Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Though I never really gave much thought to it at the time, I grew up in a region whose contours were profoundly shaped by the requirements of New York City's water supply, and by a series of remarkable engineering projects that created a system of interlocking reservoirs in an area that had previously been criss-crossed by a network of modest streams. Vast tracts of farmland were inundated, or seized by the city in order to protect the watershed, and in a few cases whole communities were flooded (or moved). Today you can drive along certain winding roads (as I like to do) and see miles of largely unbroken woodland, almost none of which existed a century ago.
All of this was accomplished well before I was born, and large-scale modification of the landscape is, at least in the Northeast and for understandable reasons, no longer in fashion, but I can't deny that the changes have had their aesthetic, as well as utilitarian, benefits, adding an element of grandeur to an area that, whatever its virtues, might otherwise have lacked drama.
The video above shows a portion of the spillway of the New Croton Dam, inaugurated in 1906, at about 6:30 on an April afternoon.