Murray Hill Reservoir

Source: Lith. By N. Currier, 1842. From Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. (

Structure/Property Name (Current and Original, if Different): Murray Hill Reservoir
Street Address/Location: 455 Fifth Avenue
Town/City: New York
County: New York
Owner: N/A

Architect/Engineer/Other Responsible Parties: John B. Jervis, Engineer/ James Renwick Jr., Architect
Historic Use: Distributing reservoir, providing water to citizens of New York City
Present Use: None
Typology: Reservoir (distributing)
Architectural Style: Egyptian Revival
Period(s) of Construction: 1839 – 1842
Date of Decommissioning: 1897
Date(s) of Demolition: 1899 – 1902
Structural System/Materials: Granite walls and cast iron pipes

Significant Alterations: On October 5, 1858 extensive damage to the western wall of the Murray Hill Reservoir was caused by a fire that engulfed the Crystal Palace, a cast iron and glass structure that stood behind the reservoir. The western wall’s face course, belt course, coping and railing of the parapet wall had to be removed and new work substituted. The whole of the wall had to be re-dressed, its joints re-pointed and the coping and railing of the parapet wall had to be replaced.

Brief Architectural Description:
The distributing reservoir was a man-made lake that was four acres in area and was surrounded by 50 feet high and 25 feet thick granite walls.  It was divided in the center by a wall of granite that was 19 feet thick at the bottom and 4 feet thick at the top, creating two collection pools. Together, these two pools had the capacity to hold 24 million gallons of water.  The façade of the structure was designed in Egyptian revival style and the walls of the reservoir were topped by a promenade that was 20 feet wide and enclosed by heavy iron railings.

Brief Statement of Historic Significance: The Murray Hill Reservoir was considered the termination point/ end point of the Old Croton Aqueduct system, by which water was distributed throughout the city by means of a network of pipes 170 miles in length. Unlike the other reservoirs that comprised the system, Murray Hill, with its massive granite walls designed in Egyptian Revival style, was meant to be “the face” of the Croton System.
Accessibility to Public: Fragments of the structure are located in the NYPL Stephen A. Schwarzman Building in the South Gallery on the first floor.
Landmark Status: None
Threats: None
Current Interpretation: The only interpretation of the structure is a New York Public Library hallway exhibit on the second floor that discussed the construction and history of the library.  The plaque states that it took 500 men (workers) two years to dismantle the reservoir and prepare the site for the library.


View of the distributing reservoir, on Murray’s Hill, city of New York. Lith. By N. Currier, 1842.
From Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. (accessed February 9, 2011).
Notorc. “Days of Hope and Glory: When Croton Water Came to the City”, Postscripts. (accessed February 9, 2011).

Fahn, Charlotte. “Was the Murray Hill Reservoir in Bryant Park?” Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct.

“The Croton Aqueduct System” American Society of Civil Engineers.
Gray, Christopher. “The Library’s Extremely Useful Predecessor.” New York Times, January 20, 2011. Accessed January 20, 2011.



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