Crews unearth pieces of Providence history

Pieces of a wooden water main laid in Providence in 1772.

Is it a telephone pole?

Pieces of the original Lincoln logs?

How about a pencil for a giant?

All good guesses, but wooden cylinders dug up Friday were part of a water main that carried water through the city of Providence in the 1700s.

Road crews working in the area of Richmond Street unearthed the pieces of history while they were working on the current pipes under the roads.

The wooden pipes are being held at the Providence Water Authority offices in Cranston as officials are gathering materials for use in a museum they are creating to display the history of the state's water system.

The wooden pipes were laid in 1772. They were manufactured and installed by groups called fountain societies and were used to carry fresh water from springs on high ground down into the city.

What may be most amazing when considering the age of these pipes is that they are still intact. Wooden pipes were typically made of hemlock or elm because it is the best wood for resisting moisture.

They were typically cut into 7- to 9-foot lengths and their trunks were around 9- to 10-inches thick.

The joints were hand-manufactured as well, likely by angling the tip with an ax so they would fit together.

The holes through the pipes were bored by men using a 5-foot steel auger.

The Providence Water Authority said there are probably more pieces of wooden pipe under the roads, but they will be keeping the two pieces for display in the museum.