The Esopus Creek has played an active role in the livelihood of the area. It has provided wildlife and agriculture the ability to live in abundance for centuries. In Hurley, the Esopus waters created a fertile valley that has produced bountiful crops since the Native Americans occupied the land centuries ago.

In the late 1800s, New York City was growing at a rapid rate. More water was needed to supply the growing city. In 1905, New York State water commissioners came to the area and decided it would be the location for a new dam and reservoir. With the ink still wet on the paperwork, test borings were taken at Bishop’s Falls located in Olivebridge to determine the depth of the bedrock. Once the final decision was made, local residents were given 10 days to sell their house to New York City or lose it. Compensation for property was low, and some lawsuits against the city lasted 25 years.  [Excerpts and photos taken from the book Images of America: Hurley by Deana Decker, Arcadia Publishing, 2007.]

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There was a daily workforce of around 3,500 men. The majority were common laboreres earning $1.20 a day for an eight-hour shift. Stone masons earned about $3 a day, powder men earned $10 a week, and water boys made $1 a day. Most workers stayed in company dormitories costing $20 or more a month, and they bought the overpriced food in the commissary. The workers were mostly African Americans and Italian immigrants, many just off the boats in New York City. (Courtesy of Eleanor Elting Arold.)
The Dividing Weir was the biggest of all the projects on the reservoir. When it was finished, it was a mile long with a road over the top. It has a small gate in the base to allow excess water to be transferred from the upper (west) basin to the lower (east) basin. (Courtesy of Jonathan and Iris Oseas)
The main dam, which was mostly made of concrete, was 192 feet thick at the bottom, 26.4 feet thick at the top, 252 feet high, and 1,000 feet long. Many skeptics felt this dam would never hold. But it did and still does today. (Courtesy of George K. Van Sickle.)