I have been working for Baltimore’s Water Department for 37+ years, at the Montebello Filtration Plant in Baltimore City. Now I am retired and enjoying life!

57 thoughts on “About”

  1. Nice blog. I found it while searching for maintenance and inspection reports on the jones falls tunnel because of an article posted on-line in the “Baltimore Brew” on soil movement over the tunnel (https://www.baltimorebrew.com/2016/05/13/building-cracks-and-settles-above-baltimores-underground-sewage-outfall/).

    Wondered if you could point me in the right direction.

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Unfortunately, no, I do not have any records of inspection of the sewer lines. None of the earlier reports, starting in 1906 indicate that the sewers were inspected. I know that a City Agency, Utility Maintenance at Park Terminal has used remote underwater equipment to inspect pipes. You can try them. I was surprised when I read the early engineering reports that mentioned about the two conduits that are/were in use to dump sewage. Their thinking at the time was at least they could control the flow into the Jones Falls, as where if the Eastern Avenue Pumping station became so overwhelmed and failed, there would be no control – it would all go into the Harbor directly.

  2. mike lane said:

    Just found your blog….look forward to reading all of it! I believe you used to post on some of the Baltimore Facebook pages. I grew up in Mayfield, so Lake Montebello and Herring Run Park are a huge part of my life. Learning about the tunnels, buried streams, mills and quarries in the area fascinates me. Very cool that archaeologists are working in Herring Run Park now! Thanks for all the photos and information!
    -Mike Lane

  3. Ronald Parks said:

    Hi Mike. Your name sounds familiar. I was on FB for quite a while, then the comments got crazy. I find this way of posting history a lot easier. I hung in Mayfield for a while back in the late 60s, early 70s. Great times. Thanks for checking out my blog.

  4. Ronald, thanks for writing the blog! This is very interesting. I grew up on the banks of Loch Raven and spent my afternoons hike around it. I find the history of what was once there so fascinating. I just bought your book, and am looking forward to that.

    Request: could you write about the Fullerton Reservoir? The reservoir that never was. It is interesting how the Big Inch runs through where it would have been, and how the city retains all of that land. I have not been able to find much on the web, or in the Baltimore Sun archives about this reservoir, and why it was never built. Perhaps you know more.

    – Elliott

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Thank you for buying my book. The publisher never tells me who buys them, just how many were sold for the month, so I am glad you told me so I can thank you!
      I will write about Fullerton when I get back to work. The info, including all the drawings are there. The last I heard, it was still a go to start in 2020. But that always changes. Thanks again.

      • Ronald, did you write (or know who wrote) this fascinating informational site about Loch Raven? This resource has taught me a lot about the reservoir and its construction. For instance, the old Balancing Reservoir that it mentions still exists (though dry). http://lrr-bcw.info/Information/index.html

      • Ronald Parks said:

        The info comes from a variety of sources and people. I was asked to review some of it a while ago. It is a nice info website. I was just at the dry balancing reservoir last weekend. It is part of my Cromwell hike! It took me a couple years to find the BR because the area was so grown over. Then I met some volunteers there that showed me the shaft. It is amazing to see. I have photos somewhere on my blog.

  5. Thank you for your interest in my blog. It looks like we are doing similar things! I look forward to following yours!

    • Ronald Parks said:

      I enjoy transcribing old handwritten journals. My first book comes from transcribing engineers/inspectors journals that were kept for 5 years during the building of a tunnel. I was transcribing some of the papers listed in the Maryland State Archives, but that is just once in a while. Sometimes when I have trouble deciphering what is written, I send it off to the University of Maryland English Department for them to look at. I enjoy your blog. Thanks!

  6. Here’s an ‘interesting’ bit of my family history I noticed: For my grandfather Max Walsky’s April 27, 1942 World War II Draft Registration he was listed as working for the Baltimore City Water Department at the Montebello Filtration Plant. His adult profession was metal work; smelting. Steve

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Wow! That is interesting. I will see if I can find his employment card from back then. Sometimes I get lucky. They themselves are interesting – listing religion, ethnicity, where parents from and of course, political affiliation. The records from the World Wars tell a story all to themselves concerning the water department.

      • Ronald Parks said:

        Just looked thru the 1934 thru 1939 records and was not able to find his employment card. The records after 1939 may be at the City Archives. I will look in one other location and get back to you.

  7. Thank you, very much appreciated.

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Still looking. One more storage area to root thru…

      • Ronald Parks said:

        Looked in last area and for some reason the 40s and 50s records are missing. Major problem at the city is that people don’t have a clue about retention of papers in the archives. Sorry.

  8. Thanks for your time and effort. And, why should Baltimore be any different than other cities ;-)

  9. Shawn Peters said:

    Hey Ron, I always enjoy seeing your glass negative & photo finds. I’ve been trying to assemble as much info on my neighborhood (Ashland, Baltimore County) and have met with John McGrain to share findings. I’d love to know if you ever find anything in your travels that relates! and as always I’ll take interest in anything you find – Fellow water/sewer guy down @ WSSC

    • Ronald Parks said:

      My boss and the Director are from WSSC. I will let you know if I find anything other than what I had previously posted on Ashland. The City archives may have my Ashland files. I had to move a lot out of my office to make room for the sewer history! And thanks!

  10. Crystal Solberg said:

    Hello Ronald! I am a student at American University in D.C. and was wondering where you found all of these great images? Are they in the public domain?

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Hello Crystal, I found a majority of the glass plate negatives here at my jobsite. Along with many photographs, drawings, journals, logs, etc. A lot of the others were found in the DPW Museum storage area at Back River (moved to my location). And others come from libraries, historical societies, newspapers, etc. And this would be why they are NOT in the public domain. They are just too scattered across the city and county. Which is very unfortunate.

      • Crystal Solberg said:

        That is unfortunate! But as they are from public offices, would I be able to use them in a student project?

        Thank you in advance!

      • Ronald Parks said:

        Yes you may, just give credit to DPW. Anything in particular you are looking for?

      • Crystal Solberg said:

        Thank you so much, Ronald! Your blog has been immensely helpful. I have learned so much combing through your posts. I was having trouble finding images/illustrations of Baltimore before the sewage system was created. From my understanding, waste was disposed of in privy vaults or cess pools. Do you know of anything depicting something like this?

      • Ronald Parks said:

        I have some info on that, along with photos. I will look tomorrow at work. Email me so I can email them back to you instead of using wordpress. Some files are large.

  11. Ron, I am a volunteer/researcher at the Historical Society of Baltimore County and am interested in finding more information on the camps for laborers at Loch Raven during the construction of the second dam. There was a “colored school” at Summerfield in 1915. There was never a village or town of Summerfield (named for the Carroll estate on Manor Road) on any maps, but the area today is known by that name.The Summerfield Stone Company land ran from the Falls to the Summerfield Ma&Pa station. The Gilmor spur from the Ma & Pa was built for them during construction. Both Summerfield Stone and Baltimore Marble were owned by the Gilmor family (who lived at Summerfield).

    Anyway, the school must have been for the families of the men working on the dam. I’ve seen refs to the camps in your book summarizing the various files and documents. Where can I get more info, especially about page 136? Were these camps small towns, with schools, churches, stores etc?

    Also, why were there Spanish and Italian workers–did they have “special” jobs?


    • Ronald Parks said:

      Thanks for your inquiry Ann. I will try and look up your request today. Off the top of my head, the only school I have info on is the Gillett School. I was just researching some info on Gilmore, as being a part owner of the Copper Works and the City trying to buy all the land from there to Meridith’s Ford. Yes, I do have maps/plats of the worker’s camps. The camps were set up temporarily so the workers would not have to travel from town out to the site. The Italian and Spanish workers fell along the same lines as the Greeks, Irish and Black workers. Laboring forces. I will need your email to send you a copy of the camp drawing. Mine is

      • Lisa ferraro said:

        Ronald, i really enjoy your blog. Your stories and photos are wonderful.

        I was curious if i could get a copy of the diagram and any other info you may have of the italian workers camps for loch raven. I have recently found notes stating that family immigrated from italy to work there.

        Many thanks

      • Ronald Parks said:

        Hi Lisa, thanks for reading my blog. As you can see, I have not done much history writing in the last few years. I am retired and away from all those records. I did a quick search of “camps” in my book and there are 51 entries. Too many to cut and paste for this response. Send me an email and I will send you the drawing of the camps at Loch Raven for the workers.. rep5355@msn.com Somewhere in the DPW Baltimore City archives there is a box with all the workers names, families, religion, where from etc. I do not know where that box is or who could find it for you.

  12. Fascinating blog. Reading some of the material here really puts a human spin on the issue of water/wastewater treatment. Its one thing to gloss over a quick summary of how the potable water and sewerage systems came into being, but I actually find information on how the transition actually went. More importantly, that it was not an overnight accomplishment when viewed through the lens of history, especially when we are safely 100 plus years in the future.

    I really enjoy the old photographs and accounts of how it really happened.

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Thanks for your comments and for reading my blog. As I do my research I am constantly amazed at the structures and the water works. Years ago my mindset was “They don’t build them like that anymore!” But what I found is that the engineers back then struggled the same way today’s engineers do, but now there are just so many new federal guidelines that it is near impossible to build them like they use to. That old saying I guess rings true – The more things change, the more they stay the same! Thanks again!

  13. I’ve enjoyed your blog. Under the “Uknown” category you have a photo of an ice flow on the Gunpowder river. You asked about the location. I recognize the building. It’s the Warren mill.
    Also in a recent walk on the blue trail you photographed a stone ruin. What you may have found is the ruins of the other garrison fort. County historian John McGrain writes there was another fort located near the Overshot branch. I recall reading of this in a book he authored on Baltimore countly history available from BCPL system.
    In the photographic images, do you have a photo of the Royston bridge over the Gunpowder river a little south of the Warren bridge? If you do could you post it?

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Thanks for the information and for reading my blog. As soon as I am settled with my moving to Salisbury, I will look for the Royston bridge. I do remember seeing a photo of a farm the City bought captioned as Royston.

  14. Brian Paulsen said:

    Hi Ron,
    Great blog, I am one of the DPW Police Officers and I work (and live nearby) Liberty Reservoir, so I am very familiar with the area. I love all of the old pics of the bridges and other features of Liberty…keep them coming!

  15. Deborah Bell Garrett said:

    Hi, Ron. I found your blog while looking for old images of the Loch Raven Dam. I have never been in your area, but I have come by old photographs courtesy of ShopGoodwill.com that keep me entertained and busy researching the locations and/or people I find there. I have photos from all over the USA from late 1800’s to the 1950’s+. Most seem to come from the 1930s +/- 15 years. One collection included photos of Atlantic City. More photos show a large body of water with old houses on small islands. One photo shows a Chris-Craft zooming across the water.

    Then we get to this dam. After scanning and zooming in I found the name on the building on the dam: 1912 Loch Raven Dam 1922. (The letters were faint, but I think I got the dates right. It took some time and research to come up with “Loch Raven”, but it fits.) After looking at the few photos I have of the dam, I had this “aha” moment concerning a previously unidentified place in another photo. I’ve searched online but cannot find a view of the dam to confirm whether this photo was taken on the dam or not.

    You seem like just the person to know (or know where to find out). I have posted the photo on my Instagram so you can view it. I’d love to know if this is at Loch Raven Dam or if I need to continue my search. Your help would be much appreciated.

    I am willing to donate photos to a museum or historical society. Last year I made a donation to the North Dakota Historical Society and am currently in contact with the South Dakota Historical Society. I’m loving looking through the old photos and then doing enough sleuthing to find the location and approximate date. From what I’ve seen you enjoy the same type of research, but seem to have more hands-on research available to you.

    Best Wishes,

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Hi Debbie, Sorry it has taken a couple days to get back to you. Your photograph of the dam from afar is indeed Loch Raven. Your statement of 1912 threw me though so I looked through my photographs and notes. 1912 was on that valve house Today it is marked as 1914, 1922 and 2005. The damn was started in 1912 and actually wasn’t put in service until 1915. Then the City of Baltimore built a higher dam directly on top of that one in 1922. It 2005 it received a major face lift. As far as the little boy on the dam, I am not sure if that is Loch Raven or not. I do not remember the valve handles being shaped like that on the walkway.
      As far as donating photos that you find, they could be sent to the Baltimore City archives or to me and I can forward them.
      I do not do as much research as I use to since retiring in January.
      a friend of mine has a blog on here called Stuff I Found. He will go into an old shop, find a photograph of a person then research the whole family history of that photo.
      Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to ask any other questions.

  16. Daphne Glover Ferrier said:

    Hi Ron! I’m wondering if you could let me know where the 2 images of Loch Raven and Pretty Boy in 2002 in your piece on Baltimore droughts from 2016 came from. I would like to get permission to use those images for a piece on the Gunpowder River for MPT. Could you let me know how to get in contact with the owner? Many thanks!

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Hi Daphne, the 2002 images are from the DPW Museum Archives, which unfortunately are scattered all over the place (I could do a month of blog posts on the need of Baltimore to consolidate all its history!). Anyway, while working for the City I was the unofficial water historian and when people asked for permission to use photographs I would just tell them to give credit to the DPW Museum. I no longer work for the City so I guess Kurt Kocher would be able to give permission and tell you the proper way to credit. Thanks for reading my blog!

  17. Andrew Compton said:


    Great blog! I have come across it and returned to it several times while looking up historic photographs and researching local history. Just last night, I ordered both of your books off Amazon and can’t wait to read them and add them to my collection of books on local (MD/ Baltimore) history.

    I’m a mechanical engineer and have had an interest in Baltimore’s water supply system for quite a while now. There is a map that I’ve come across from JHU’s library (https://jscholarship.library.jhu.edu/handle/1774.2/34139) and of the number of times I’ve looked at this, I only recently saw and subsequently found out about the “balancing” reservoir that was used and located adjacent to Loch Raven Reservoir. I read about it on your blog and was never aware that this thing was located in what is now Cromwell Valley Park. I guess I’ll have to go scope it out in person now to get some photographs of its remaining features.

    Through your blog as well as another website, I’ve found links to what I believe was a “Baltimore City Water” website, but the website doesn’t seem to be live anymore. Do you happen to know what happened or where the information contained in it may have went? (http://lrr-bcw.info/BalancingReservoirStandPipe.pdf)

    If you have not checked these out, Baltimore Heritage has a couple YouTube videos that you may enjoy. One is specifically about the Montebello Filtration Plant, and the other is about Mount Royal Terrace and gets into the reservoir that was located there.

    Thanks again for such an informative blog! I’ve learned quite a bit from it!


    • Ronald Parks said:

      You are most welcome Andrew and thanks for buying my books! I was just out at the Balancing Reservoir on December 20th. Not so humbly showing my daughter a historical marker with my name and photos on it! If you get a chance go. It took me forever to find it. Luckily at a History talk at the Sherwood House, a guy named Thom gave a history on it. I asked him to show it to me and he did. Lot of water history in that park – including the three dams adjacent. I know you are thinking there are only two dams, but one is under the other. The only thing that may have happened to that one link is the new admin changed things around. The P.I. guy for the City recently passed away so no one is updating. I’ve used JHU website many times. Also the Md State Archives and MdHS. You can search my name under Special Collections at MSA and there is a lot of water history. I have seen the Balt. Heritage videos. Johns Hopkins, well sometimes I just have to shake my head! At a talk, he once suggested that some one should buy and convert the Roland Standpipe into a condo!!?? On my Facebook page are a lot of old photos and history. Look under albums. Not so much lately as I have retired.
      Again, thank you

  18. Hi Ron! I stumbled across your blog while researching the Woodberry Quarry and subsequent landfill and I just wanted to let you know how much enjoy your writing and your adventures. Also, noticing that the Fluoride Action Network is at the top of your blog roll, I feel compelled to mention that my father is Dr. Bob Carton ( now retired, formerly with the EPA) who’s been active in fluoride issues for many decades now.
    Anyway, thanks for making your excellent writing and photography available. As a Baltimore history buff ( and Baltimore resident) as well as a big fan of local exploration, history, and “ off the beaten path” knowledge about Maryland and surrounding areas, I am thrilled to read about your and your wife’s adventures!

    • Ronald Parks said:

      We are glad you enjoy our history/adventures! Mostly adventures since retiring a couple years ago.
      Funny you mention fluoride. Yesterday I was considering writing another blog about fluoride after seeing someone posted a photo of mine (Mayor hitting the on switch adding fluoride to Baltimore’s drinking water) on Facebook. I was amazed at the positive comments. Some of these people are anti vaccine people. Ironic huh? Allowing the government to put fluoride in their water and toothpaste but saying it is wrong to get a vaccine because it is their right to refuse!
      Sorry, you got me started!
      Anyway, thank you!

  19. Hi Ron, I recently found your blog and love all of the great history and photos about Baltimore water and infrastructure. Thanks for sharing!

    I’m an artist and designer working on a public art and history project related to Baltimore’s buried streams. I was wondering if you had an suggestions or resources for tracking down photography and information on the construction of the city storm sewer system?

    In particular, I’m interested in photos/history of the Sumwalt Run storm sewer system and ice pond (in Remington and Charles Village), but generally am interested in the diversion and burial of any city streams. I’d love any recommendations if you recall seeing photos or have pointers or suggestions on specific places to look. Thanks so much!

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Thanks for reading my blog, glad you like it. It seems like I haven’t written on history in about 3 years. I started a storm water and sewage history book (companion to my Water Supply History book) before I retired with the intent of finishing it, but being retired is a lot of fun! I haven’t had time. Before retiring I attended a meeting at Clifton Mansion where there was discussion on ‘day lighting’ a storm/sewerage stream in the park but I don’t know what happened to that. Most of the info I gathered for my book came from the mayor’s messages. A Google Book Search will give you tons of info, free downloadable books. If you send me an email at rep5355@msn.com I will send you the info that I have. There is also a lot of books and photos at the Baltimore City Archives on Mathews Street. I turned over most of the stuff I researched to them. There are also copies of sewer and water history books at Montebello filters. Somewhere i have an old map of Remington? Not sure what I may have on Sumwalt Run. It doesn’t sound familiar. Good luck!

  20. Can Ronald Parks or someone who reads his blog tell me where
    the Big Inch pipeline starts? Is the intake above or below the Conowingo Dam? Thank you.

    • Ronald Parks said:

      It is above the dam, about 1/4 mile up on the left. You can see the intake valves from the entrance road, off the parking lot to the visitor center and swimming pool. Either on this blog or on my Facebook page I have photos of it.

  21. David Chapin said:

    Mr. Parks, Over the years, I have very much enjoyed reading your Water and Me posts, focusing on the history of Baltimore’s water supply. They are always very interesting and informative.
    Two questions:
    1. How might easily I access all of the posts, going back to the inception of your blog? I’m sure there must be an easy way to do it, but it eludes me.
    2. I recently purchased your book “Baltimore Water Supply History”. I am absolutely amazed at the time and dedicated effort you put into this endeavor. Can you describe the process by which you noted, summarized, and in many cases word for word transcribed the contents of the documents you cataloged? Did you use a digital optical scanner? Even if you did, it must have taken an immense amount of time to do the work.
    You are to be commended for your contribution to preserving the historical record. There must be a few, but I can not think of anyone else who has devoted so much time as a municipal employee to such an effort. The need is great.
    If you would prefer to respond by email, my address is chapindj@comcast.net
    David Chapin

  22. Darren Dunker, P.E. said:

    First, I love this site. Love reading the history. My company, Thompson Pipe Group, is a manufacturer of concrete pressure pipe. The first concrete pressure pipe line in the US was the 108″/84″ line from the high dam on Gunpowder Falls to the and into the existing 12′ tunnel. DPW has a current project where they are installing a new flowmeter on old 108″ concrete pressure pipe at the Montebello Filtration plant. I am writing a paper on how they will connect the old concrete pressure pipe with new concrete pressure pipe. Would it be possible to use one of the old pictures of the plant you have posted here in my paper?

    • Ronald Parks said:

      Thanks for enjoying my blog. And yes you may use any photo for your paper. If you need a better quality photo let me know and I will email it to you. Are you aware that a contractor a few years ago, while building the Plant II underground basin was not aware of the difference in size of the interconnecting pipe from plant I to plant II? Their pipe was off by about 10″ I believe. Some diameters are not the same sizes as what are on the drawings. I would like to see your paper when you are done if that is ok?

      • Darren Dunker said:

        Interesting comment on the difference in sizes. We are currently waiting for A Myers to dig everything up so we can confirm dimensions. As soon as my paper gets the blessed by ASCE, I would be happy to provide a copy and if you have a better quality photo, I would love to get a copy of it. Its the view from the reservoir showing the plant as it looked in the 1920’s.

      • Ronald Parks said:

        Is there a number on the photo or can you tell me what post it was from – Date, title, etc.

  23. Azade Diykan said:

    I am a Morgan State Landscape Architecture student. I’m researching the design of Baltimore area’s reservoirs. I want to compare the designs of Lake Montebello, Druid Lake and Loch Raven Reservoir, but I’d like to see a map of the pipe system. Could you point me in the right direction?

    • Ronald Parks said:

      I have retired. Your best bet would be the engineering department at Montebello. Ask for Richard Vann. Baltimore City also has an interactive map showing all the pipes underground.

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