Wednesday, September 10, 2014

hackensack water works, oradell, new jersey



there are two ways to get my grandmother's house, the front way, down oradell avenue, and the back way, where you pass the hackensack water works. the water works, a magnificent complex of buildings, built between 1882 and 1911, was one of the first of its kind, supplying clean drinking to bergen county for over 100 years. the site closed in 1990 and was donated to bergen county in 1993, at which point it was abandoned and left to ruin. the weeds took over and the windows were boarded up; the county had no interest in preserving or showcasing the water treatment technology that was housed there. and slowly, the site was forgotten about. 

in 1996 the hackensack water works was placed on the ten most endangered historic sites in new jersey, which led to the creation of the water works conservancy, an organization dedicated to the preservation and reopening of the site as an educational and historical attraction. bergen county, however, wanted the place demolished so they could build an amphitheater. in effort to keep that from happening, the wwc got the site listed in the state and national register of historic places. even so, the county is still dragging their heels. despite having won numerous grants to clean the place up, nothing is being done. in fact, money that had been earmarked for this project was recently redirected to build a parking lot, thereby losing funds from a matching grant in the process. as a result, the place remains boarded up and closed off to the public, with nothing but a flimsy gate to keep out looters and vandals. 

despite the no trespassing sign, i couldn't resist the opportunity to take photographs of this beautiful place. my grandmother, who's been involved with the water works conservancy for years, was my lookout while i spent a half hour poking around. over the years i've heard a lot of stories about the place and what a travesty it is that the county doesn't want to take care of the space, and after nosing around, i have to agree completely. the building are spectacular and a lot of the equipment is still present, albeit broken. it enrages me that this lovely piece of history is being left to nature, with no one enjoying it and learning from it. my grandma and i even had a discussion about her calling the cops on me, just so i could arrested for trespassing and bring a little noise to the situation. ultimately though, we left the place in peace, hoping that someday, someone will realize the treasure they have and will spend the time and money to preserve it.