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Wanaque Reservoir

WANAQUE RESERVOIR HISTORIC DISTRIC

The Wanaque Reservoir is located in northeastern Passaic County in the Boroughs of Ringwood and Wanaque. Constructed between 1920 and 1928, the Wanaque Reservoir includes not only the reservoir but a collection of buildings, structures, and features that together comprise the reservoir complex. The reservoir was created by damming the Wanaque River and its tributaries, all of which are part of the northern New Jersey’s Passaic Watershed, creating a body of water with 2,310 acres of water surface and capturing 29.6 billion gallons of water.

The Wanaque Reservoir Historic District has been found to be historically significant for its achievement as a water supply project and as an important and intact example of public utility architecture, particularly waterworks architecture.  Due to its historical significance, the Wanaque Reservoir Historic District is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, which is America’s official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation.

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Construction of Wanaque Reservoir, 1920-1928
Source: Wanaque Borough Golden Jubilee, 1993.

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Post Card of Wanaque Dam Concrete Wall Construction
Source: Unknown, 1920-1928.

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Homes Being Demolished During Wanaque Reservoir Construction
Source: Unknown, 1916-1921.

Construction of the Wanaque Reservoir was a significant achievement in enabling the supply of potable water to areas that no longer had safe drinking water sources. After eight years of construction and nearly a full year for the reservoir to fill, water was delivered to customers for the first time in 1930. Upon completion, the Wanaque Reservoir supplied water to several member municipalities including Bloomfield, Clifton, Glen Ridge, Kearny, Montclair, Newark, Passaic, and Paterson.

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Wanaque Dam, 1940
Source: Wanaque Borough Golden Jubilee, 1993.

A major feature of the reservoir project was the West Brook Road Bridge. The bridge was constructed to carry the re-located West Brook Road across the Wanaque Reservoir.  Construction of the West Brook Road Bridge began in 1926 and it was opened to traffic in 1928. Due to its narrow width and substandard approach roadway alignment, the original West Brook Road Bridge was removed and replaced with a new bridge in 2015.

The maps below show a historic topographical map of the Wanaque Reservoir in the area of the West Brook Road Bridge, as compared to a current topographical map; this comparison shows how the area looked prior to, and after, the construction of the reservoir.

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Source: USGS Topographic Map, 1881-1924.

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Source: USGS Topographic Map, 1995.