three years after construction began at a cost of $206,643.50 by John W. Maxwell and Company. The reservoir was part of a system of improvements along the Jones Falls, including Lake Roland and the Mt. Royal Reservoir, to deliver a new supply of fresh water to Baltimore residents. The Hampden Reservoir remained in operation until 1915, when the municipal water supply was reconstructed once again, and the polluted 40,000,000 gallon reservoir was reduced to a neighborhood ornament. In 1930 it was drained and cleaned, and the pipes were cut off entirely from the city water system to prevent any contamination through seepage. Though the city threatened to drain it for years, Hampden residents managed to block all proposals for more than forty years.

In 1960 the Bureau of Water Supply began draining the reservoir without announcement. The city then revealed plans to fill the muddy pit and turn it into a Department of Aviation heliport. Neighborhood residents, led by Rev. Werner from the nearby Hampden Methodist Church (now known as the United Methodist Church), responded with an immediate outcry. The irate citizens protested that helicopters would be a major disturbance to the school, recreation center, and churches in the immediate proximity. Werner called the ordeal “an infringement on our territorial rights without due recourse to a public hearing.” Eventually the city retracted its proposal for the heliport. The draining did continue, however, as the city conveniently had an arrangement with the contractors excavating the new Jones Falls Expressway nearby. In exchange for a local site to dump the excavated soil, the city would receive a discount on the cost of that stretch of highway. So it was settled, the mud from the Jones Falls Expressway filled the giant hole, and the reservoir has been largely forgotten.

Images

Hampden Reservoir (c. 1900)

Hampden Reservoir (c. 1900)

An early 20th century view of the Hampden Reservoir. The steeple of Saint Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church, on 1008 West 37th Street, and temple-like Greek Revival facade of the Hampden Methodist Protestant Church on 3500 Falls Road are both visible on the right side of the image. | Source: Baltimore County Public Library, Peale Museum, 25690078 View File Details Page

Hampden Reservoir Pump House (c. 1900)

Hampden Reservoir Pump House (c. 1900)

An early 20th century view of the pump house of the Hampden Reservoir designed in 1861 by engineer James Slade. | Source: Baltimore County Public Library, Peale Museum, 25690077 View File Details Page

Street Address:

1221 W. 36th Street, Baltimore, MD 21211 [map]

Cite this Page:

Eben Dennis, “Hampden Reservoir,” Explore Baltimore Heritage, accessed June 26, 2017, http://explore.baltimoreheritage.org/items/show/181.
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