"(T)here being considerable apprehension as to the safety of the dam and lake ... the water board requested three well-known engineers ... to investigate and report on the work .... After a very thorough and careful investigation, these engineers reported ... that it would be difficult to make a more perfect bank than that of Druid Lake."
- Alfred M. Quick, Chief Engineer, Baltimore Water Works, February 20, 1902
Like other American cities in the late 19th century, Baltimore had grown so quickly its supply system was unable to provide city residents with a dependable supply of water. Two reservoirs built outside the city helped increase capacity, but heavy rainfalls in the largely agricultural area tended to foul this additional water supply. City officials elected to construct a holding reservoir within the city - contained by an earthen dam - where silty water would be allowed to settle.
No such project had ever been undertaken in the United States. The site chosen was a ravine in Druid Hill Park, a public city park that contained a small stream. Beginning in 1864, Robert K. Martin, a civil engineer for the Baltimore Water Department, oversaw the design and construction of a 119-foot dam built with materials excavated from the reservoir bed. Orchestrating a careful sequence of construction steps and using readily available construction equipment, Martin pioneered design principles and building methods still in use today.