Waterworks Museum Showcases Boston's Golden Age04:59

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The Waterworks Museum (Click an image to start a slideshow)

Swish, swish, swish. Steam-powered water pumps made the sound of progress.

The kind of progress that allowed hundreds of thousands of 19th century Bostonians to stop drinking from soiled cisterns and lakes, to stop getting cholera and typhoid, and to instead get on with the business of building Boston into its golden age.

Those waterpumps from the 1800s are still around, housed in the ornate Metropolitan Waterworks buildings along the southeast edge of the reservoir on Beacon Street. Several of the buildings have just been converted into condos, and as part of that restoration, the building containing the main pumping engines has been converted into a museum, which just opened to the public.

Inside, you can see the enormous, elaborate pumps that brought water into Boston up until the mid-'70s. As museum director Beryl Rosenthal showed Radio Boston's Adam Ragusea, both the pumps and the building are remnants of a time when a greater civic pride was expressed in our urban infrastructure, and when something as simple as a water pump was made beautiful.


Images for this segment were provided by Daniel Jackson of

This segment aired on April 18, 2011.