The Reservoir System and the Development of Lake Sagamore


Today, New York City has the largest unfiltered surface water supply in the world — and Lake Sagamore is a part of the City’s reservoir system. The lake collects water from about 12 square miles in an area extending westward past the Taconic Parkway. Around 1830, the City of New York decided to satisfy its water requirements through a system of reservoirs and aqueducts north of the city. The first of these was the Croton River and the Old Croton Aqueduct, which was placed in service in 1842. Not long after, in the 1850s, the Carmel town residents decided to rename the lake on whose banks the town was situated. They considered several names, including Lake Sagamore and Lake Gleneida. They settled on the latter for their lake, but liked the other enough to rename a small glacial pond in western Kent known as Beane’s Pond. Hence, Lake Sagamore.

Boyds Corner Reservoir, with a broad watershed that encompasses the Lake Sagamore watershed, was constructed in 1873. The reservoir, which is 1.5 miles in length, contains 1.7 billion gallons at full capacity. In time, the ever-increasing water supply needs of New York City required the construction of numerous additional reservoirs. This led to the development of the Catskill, Delaware and Croton Systems. The Delaware Aqueduct, a pressurized tunnel that carries water from the Delaware System Reservoirs under the Hudson River and into the Boyds Corner, West Branch and Kensico Reservoirs was completed in 1944. Since the stream from the dam at our lake flows into Old Forge Pond and then into the Boyds Corner Reservoir, Lake Sagamore is part of the Delaware System. Because of this, the City’s DEP regards Lake Sagamore as within the City’s reservoir watershed. The DEP and the State’s DEC keep a close eye on how the Association attends to maintaining the Lake’s water quality.

In 1946-47, Leland Ryder, through the Putnam County Bank, had come into possession of many abandoned properties including some in the Boyds Corner Reservoir watershed. Upstream from Old Forge Pond on the East Branch of the Croton River, he cleared new growth from the area around Lake Sagamore. He constructed a dam, flooded the basin, and expanded the lake to its current size.

The first homes were built along a flat and then treeless stretch of lakeside property along lower Richardsville Road, renamed Sagamore Drive, on the site of a potato farm. Roads were extended gradually along the lakeshore on the east side (Old Forge Drive) and the west side (West Shore Drive), eventually to meet at the upper end.

Shirley Fuhrer Lapidus, at age 7, was driving with her family on Route 301 when they came upon a billboard advertising lakeside houses for sale. Her father, Irving, checked out one of the model homes and put down $100 for a house on Meadow Place, now Forest Court. Soon, the family was spending its summers and weekends on the lake. They were an independent group, the early “settlers” of Lake Sagamore—Schenck, Lucas, Scileppi, Stein, Eichenholz, Goldstein, Kollin, and Kohlenberg. The children biked around the lake. Every door was open to them. It was only later, when the population had grown that the need for a community association became apparent. At those first community picnics, Leland Ryder attended. An earthy man in his plaid shirt, he drove a beat-up gray Ford. At the picnics, he was a one-man band, entertaining children and grownups with his harmonica, banjo, and drum — all at once!

Homes continued to sprout around the lake. In 1974, the Lake was sold to the Lake Sagamore Community Association for $1.

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