McKownville old water systems - William McKown's wooden pipes
McKown's pine log
      water pipes

Water piping made of bored-out pine trunk segments, unearthed near the former McKownville filtration plant during excavations in 1966. These are the relics of the water supply system installed by William McKown for his hotel and stables, and livestock yards, in the late 1790's to early 1800's.
Reported in Altamont Enterprise article 8 August 1969.
Photo from Guilderland Historical society files.

William McKown (1763-1843), who built the McKown Hotel and Tavern in 1793, also constructed an extensive water supply for the building and for the livestock and horses that arrived there. He built several dams across the main west branch of the Krumkill (on old maps, Kromme Kill) stream which passed near the west side of and behind the hotel. The main supply pond was located on the north side of the Western Turnpike where the McKownville reservoir and the former McKownville water filtration building are still found today. In order to bring water under the Great Western Turnpike to the hotel and stockyard on the south side, William McKown used a network of wooden pipes, made from pine tree trunks bored out and the ends shaped to fit one piece to the next. Articles published in the Turnpike Record by Fred Abele in 1969 give some historical background and describe how a number of these pipes were unearthed in 1966 in excavations made near the old filtration building and were given to the Altamont Farm Museum for preservation and display.
Another branch of William McKown's wooden water pipe system was encountered in 1932 during the excavation for the basement of the house being then constructed at 9 Elmwood Street. In that case, the house builder took an axe to what he first thought was a large tree root, and was considerably surprised when a good flow of cold water started running from this into his new excavation. It only stopped when he cut the old wooden pipe cleanly and hammered a burlap-wrapped tapered pine plug into the end. The source of the water, and the further extent of this pipe, were not traced, nor was any more of the old pipe removed than necessary to install the basement walls, so its remains should still be there in the ground, behind this house. It seems possible that this pipe was installed along the route of the track that McKown is known to have cleared to connect his new hotel and tavern with the old "Five Mile House" hostelry he had been leasing since 1786 on the old King's Highway between Albany and Schenectady, located about 3/4 mile to the east, near the eastern branch of the Krumkill. A track with this direction is shown on the Sidney map of 1851.
Some old maps and reports tell of "a great overflowing spring" on the north side of the Turnpike west of Fuller Road. It is not clear if this just means the flow of the Krumkill, or whether there was a separate source of water in a natural spring in the bank of the stream here. The high water table in the shallow unconfined sand aquifer which extends over almost all of McKownville allows the possibility that there was such a separate spring, and that McKown also used this supply.
      area on 1851 Sidney map

 McKownville area on the 1851 Sidney Map of the vicinity of Albany and Troy, showing the location of McKown's Hotel on the south side of the Great Western Turnpike near the main west branch of the Crum Kill, the hotel at this date inherited by William McKown's son John A McKown. The track heading northeast from the hotel, passing Christian P LaGrange's farmhouse, is likely to be the one made by William McKown to connect his (in 1793 new) hotel with the old tavern he leased on the King's Highway (the road labelled State), perhaps the northern of the two structures labelled W Cooper on this map, near the spring marked at the head of the east branch of the Crum Kill stream.

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