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in ante-bellum times largely Southern in tone this task long occupied the attention of the people. At length, as before remarked, the era of improvement began.
So far as the impartial historian can discover, the credit for originating this movement belongs largely to Alexander R. Shepherd, at that time an active, energetic business man of the city. He seems to have had the faculty of looking forward to future as well
as present requirements, and a mind capable of constructing a comprehensive plan of public improvement. This gentleman succeeded in interesting President Grant, and then Congress in his scheme. The old English form of municipal government—mayor and common council-was abolished and a territorial form of government for the District erected, with governor, legislature, and delegate to Congress. A Board of Public Works was also created, with Mr.
Shepherd as Chairman. The territorial government organized with Henry D. Cook, the banker, as Governor, who was, however, soon superseded by Mr. Shepherd. The latter, in carrying on his operations, followed the professional advice of Mr. A. B. Mullett, then the supervising architect of the Treasury, and who later planned the State, War, and Navy building. Governor Shepherd also consulted with the Boards of Public Works of other cities. The Board decided that the first thing necessary in the work of reconstruction was a proper sewerage system for the city. To construct this was no easy matter. Pennsylvania Avenue, in places, was below high-water mark. Much of the ground now covered by the Centre Market and streets contiguous was a morass with the canal in the centre. Tiber Creek, which rises on the terrace some two miles north of the city, and which then flowed into the canal, near Capitol Hill, was wont to become a roaring torrent even in a moderate rain, and flood the city.
The engineers began their labors by arching over the canal with brick, thus converting it into a
Next they tapped the Tiber as it descended from its heights back of the city, and led it and its floods off to the Eastern Branch, while its former bed, and three of its branches, were arched over with brick, and made the main sewers of the system. The West End and Georgetown were also given sewerage systems, so that by 1875 there were one hundred and twenty-three miles of this underground work in operation, the whole system in extent and completeness far exceeding any similar work on the
western continent. The introduction of gas and water mains went on side by side with these improvements. The great Washington aqueduct, which through crags and over creek valleys brings pure water from the Great Falls of the Potomac, nearly fifteen miles above, had been so far finished by December, 1863, that water was introduced into the city through two mains originally designed to supply the public buildings, but which had been tapped by the old corporation and made to furnish a limited supply to the citizens. The Board now adopted a comprehensive system of water supply, laid its own mains from the reservoir two miles west of Georgetown, and by 1875 had one hundred and thirtythree miles of water mains and pipes in operation, affording each inhabitant a daily supply of one hundred and twenty-seven gallons. The Gaslight Company was also incited to equal activity, so that by 1873 over three thousand public lamps were illuminating the streets and squares.
As soon as the underground work was well advanced, the Board turned its attention to the streets and parks. The first point to be decided was the style of pavement to be laid, and the engineers of all the great Northern and Western cities were consulted on the subject. In the spring of 1872, the Park Commissions of New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Buffalo sat in conference with the Board for two weeks, and samples of all kinds of pavements in use were submitted to them, together with tests and costs of repairs; the Board then visited Boston and the great cities of the West and inspected their
systems of paving, the result being that 584 miles of wood pavement were laid, 284 of concrete, and 93 of cobble, macadam, gravel, and Belgian block—a total of 180 miles.
In the beginning a great obstacle presented itself in the width of the streets, which, however suitable to a national capital, covered such areas that the cost of paving them, it was feared, would bankrupt property owners and stagger Congress. The main avenues were 160 feet wide, and the streets were from 130 feet to 160 feet wide, covering in the aggregate two thirds of the city's site, their entire length being 264 miles, and their united area 2,554 acres.
The streets of New York cover but thirty-five per cent. of her entire area.
Mr. Mullett, fertile in expedients, at once suggested a remedy. He advanced the pavements into the streets a uniform distance, and reduced the cost of the former by sodding between them and the house fronts, thus giving each householder a front yard, while the original width of the streets above the sidewalks was retained. Two hundred and eight miles of these sidewalks were laid- -seven miles of flag and concrete, the remainder of brick.
Next came the equalizing of the grades of the city. The plain, so called, on which Washington is built presents many and great inequalities. A topographical survey in 1871 would have shown abrupt hills of peculiarly colored sand or clay standing on stratified metamorphic rock, ragged ravines cut by the water-courses, and depressions of large area, which, before a system of drainage was inaugurated, had been pools of half-stagnant water. To show this