Watertown, Mass. — Bathtubs and fixtures from the late 1800s, plumbing catalogs from the early 1900s and a variety of other noteworthy artifacts will be on display for plumbing enthusiasts when a re-located Plumbing Museum opens here in fall 2008.
The Plumbing Museum, previously based in Worcester, Mass., is moving to a renovated icehouse at the company headquarters of J.C. Cannistraro LLC, one of the largest mechanical union contractors in New England. John Cannistraro Jr. is the president of the family business.
“We want to tell a story by showing the progression of plumbing through the centuries, from the earliest pieces to the modern pieces of today,” Cannistraro said.
The family of Russell Manoog, of Manoog Supply in Worcester, founded the museum in the 1970s, according to Tom Palange, marketing coordinator for J.C. Cannistraro.
“He's now ready for retirement, so earlier this year he was looking for a family-oriented business and somebody who was interested in plumbing to take over the collection,” Palange said.
He said Cannistraro, who also is the president of the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling-Contractors Association of Greater Boston, and members of the trade organization thought it might be a good idea to become the curators of the museum.
Cannistraro's company has since renovated a 150-year-old abandoned icehouse that will serve as the museum's new home, Palange said.
“We're in the process right now of putting the pieces in place. We're trying to get all of the equipment documented, inventoried and put into place so that it's all ready to go,” he said.
The museum will have displays outlining the history of the industry, with examples of tools, materials and fixtures from various periods, including the early 18th century, Victorian period, the early 20th century and contemporary times. It also will have full examples of the structure of a “typical” modern-day plumbing system, such as exposed piping of a three-family home.
In addition, the museum will feature a historic lavatory bowl whose only other example is at President Thomas Jefferson's Monticello home, antique plumbing tools and fittings, old copper tubs and wooden water pipes from old Boston mains. Cambridge Seven Architects is overseeing the overall design and rendering of the museum layout.
Palange said the museum will be well-suited for educational purposes, particularly for his company's large intern co-op program.
“We take in a lot of different co-op students -- people who are going into engineering, estimating, plumbing, HVAC or an apprentice program,” he said. “It also is going to be a great opportunity to bring school groups in to look at the history of plumbing and to bring in people from around the area who are interested in plumbing.”
Already the museum's new location has garnered interest from some of its original patrons inquiring about its new digs, according to Palange.
“I actually had a lady call me a couple weeks ago. Her father was coming up from Florida and she said, ‘You know, every time my father would come up to Worcester, he would go out (to the Plumbing Museum) because he was a plumber by trade. It was his favorite educational spot in all of New England.’”
The museum's board of trustees will include representatives from both the Cannistraro and Manoog families, Michael Kohler of the Kohler family, PHCC of Greater Boston's Executive Director Hugh Kelleher and representatives from the vocational education community.
Additional information is available at www.theplumbingmuseum.org.