Little mysteries present themselves daily to drivers in Akron. Traveling around town, a motorist might pass a certain street and wonder: “Why is it named that?”

Take Aqueduct Street on West Hill. The very name conjures images of imposing ruins from ancient Rome or Greece. Yet, the tree-lined, residential street, which links West Market Street with Memorial Parkway, doesn’t appear to have any arched passageways or stone conduits.

Upon closer inspection, though, Aqueduct Street oozes with history.

Before there was a street, before there was a neighborhood, before there was a village, a natural spring trickled through conglomerate rock. Ohio pioneers discovered it in the early 1800s, but given its proximity to the Portage Path between the Cuyahoga River and Tuscarawas River, American Indians must have known about it, too.

The rippling water was clear, pure and refreshingly cold. No matter the season, it flowed at a constant 57 degrees, inspiring the name Cold Spring. Thirsty settlers proclaimed the ever-gushing fountain as “the best water in the world.”

Real estate dealer Justin Ely of West Springfield, Mass., purchased the surrounding Portage Township property in the late 1790s through the Connecticut Land Co. His descendants sold three-quarters of an acre in the late 1840s to a group of businessmen who wanted to tap Cold Spring as a water works.

Akron was barely 20 years old and had a population of slightly more than 3,000 when the Akron Cold Spring Co. organized in 1848 with a capital stock of $3,700. Its primary backers were Benjamin Felt, Henry Rattle, Jonathan F. Fenn, Arod Kent, Horace K. Smith, William H. Dewey, Henry C. Crosby and Simon Perkins.

Yes, that Simon Perkins.

According to its articles of incorporation, the company was “authorized and empowered to locate and construct an aqueduct and such other works and appendages as may be necessary for the conveyance and protection of the water of a spring which is on the north part of lot five, tract two, in Portage Township in the county of Summit, to any part of said township.”

The company hired the foundry of G.D. Bates & Co. along the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal to manufacture 1½ miles of cast-iron pipes to descend the rugged terrain of West Hill. Most of the pipeline was buried more than 3 feet in the ground, but a few sections were visible as the aqueduct crossed two ravines.

The Akron Cold Spring Co. looked forward to providing “the best water in the world” to all of those who resided in the village, but it was happy to start with Spring Hill, the short-lived name for that section of West Hill serviced by the pipeline.

“It affords us much pleasure to state that the citizens of the west part of Akron — residing on the west hill — have at length secured at their doors an abundant supply of pure cold water,” the Summit County Beacon reported May 23, 1849. “… Better water cannot be found any where. It is pure, cold and soft. The volume issuing from the rock would, with proper care, supply the wants of a population of 6000 or 8000.”

The company held a community celebration to christen the pipeline, which traveled from present-day Aqueduct Street to West Market Street to Green Street.

“The water was conducted through the whole length of the pipes on Wednesday last, on which occasion our neighbors on the west hill had quite a jubilee,” the Beacon reported. “The brass field piece opened wide its brazen throat and mingled its thunder with the shouts of the assembled crowd, while the water shot up into the air and reflected the rays of the sun.”

Cold Spring initially serviced about 30 families on West Hill, producing about 350 barrels of water a day. The fresh water was a big selling point as homes were constructed in the neighborhood. Cold Spring Road was laid out along the pipeline route, but sometime in the 1860s, its name was changed to Aqueduct Street.

In 1880, the German Reformed Church bought 7 acres on the east side of Aqueduct Street for a cemetery. Today, Mount Peace Cemetery is the final resting place for more than 11,800 people.

The West Hill water works included two small reservoirs and a gate system to stem the flow in case of malfunction. Those gates were needed more than anticipated.

The pipes kept bursting — especially during subzero weather. Severe flooding from heavy rainstorms also undermined the aqueduct. Service was disrupted for weeks at a time until repairs could be made.

During an especially bad break in November 1889, company spokesman Turner N. Ganyard warned customers that they needed to make other plans for a few months.

“The pipe in this section is at places seven and eight feet underground and covered with brush and rubbish so that the exact location of the spot cannot be determined without a great deal of difficulty, and if cold weather comes on before we fix the break, the water supply may be shut off all winter,” he explained.

The Akron Cold Spring Co. hired city contractor John H. Doyle to install 8,800 feet of new 4-inch pipes in 1891 for $3,409 (about $114,700 today). After he completed the work, however, he claimed that he received only $1,804. After he sued, a jury awarded him $500.

Although the water company’s directors included many respected citizens, including George W. Billow, Charles F. Dick, Lorenzo Hall, Philander Hall, George A. Kempel, A.M. Armstrong and S.E. Phinney, its business practices grew erratic. Meetings frequently were postponed because of a lack of a quorum.

Despite plans for expansion, including the purchase of Chitty Spring near present-day Chitty Avenue, the company served about only 75 families at its peak. It became all but obsolete in 1915 once the city began offering public water from Lake Rockwell near Kent. The Akron Cold Spring Co. quietly pulled the plug in the 1920s after more than 70 years in business.

Aqueduct Street’s name is the last reminder of the defunct business.

Well, not quite.

For those who know where to look, Cold Spring continues to gurgle on private property in the residential neighborhood. The best water in the world is hiding in plain sight.

Mark J. Price can be reached at 330-996-3850 or mjprice@thebeaconjournal.com.