MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

Photograph, June 20, 1898
Siphon, Sandy Pond

Wachusett Dam Construction

Photograph, Wachusett Dam Construction

Identified as the northerly end of the siphon at Sandy Pond at the Wachusett reservoir in Clinton, Massachusetts, this is one of ten photographs of the construction of the Wachusett Dam among the papers of William Otis Crosby in the Institute Archives and Special Collections. Crosby, an internationally renowned geologist, was an MIT professor. He was also in demand as a geological engineer, consulting on many private and public projects, such as the construction of the Wachusett Dam. Crosby investigated the foundations of the Wachusett Dam, the North Dike, and conditions along the route of the proposed aqueduct tunnel. The Metropolitan Water Board (a predecessor of the Massachusetts Metropolitan District Commission) began work on the Wachusett system in 1897; it was completed in 1908.

William Otis Crosby (S.B., 1876, in Geology) was closely tied to the Institute for more than half a century. He came to MIT as a student in 1871 and taught in the Department of Geology from 1878 to 1907, retiring from active teaching only because of increasing deafness. According to biographer Robert Shrock, he was “an enthusiastic and stimulating teacher who drew heavily on his diverse geological experiences and rich accumulation of specimens carefully collected for teaching purposes.” After his retirement he continued his research and his work as a consultant.

Locally, Crosby consulted on subways and tunnels for the Boston Transit Commission, advised on the dry dock in South Boston (then the largest of its kind in the country), acted as advisor to the Charles River Dam Commission on the Charles River Basin Project, and conducted an investigation for the foundation of the new MIT buildings in Cambridge. He wrote his bachelor’s thesis about the geology of eastern Massachusetts, a subject which became a lifelong passion.

The bulk of Crosby’s papers consists of correspondence and geological reports on consulting projects in New England, New York, Colorado, Alaska, and other U.S. locations. The collection also includes personal correspondence; trip diaries; maps of the Massachusetts area by Crosby; bibliographies; printed material; and reports, plans, and maps by Crosby, John Ripley Freeman, and others concerning the planning for MIT’s new campus in Cambridge.
The William Otis Crosby Papers (MC 68) are available for research in the Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118.

Object of the Month: July 2003

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