by Carleton Mabee

A feature of Gardiner's history was the building of two aqueduct lines through it, 'aqueducts that brought Catskill Mountain water to New York -City. The first line, the Catskill Aqueduct, was built from 1909 to 1915, and the second line, the Delaware Aqueduct, was built from 1937 to 1945.

The earlier Catskill Aqueduct was built with lots of labor, little machinery. The later Delaware Aqueduct was built with less labor, more machinery. While both aqueducts were built deep in the ground under such major obstacles as, the Shawangunk 0 Ridge and the Wallkill River, in much of Gardiner the earlier Catskill Aqueduct 0 was often built near the surface of the ground and was covered with only a thin layer of -soil; it is often visible today, as on Rt. 44-55 close to Ireland Corners, and along Rt. 208 0 south of Ireland Corners .. However, the 0 later Delaware Aqueduct, which consisted of much larger tunnels, was built deep into the ground: and is not visible today. Evidence of its existence, however, such as the accumulation of shale dug out of the tunnel, is apparent at the points from which the tunneling was done, one point being. in western Gardiner at Shaft 3, in, the eastern side of the Shawangunk Ridge, near Shaft Road (named for the shaft), and another being at Shaft 4 in southeastern Gardiner, south of Ireland Corners, just off Route 208, where it passes under the Catskill Aqueduct.

Working directly in .the aqueduct tunnels was dangerous. . While many of the workers were immigrants with what long-term Gardnerites considered to be 'jaw-breaking" names, among the Gardnerites who themselves were employed directly on the first aqueduct tunneling, was Walter . Hoppenstedt, the father of the future " Gardiner veterinarian, Clifford Hoppenstedt. He operated a small work train which ran through the tunnel. Among  Gardnerites employed directly on the second aqueduct tunneling were three Majestic brothers, George, (later prominent as a Gardiner supervisor:), Frank, and Charles. They did such 0 work as .compressed-air drilling, drilling holes in' the rock in which to place dynamite, and then wiring, the dynamite caps for blasting.

Construction of the Delaware Aqueduct, the second of: NYC's aqueducts to pass through Gardiner, opened with a ceremony in Gardiner, March 24, 1937. It was held near the aqueduct's Shaft 3, off  Shaft Road. New York's' Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia spoke, explaining his city's' desperate need for water. (photo courtesy of NYC's Department of Environmental Protection)

For the construction of the second aqueduct, a major concrete mixing plant was built in the Gardiner hamlet, just north of the, Wallkill Valley Railroad. station, on the west side of the rail line. Trainman .Clark Bonesteel, of Port Ewen, recalled that he crewed on trains carrying supplies for that plant; He brought cars loaded with sand and gravel from New Windsor north up the West Shore line to Kingston, and then south down the Wallkill Line to Gardiner. He also brought cement in smaller cars, hopper cars, from Alsen, north of Saugerties, down the West Shore line to Kingston, and then on down the Wallkill-line to Gardiner.

A youth who grew up in Gardiner at that time, Frank P. Morgan, Jr., recently recalled that the materials which the trains brought to Gardiner were made into cement ,mix right next to his father's lumber yard, north of the Gardiner railroad station. He also recalled that aqueduct engineers wanted the mixing to continue even in winter.

Water for the mixing came from a stream which ran alongside Farmer's Turnpike, just south of the railroad station, Moran recalled, and was drawn up from the stream and stored there, close to the station, in a big tank. If the cement mixing was to continue in the winter, it was necessary for that water to be heated. For this purpose, Frank Moran's grandfather, John H. Lucy, who lived in Gardiner but operated a saw mill in Modena, brought a boiler from his mill to Gardiner, and set it up near the water tank,  beside the rail tracks. Aqueduct contractors tried to persuade Lucy to let them operate the boiler, but Lucy would not let them. It was his boiler; he said. He wanted to operate it himself, and he did. Trucks  moved the water he heated to the nearby cement plant, north of the station, and while it still hot, mixed it with cement, sand, and gravel.

Then trucks picked up the cement mix while it was still warm, Moran recalled, and delivered it to construction sites. They probably delivered it only nearby, to construction sites in Gardiner, so as not to give the mix time to cool and freeze. They delivered the .mix to the two tunneling sites in Gardiner which were open to the air, Shaft 3 near Shaft Road and Shaft 4, near Route 208. Inside the tunnels, the cement mix was used to build giant concrete conduits. Some 70 years later, both aqueducts still run through Gardiner. Though they are no longer in good shape- they leak-- they still bring water from the Catskill mountains to New York City.

Shawangunk Newsletter - Volume 5, Number 3  Fall 2008