Monday, December 27, 2010

Brooklyn Waterworks, Freeport, Long Island, NY

 A pile of bricks is all that's left of the Brooklyn Waterworks, once located in Freeport, New York, a few blocks from where Rob grew up.

The City of Brooklyn purchased nearby Milburn Pond to supply Ridgewood Reservoir in the 1880's. After the pond was enlarged, a new pumping station was needed to accommodate Brooklyn's growing need for water and the Brooklyn Waterworks, also known as the Milburn Pumping Station, was born.

Brooklyn Waterworks before the smokestacks were removed
Designed by Brooklyn architect, Frank Freeman was completed in 1891 and was described as  "Long Island's most ambitious Romanesque Revival design."  It housed five steam pumps and could deliver up to 54 million gallons of water a day.   Piping ran down the length of  Route 27, also known as Sunrise Highway, continuing down Conduit Avenue in Brooklyn. 

Once Brooklyn became part of New York City, however, the need for the new pumping station diminished.  In 1898, Brooklyn began receiving its water from the Croton Aqueduct system and in 1929, the Brooklyn Waterworks was used only as a backup water supply for emergencies.  Its two huge smokestacks, pictured above, were removed at that time.

Milburn Pond Park, Freeport
The pumping station continued as a backup supply until it was decommissioned in 1977. The property was bought up by Nassau County, who removed the machinery and allowed the building to fall into decay.  It is said that the group Blue Oyster Cult recorded there in the 80's before a large fire destroyed the building in the 90's.  The shell was the only thing that was left of it for years.

There were rumors that the property was bought up and was going to be used a condos and later, a hospital.  These turned out to be true.  According to Wikipedia, the property had been bought up by developer Gary Mileus (who also owns Oheka Castle) in 1989, for 1.4 million dollars to be used for 48 condos; construction to be completed in 1990.  However, a housing market collapse halted the project and, not long after, the building was severely damaged by fire.  Once again, Mr. Mileus produced another proposal to convert what remained of the building into a hospital. This time, his idea was blocked by the local government. 

Remains of Brooklyn Water Works, 2006

In 2009,  Mileus won a 3.5 million dollar lawsuit relating to the ownership of the property from the Village of Freeport.  It is estimated that Mr. Mileus lost 12 million on the property. The Brooklyn Waterworks was torn down on August 30, 2010.  According to an article in L & M Publications, the Brooklyn Waterworks had landmark status since 1986, but was found to be beyond repair.  In fact, Freeport's Landmarks Commission had approved the demolition because "it was dangerous and it became a safety issue."
These pictures are from Rob's Long Island Oddities Mini Run in 2006

There are still two pumping stations left, one in the town of Wantagh and one in Massapequa. 

My friend, Kanc (named after the historic Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire) and I are showing off a brick that Rob saved from the building. 

 As usual here are some links with more information:

This is a link to the Long Island Oddities site.  It contains a detailed history of the Waterworks plus more pictures of the building in decay.

Wikipedia article where I borrowed the black and white picture of the Brooklyn Waterworks.

A Youtube video that I found by local historian Robert Miller

and another Youtube video showing the ruins

some pics and an aerial photo of where it used to be. These are really interesting shots.

article in the New York Times dated January 12, 1869

  Newsday article regarding Gary Melius lawsuit against the Village of Freeport


  1. I remember seeing this on my commute into the city. Often wondered what it was. On a recent trip in, I noticed the structure was no longer there.

    Such a shame that places like this cannot be restored and refunctioned. Sad...

  2. i grew up on milburn ave south of merrick road in the 1950's before the freeport high school was built. at that time the waterworks building was in good shape but not being used as better water delivery systems had been built for nyc.

    if you entered the site from brookside ave and walked to the west you came to a great swimming hole that was fed by the little creek that flowed into the reservoir between sunrise hwy and merrick road. the creek then went under merrick road and ran parallel and a few hundred yards east of milburn ave eventually going under atlantic ave and into the bay.

    the whole swampy, wet land area was a great place for us boys to grow up and get into mischief.