An adequate water supply for the residents and industry of North Adams was from the late 19th century, an issue of paramount importance to residents. For the next several decades the population grew at such a high rate that a reservoir was required, and in 1914, the Mount Williams Reservoir was planned and constructed. Land was selected where a small Brook passed through and a concrete core dam was designed and built that year to impound the brook. At the waters edge, a gatehouse, once perched upon the shore like a castle, is decaying. The gatehouse is a cylindrical brick structure clad in stucco, capped with a red tiled conical roof. The structure remains active to this day with a more modern structure nearby providing support to North Adams’ waterworks system.
Located at the center of Fisher Hill, an Olmsted-designed neighborhood in Brookline, is a 10-acre park with raised earth and a depression in the middle. At first glance you may think its just been playing fields and open space for as long as the neighborhood has been around, but upon closer inspection (and geeking out over the gatehouse), you can learn much more!
The Fisher Hill Reservoir was built in 1886-87 as an early component of the Boston Water Board’s expansion of its high service system. The gatehouse was likely designed by Boston City Architect, Arthur Vinal, who also
designed the Chestnut Hill High Service Pumping Station (now the Waterworks Museum) completed the same year. The gatehouse has a granite substructure, stone main floor, and brick second story. Brownstone is used for quoins and window heads, including the oversized voussoirs above round-arched openings in the main floor.
Providing water for the area for over 60 years via a large open reservoir, the land was eventually abandoned by the state as newer facilities were constructed and distribution changed after WWII. The site and gatehouse sat abandoned for decades until the Town of Brookline purchased the parcel from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for use as a municipal park. The landscape architecture firm of Klopfer Martin Design Group kept the earth structure as a historic reference to the site’s context within Brookline and greater Boston, and conveyed the site’s history as a reservoir, using both spatial and interpretive elements and signage, as well as delivering a contemporary, and programmatically rich park, worthy of its Olmstedian context.