Old water tower gets state nod for national list



Hillsboro?s 84-year-old water tower has passed a preliminary hurdle for placement on the National Register of Historic Places.

Based on the recommendation of the Historic Sites Board of Review, the Kansas Historical Society voted Aug. 13 to forward the nomination of the tower to the office of the Keeper of the National Register in Washing?ton, D.C.

If staff there concur with the board?s findings, the tower, built in 1927, will be included on the National Register.

The city of Hillsboro initiated the nomination process primarily for the financial benefits the designation would provide for water-tower maintenance, according to Larry Paine, city administrator.

?Getting the water tower on the National Register would enable us to compete for a grant program that would allow for a historical rehabilitation and repair of the water tower,? Paine said.

?Since we use that (tower) as a backup when we?re doing cleaning, or whatever, on the other water tower, it is essential that we have that (older) water tower in good repair.?

In addition to serving as a backup to the newer and larger tower on the south edge of town, the old tower provides water to the west side of the city, Paine said.

Responding to the tower?s maintenance needs, the city council authorized Davis Preserva?tion, LLC, to prepare an application to the state historic preservation officer at its April 19 meeting.

?There were some problems with the catwalk welding coming unwelded, and some of the plates having some rust, and that sort of thing,? Paine said of the maintenance needs.

If the tower is added to the National Register, the grant process would be similar to the one used this year to replace the roof on the William F. Schaeffler House. In that case, the city applied for funds several times before a grant was approved.

Being listed on the National Register does create a possible inconvenience for surrounding business that want to make structural improvements to their properties.

?One of the disadvantages is that within 500 feet (of the historic property), you have to go through a screening process on zoning issues and building permit issues that have to be addressed by the Kansas Histor?ical Society before we can issue a building permit,? Paine said.


The three affected properties would be The Lumber?yard, the Cooperative Grain & Supply elevator, and the new storage units erected by Ken and Tom Koslowsky.

?Given the fact that the three major property owners within 500 feet have already accomplished their major work, I don?t see a problem,? Paine said.

?There?s a state supreme court ruling that defines a whole bunch of criteria that have to be checked off in order for the city to go ahead and issue a building permit,? he said. ?It?s an inconvenience, but it can be done.?

The National Register of Historic Places is the country?s official list of historically significant properties.

Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service?s National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate and protect America?s historic and archeological resources.

Eligible properties must be significant for one or more of the four criteria:

? if they are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history.

? if they are associated with the lives of persons significant in our past.

? if they embody the characteristic of a type, period, or method of construction, or represent the work of a master, or possess high artistic values, or represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction.

? if they have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in prehistory or history.

The National Register recognizes properties of local, state?wide and national significance.

No timetable was released for the consideration of the water tower?s nomination.


 Tower linked to city?s past, growth

The 1927 Hillsboro Water Tower was constructed as part of Hillsboro?s first municipal water and sewer system. The first efforts toward a municipal fire protection system in Hills?boro came in 1888, when the city purchased a human-powered water pump. This $700 implement, which consisted of a tank, pump, and hose mounted on a two-wheeled wagon, required eight to 10 volunteers to operate it. In an 1897 fire that threatened John G. Hill?s Badger Lumber Co., the apparatus proved no better than a bucket brigade. This equipment was used until 1900, when?at the apparent urging of Mayor Hill, who had just lost his coal sheds to fire?the city purchased new equipment. In 1912, the year the city established its first fire department, the city?s ?water system? consisted of wells and cisterns with a capacity of 11,000 gallons. Without adequate water pressure, all the equipment and firemen in the world proved futile against the inevitable infernos?and a dependably clean water supply would have been impossible. Hillsboro?s citizens voted in favor of a bond issue in 1926 and a comprehensive water project was completed in 1927. The 75,000-gallon steel-plated water tower was nominated for its local significance in the area of community planning and development.

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