19th Century Brick Cistern Uncovered in Fort Greene

Plans for a cistern. Image from Drinking Water in Its Relation to Malarial Diseases via North Carolina Digital Collections


A Brooklyn archaeologist uncovered a cool 19th century cistern on a construction site in Fort Greene last week and posted a snap to Instagram.

Cisterns, often built of brick, were used to hold rainwater — providing an important source of clean water for household use. Modern plumbing, which came to Brooklyn starting in the 1850s, eventually made cisterns largely obsolete in urban areas.

But instead of being ripped out of backyards, cisterns were often just filled with refuse and forgotten. As a result, they can sometimes yield a treasure trove for archaeologists.

So far, Chrysalis Archaeological Consultants has found a shred of wallpaper, a locket and pieces of bottles at the site, whose precise location is a mystery.

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