Despite Chicago's location beside the world’s largest source of fresh water, its low elevation at the end of Lake Michigan provided no natural method of carrying away waste. As a result, Chicago began to choke on its own sewage collecting near the shore. The befouled environment, giving rise to outbreaks of sickness and cholera, became so acute that even the ravages and costs of the American Civil War did not distract city leaders from taking action.
Chesbrough's solution was an unprecedented tunnel five feet in diameter lined with brick and dug sixty feet beneath Lake Michigan. Construction began from the shore as well as the tunnel’s terminus in the lake. With workers laboring in shifts and with clay carted away by donkeys, the lake and shore teams met under the lake three years later, just inches out of alignment. When it opened in March 1867, observers, city planners, and grateful citizens hailed the tunnel as the "wonder of America and of the world."~Goodreads Blurb
For such a simple seeming project, taking water from over there and bringing it over here, there have to be a million ways this could have ended badly. Author Benjamin Sells has not only done the hard labour of discovering all this information but also the dauntless task of putting it together in a way that makes it readable for the average reader, rather than simply a history book for engineers. I wouldn’t be able to repeat the feat with justs this book but I feel like I could hold my own in a conversation, thanks to Sells’ hard work.
I don’t often find myself singing the praises of non-fiction books because they can be too dry or you have authors who feel they must include every single fact to justify learning it. I feel like if I had been a Chicago resident some of the names might have made more sense so I have to take my own personal ignorance into account when I have questions. I would have enjoyed a bit about what strides were being made in similar problems during this time but what was given was plenty. The balance between storytelling and factual drive was well balanced and I can only hope that other readers will feel the same way.
*This eBook was provided by NetGalley and NorthWestern University Press in exchange for honest feedback*
Freelance Editor & Reviewer