Unique New England Museums: The Plumbing Museum

By Carla Charter

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WATERTOWN, MA . –  Plumbing, we all use it every day but rarely think of the history behind the pipes. The Plumbing Museum in Watertown is out to change that.  “We take plumbing for granted. The history of plumbing has an interesting history. Plumbing evolved over time. Indoor plumbing began in the late 1800’s but it was very expensive at that time. Many people used outhouses or chamber pots. All plumbing at that time was done by hand and it was a lot of work,” according to Sasha Parfenova, Museum Program Manager.

The museum’s collection was started in Worcester in the 1950’s by Charles Manoog of the Mannog Plumbing Co. He started collecting antique plumbing appliances he had acquired from different jobs in and around Worcester and built up a collection.  In 1979 Charles Manoog’s son, Russell, established the American Sanitary Plumbing Museum. After Russell retired, Cannistraro Co. purchased the collection which now resides in a historic former ice house in Watertown, Ma.  “It is quite an eclectic collection,” Parfenova said.

Artifacts at the museum include old wooden pipes, toilets with early flushing mechanisms, a composting toilet made out of wood as well as old tubs and sinks. “We recently acquired a water pump made entirely out of wood. It is a great addition to the collection.”

The museum attracts about 1,000 visitors a year, including tourists and students on field trips from vocational and technical schools. Public and private events can also be hosted at the museum.  The museum also offers an in-house artist in residence program.

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