"Underground Demands on the Streets"
"Heretofore all the life of New Orleans has been above ground. Nothing was buried, except the foundations of the houses. Not even the dead are put under the earth.
"Now, however, when it has been realized that much that conduces to the advancement of human comfort in cities must be buried in the earth, because in the streets there is not room enough above ground, problems come up for solutions that have not been properly considered here, although they have been fully solved in other cities.
"This matter has suddenly been forced upon the attention of the people of this city by the laying of conduits for electric wires and by the impending requirements of the drainage and sewer systems. Ordinarily in cities draining and sewering are accomplished by one process. The surface or storm water finds its way into the underground sewers and is carried off with the other contents of the sewer pipes and tunnels. Here, because the city stands in a basin, over the sides of which all fluid matters must be lifted, there can be, therefore, no gravity sewerage or drainage.
"It is held that the sewerage and storm water must be carried off by different routes, and any project to force them to move together has been heretofore opposed by the Drainage Board. But now that it is proposed to bring the sewerage to a great extent under control of the Drainage Commission, it is not easy to see why there should be any insurmountable obstacle to connecting them both. It even seems that in many ways such a combination would be advantageous. If the storm water were to be carried wholly in open canals, that would forbid the charging of that water with feculent matters; but since the canals are to be covered, and since the ultimate destination of their contents could be made the Mississippi River, instead of Lake Borgne, the drainage and sewerage systems could most economically be combined; and since the drainage system is in the incipiency of construction, and the sewerage works have not been commenced, there would be no serious difficulty in so altering the plans as to combine them, and deliver all the outflow into the river at some point below the city.
"These suggestions are worth consideration under existing conditions and prospects, upon grounds of pecuniary economy and convenience, and they have some relation to the amelioration of the conditions that are now troubling the city as to the occupation of the streets by innumerable public and private pipes, conduits, drainways and sewer tunnels.
"The City Council, in giving underground privileges to various private corporations, acted with undue improvidence and prodigality, the result of inexperience and lack of forethought. Various electric companies which have been ordered to put their wires underground are proceeding to do so without apparent regard for any other consideration than each naturally has for its own interests.
"When it is reflected that there are perhaps, a half-dozen such companies that need space for its conduits, and that there are already the water and gas pipes, and that the drainways and sewer tunnels are to have room, it is seen that from the way things are being done that there are few streets in this city that will contain them. It is plain that the most exact economy in disposing of the space available will be required to secure any accommodation for all the uses that must be provided for.
"It will, therefore, be impossible for each and every company requiring space below the street pavements to get it if each is allowed to dig at its own sweet will. All the electric conduits ought to be packed together as densely as possible, so that they may be able to use the same manholes. Even in the widest streets this ought to be done, otherwise the city will not be able to find room for its drain and sewer arrangements. If the city does not take hold of this problem and solve it now, the trouble it will inflict will increase enormously with every day of delay.
"Any person who is acquainted with the underground arrangements of other large cities where drainage, sewerage, water, gas, steam and electricity are carried beneath the streets, has realized that economy of space for each, so that room for all may be attained, has been the subject of the most careful study, resulting in the development of every ingenious and approved device. The forcing together of all the electric conduits, and the combining into one of the drainage and sewerage systems, will go far towards securing the required space for all important needs."
From: The Daily Picayune 11 December 1898.
Image above: Bored Cypress Log. 64.5" Length; 13" Diameter. Architectural Fragments and Artifacts -- Collection 112. Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries. Photograph by K. Williams 6 October 2015.