Woodland Reservoir, Syracuse, NY

In the summer of 2012, I had a call from the Curator of History at the Onondaga Historical Association. He had just heard that the City of Syracuse was going to replace the existing lower gatehouse for the Woodland Reservoir, at the corner of Stolp Ave and South Geddes Street, with a modern one to include a new ultraviolet filtration system. The lower gatehouse was original to the construction of the reservoir in 1894, and yet the environmental review for the project did not require any HABS/HAER documentation. Could I help out?

Exterior oblique

Picture 1 of 7

A view of the front of the lower gatehouse, looking southeast from Stolp Ave

Since the gatehouse building, with two small dependency buildings, one on each side, faced Stolp Ave, getting some exterior views would be easy. The only difficulty was that the buildings faced north, which meant that the facades would be in the shadow for much of the day. However, it turns out that at mid-day, normally when conditions for photographs are at their worst, the sun raked across the facade and gave me enough light. A yellow filter on my 150mm lens helped to pull out the clouds on that sunny July day.

As for the interiors, I made a number of calls to the City of Syracuse’s Water Department, and arranged to meet one of the engineers at the site. I took an hour or so one warm summer afternoon to shoot several interior views in the very small space.


The Woodland Reservoir was planned and designed during the early 1890s to replace the Waterworks Company’s reservoir, where Hiawatha Lake now is located. Located on what had been a picnic ground, Lillys Grove, the new reservoir was completed in 1894. It holds water which was drawn from Skaneateles Lake, 20 miles away, and brought to Syracuse by way of a 30″ main (a second main was added in 1938).

Source: http://syracusethenandnow.org/Nghbrhds/Strathmore/Woodland_Reservoir.htm


Given the purity of the water that comes from Skaneateles Lake, the City of Syracuse holds a filtration avoidance waiver from the federal government. In order to maintain this waiver, however, the City was required to install an ultraviolet light treatment facility at the reservoir. The only available option was to locate the new plant where the original lower gatehouse, with its two dependency buildings, was located. A description of the project can be found here: http://www.syrgov.net/WoodlandReservoir.aspx

In the negotiations with the SHPO, the only requirement placed on the City was to design the new buildings in keeping with the design of the originals. No documentation was required. With these important buildings thus slipping through the regulatory cracks, I was called in, and completed the photographs. The negatives are now curated at the Onondaga Historical Society. As always, I carried out the documentation in accordance with the standards and guidelines of the Historic American Buildings Survey/Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER)-http://www.nps.gov/history/hdp/standards/index.htm

 If you would like to comment on this post, please feel free to send me an email: bgharvey@me.com. I’d love to hear from you!

Be Sociable, Share!