Lebanon County town celebrates its national treasure

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For the new hotel in the town he was developing,
Alexander Schaffer needed fresh water for his guests and their horses. His
solution? He built a water delivery system that still works the same way more
than 250 years later.

From a spring-fed reservoir more than a quarter mile from
his hotel, called the Franklin House today, Schaeffer had underground wooden
pipes installed to supply two water troughs, located uphill on either side of
the town square. The water, using gravity to move the water down hill from the
reservoir and then water pressure to carry the water up the incline to the
square area. It is a hydro-engineering system believed to be the oldest in the
country.

The reviver and pipes are maintained by volunteers
comprising the Schaefferstown Water Company. The company also is responsible
for the 3 1/2 acres around the reservoir, used today as a community park.
“The water itself, and the reservoir, and the flow of it going up hill, is
still the same as it was centuries ago,” explained primary caretaker, Cork
Meyer. “It don't have no pumps. It just flows up there on its own, you
know. The history is still there.”

Schaeffer deeded the water delivery system and the
reservoir acreage to a handful of residents of Market Street in 1763. They were
to keep the system in working order. Today, a working replica of one of the
original wooden water troughs is located in Fountain Park, with a stone water
fountain half way up the Market Street incline and a stone Lion's Head fountain
near the Franklin House still producing a steady flow of water. The original
wooden pipes long ago gave way to steel. Then steel was replaced by PVC for
most of the piping artery. But the basic principal behind the water delivery
system remains intact. Meyer believes the town's founding father would feel right
at home, if he were to see it today.

“It's still here, what he did,” Meyer said.
“He (Schaeffer) could come here today and say, 'Oh, man! That's how I
remember it, you know.”

Meyer enjoys his work as head caretaker of the park and
water system, but says additional help would always be welcomed going forward.

“Somebody took care of it before us and somebody
after me is going to take care of it as well,” he said.

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