Water for the City, Ruins for the Country: Archaeology of the NYC Watershed

Author(s): April Beisaw

Year: 2014


New York’s Catskill region contains innumerable ruins. To outsiders, they are a reminder that rural life is a struggle. To insiders, these ruins are the debris of a government project. Millions of New York City (NYC) residents need clean water, and the Catskill region is their main source. The city began depopulating the Catskills over 100 years ago when towns were submerged to create the Ashokan Reservoir. Many left but those who remained reorganized their lives around the reservoir. Increasing populations and water quality concerns have spurred new land acquisitions around the reservoir, creating new ruins. This ‘watershed protection’ program obscures the fact that the watershed is man-made. Symbols of legitimacy and continuity are evident in the local NYC headquarters, a complex of preserved historic homes amid the ruins. These ruins are the debris of government supported land clearance programs. Archaeological assessment documents what once was, and raises awareness of what is and what may soon be.

Cite this Record

Water for the City, Ruins for the Country: Archaeology of the NYC Watershed. April Beisaw. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. 2014 ( tDAR id: 436688)

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): SYM-12,13