New Croton Dam (a.k.a. Cornell Dam)

Structure/Property Name (Current and Original, if Different): New Croton Dam (a.k.a. Cornell Dam)
Street Address/Location: 41°31’35” N, 73°51’19” W
Town/City: Cortlandt
County: Westchester
Owner: New York City Department of Environmental Protection

Architect/Engineer/Other Responsible Parties: Alphonse Fteley
Historic Use: The dam was built to divert water from the Croton River into the New Croton Reservoir.
Present Use: The dam still functions as a part of the New Croton Reservoir, which continues to contribute to New York City’s water supply system.
Typology: Dam
Architectural Style: Fortress style
Period(s) of Construction: 1892-1906
Date of Decommissioning: N/A
Date(s) of Demolition: N/A
Structural System/Materials: Gabbro and granite, steel arch bridge
Significant Alterations: In 1901, experts recommended that the 100′ high, 300′ long earthen portion of the dam be torn down and replaced with masonry. The original steel arch bridge deteriorated from roadway salt and spray from the spillway, and was first replaced in 1975 with a more modern design, then again in 2004. DEP worked with the New York State Historic Preservation Office and the NYC Art Commission to design a second replacement bridge that would return the dam closer to its original appearance.

Brief Architectural Description:
Building the dam required excavation to a depth of 131 feet to find solid bedrock footings. The 200-foot-long steel arch bridge spans across a sideways spillway with a set of stone steps set 90 degrees to the dam’s face. Water falls down the spillway to a seam of bedrock. Now inaccessible, a network of stairways originally allowed visitors to walk up the face of dam through a series of terraces and lookouts.

Brief Statement of Historic Significance:
Soon after the New Croton Aqueduct opened in 1890, work began on a new dam that would replace the current dam, which was insecure, and would greatly increase the capacity of the Croton Reservoir. A proposed dam at Quaker Bridge was rejected in favor of the New Croton Dam, which was approved in 1891. Expected to take five years, the dam’s construction faced a number of challenges, including a violent labor strike in 1900 and the 1901 condemnation and subsequent masonry replacement of the dam’s earthen embankments. After fourteen years of construction, the dam was ultimately successful and, at 301 feet high and 2400 feet long, was the largest dam in the world at the time. In the following few decades, the dam was a popular tourist destination; today, as the largest hewn-stone structure in the United States, it remains the focal point of Croton Gorge Park.

Accessibility to Public: Croton Gorge Park, at the base of the dam, is a free, public, 97-acre park operated by Westchester County. The road over the dam is open only to pedestrians and cyclists.
Landmark Status: Included in Civil Engineering Landmark 1975
Threats: N/A
Current Interpretation: On-site interpretation limited to small nearby plaque commemorating the dam’s 100th year of service, placed by the American Society of Civil Engineers in January 2006.


Historic Image

Historic: “The Croton Dam.” Village of Croton-On-Hudson, NY. <;.


Fahn, Charlotte. “New Spillway Bridge at Croton Dam to Evoke Historic Design.” Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct Newsletter. Issue 17. Spring 2004. <;.

Gray, Christopher. “A Place to Savor the Torrents of Spring.” The New York Times. 21 May 2006.
Lewis, Myron H. “Saving Millions of Gallons of Water for the City.” The New York Times. 10 April 1904.

“The Croton Dam.” Village of Croton-On-Hudson, NY. <;.

“World’s Biggest Reservoir New York’s New Year Gift.” The New York Times. 24 Dec. 1905.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s