I just discovered, (to my joy filled snoopy dance!) that my 1827 Brick federal, retains the circa 1791 spring-fed cistern that the house and it's predecessor were built around, in the cellar. What looked like concrete reinforced stone foundations, turned out to be a 10x12x7' above grade, fully filled, spring-fed cistern. (I beg forgiveness for having assumed this was the foundation; this house is built on a hillside, and there are half-mountain sized boulders every few feet - the entire foundation bobs & weaves atop and around the exposed parts of these boulders...I thought this was just a particularly large one). Prior owner had water tested...spring fed and constantly cycling it is potable, with all flora, fauna, etc., abundantly within safe levels.

There is a traditional cellar access door, in the floor of what is now the laundry room, which opens frighteningly into an unknown depth of water, within 2.5 feet of current floor. I'm thinking...safe bet that what is now the laundry room, used to be the kitchen??

Upside: potable water, no matter what occurance. Downside...persistently damp timbers, in that part of the house at the very least.

This place just gets more interesting, with every passing day!!!

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congrats on having one thats fully functional. I have my original in the attic of my 1911 home...still connected and all plumbing intact, but it was since capped off at the roof where it would have been fed by rainwater and then gravity-fed through the rest of the house. Now it's just an interesting piece of the house's history, and the only attic-installed full-size cistern I've ever come across.

2 years later...'There are many of these in the community of our "new" house.  The  large  big fridge-sized  galvanizd steel  (?) tank is up there wiht all the plumbing (capped)  It was well-fed wiht a windmill pumping up the water.  In the 1950's someone hit the mill wiht a car and knocked it over and that was the end of it as city water was then available.  This last weekend was there out=going owner's  estate sale and we hung about and met several local folks whose houses had that system AND  a lady came who as a child was riding  in the car that hit the windmill!

I also have a cistern in my attic.  It has the plumbing still attached as well.  However, I live in Salt Lake City, and I doubt there was enough rain to sustain it, unless they only used it to bath once in awhile!  Someone suggested that they would pump the water up into the attic through a window to have it gravity feed into the house.  Reading the above post about a windmill makes sense, although our neighborhood in SLC was one of the first and one of the few without running streams nearby.  hmmm..  It's a big metal box with what looks like a giant toilet tank float in it!  My house is circa 1895....

the metal lining may well be lead... I wouldnt drink anything from it

Four years ago while digging foundation we dug into a cistern that had been capped off in early 1900's. We dug into the side of the narrow neck very near the top. We couldn't see anything in there but a friend stuck a camera in and took a few pictures. It is limestone laid up just like my foundation. We measured it with a string and found it 8' across and 38' deep. It was a little over 1/2 full of water but pictures showed the water was crystal clear and an old ladder from a windmill lay at the bottom. Being solid and outside the addition I decided to leave it be and covered the hole we had made. Later I realized that my home is the only home around that does not get water in the basement in the spring. I now wonder if it is not some kind of a system to collect ground water and save the basement. There was another cistern close to the downspouts for rain water from the roof. Anyone have any ideas?
That is so cool! All you have to do is add a pump and have nearly free water for your yard and gardens. This house has a similar setup only with an old well that feeds the lawn sprinkler system and a faucet for hand watering flowers.. The cistern was out about 30ft to the south and had been filled with brick. With the price of utilitys getting higher everyday its nice to get something for free!
We've come across an attic cistern in a house in Winchester, MA. Large wooden dovetailed box lined with metal, with lead piping for the water. Would you folks mind posting some pictures of these? Images are pretty difficult to come by for cisterns. The one I have images of isn't connected, and is pretty much just the box.


Good luck with your functioning one! Good score.
I just posted about this exact subject! We were looking at a 1920's farm house to purchase when we went into the basement it had a hole in one corner with water in it a dirt floor and stone walls. It wasnt full of water, but I would be so happy if it was! Have you had any damage to the foundation of your home? The previous owner put insulation on the ceiling and AC duct work is down there, plus electricity! I am very concerned this could be a hazard! Any details on yours would be wonderful! Does the level in yours change? How does water escape? Do you have an "excess pipe" of some sort? At about 3 feet high there is a huge pipe coming out of the wall that I am assuming is to keep the water from rising to the ceiling, but I know so little and I have had an impossible time trying to find any "official" information on this subject. The home, we just discovered, was built around and original log cabin (the old walls have been exposed in the kitchen/dining room area). Its a very unique little farm house. We would love to buy it, we just want to make sure the water wont be a huge persistent source of damage that will need constant remediation.
Thanks for any info!!!!

If you have any pics of yours, I would looove to see what it looks like!!!
If there is an old cistern system, make sure you check it really well before drinking it or giving it to Fido. Lead piping was typically used for these old cisterns, and is probably a little worse for the wear.
Here is another cistern from a house in NY, with some modifications.
What a wonderful discovery!
Here are some notes:
The Andover, MA, Historical Society house, 1819, has a well in the basement with a cone which extends almost up to the first floor. It may have a spring, not just be a well - I've never looked!
I know of quite a number of houses, 1700-1880, which are built over wells.
I know of two 1880's well-built cisterns in attics - one in a summer house on a Maine island, the other the factory owner's home in Bennington, VT.

In my section of the north east, there are lots of concrete cisterns - 1920's and later.

This is wonderful!  Our 1886 has what I called a 'water reservoir' in the attic and a cistern in the cellar.  I thought the one in the cellar was for the rain gutters because of the 'holes?' near the base of the house.  There was also a cast iron pipe running into the ditch that is 300 feet from the house; I see now that it might be an overflow for that cistern .  I don't know if the one in the attic has any original plumbing coming from it but I do realize that we have SO much to explore when we get back there this year!  By the way, there is also a small room in the cellar that has what I can only describe as a spring box (for water), must explore that more, too.


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