The Sewer

William P. Chappel American

Not on view

This scene of pristine streets appears quite charming, but in 1807 the intersection of Roosevelt and Oak probably looked (and smelled) less pleasant. The city’s patchwork of sewers were intended to divert excess water to the rivers. Some were open trenches, but others, like this one, were enclosed in an attempt to prevent the stagnant or slow-running water from festering under the sun. Yet the sewers’ lack of ventilation and tendency to back-up often led to foul odors and streets marinating in fetid water. Lucky for the gentleman (at left) and the sailor (at right) that the sidewalks are somewhat elevated!

The Sewer, William P. Chappel (American, 1801–1878), Oil on slate paper, American

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