Campbell’s Pond pumping station

Inside the Campbell's Pond pumping station, South Mountain Reservation, 2012

The brick pumping station at Campbell’s Pond in the South Mountain Reservation is a ripe target for urban explorations. It features an enticing climb-through-able hole, about five feet from an existing trail, so even hikers who weren’t planning on checking out an abandoned building that day might suddenly feel compelled to do so. (That’s what happened to me, anyway.)

For safety reasons, I can’t recommend it to local explorers. The unstable wooden floor has given way in several places; photos taken just a few years ago show more flooring than there is now. But if you happen to be passing by, and you’re curious about how and why the pump station came to be… here’s what I found out:

If you Google “Campbell’s Pond pumping station,” you’ll generally come up with urban exploration photos that say it “once supplied water to the City of Orange.” Okay, yeah, so what?

Campbell's Pond pumping station in the South Mountain Reservation, identifiable by its big old smokestack.

To give some background, water from the Orange reservoir (situated a little further north, on a west branch of the Rahway River) flows through a 16-inch water main, downhill through Millburn, and eventually ends up in Orange. Initially, the main supplied Orange by gravity alone, but as water consumption grew, water pressure in the city decreased. Additionally, the city of Orange sprawled out across higher lands that couldn’t get their water from gravity-driven water.

To combat these problems, the reservoir was supplemented by a smaller reservoir along a western branch of the Rahway River: Campbell’s Pond (sometimes called “Bass Pond”), which was dammed in 1882. Here, “a pumping station was established having a capacity of about two million five hundred thousand gallons per day, and the water was… pumped from the Campbell’s pond reservoir into the sixteen-inch main” (Vroom, 1909, 372). All this helped to increase the water pressure.

According to the record of a Supreme Court case, even in 1907, they had started laying the newer 20-inch water main (which was completed c.1923 [Elliot, 2010, para. 5]), and they planned “to abandon the present pumping plant at Campbell’s pond” (Vroom, 1909, 375).

While I don’t know exactly how long the pump station has in fact been abandoned, if the newer main wasn’t finished until 1923, this old pump station was probably around for at least that long, which could explain the origins of the creepy dam/bridge across Campbell’s Pond.

Word on the street is that it has been gutted by fires (arson?) more than once. Whether or not these fires led to its ultimate abandonment, I couldn’t tell you.

But it’s at least a little more of a story than “it once supplied water to the City of Orange.”


Elliot, W. (2010). “Orange Lifts Water Advisory, Repairs to Finish this Week.” Local Talk News.Com.

Vroom, G.D.W. (Reporter). (1909). “Herbert Lighthipe, prosecutor, v. the City of Orange, the Crocker-Wheeler Company and the Western Electric Company, respondents.” Reports of Cases Argued and Determined by the Supreme Court and, at Law, in the Court of Errors and Appeals in the State of New Jersey, vol. 46. Soney & Sage: Newark, NJ. Google Books, pp.365-375.

8 Responses to “Campbell’s Pond pumping station”

  1. Good research. Very interesting.

  2. I think this might be my favorite post since I started reading your blog. Any chance you have the first pic in high res? I’d like to use it as a wallpaper (if you don’t mind, that is).

    • Depends on how picky you are. The original (unprocessed) is 3072×2304, and it’s a little blurry at full-res (handheld, slow shutter. Email me for further details.

      Thanks for the comment. 🙂

  3. Hey man, glad you could find more history then I ever could.


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