Beloit Water Tower 1885

© Photographed July 20, 2015
Erected 1885
Beloit, Rock County, Wisconsin
42.509099,-89.030615 (location of water tower)
42.508735,-89.031425 (parking lot to access water tower

The Beloit Water Tower is located at Water Tower Park and is accessible from a parking lot at the Friends of Riverfront building located on northbound South Riverfront Drive / Pleasant Street / U.S. Route 51, just north of its intersection with White Avenue / Wisconsin Highway 81, at or near 1003 Pleasant Street, Beloit, Wisconsin 53511.

The Beloit Water Tower is listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Historical Society: Architecture and History Inventory
530 Tower Street, Rock County, Beloit
Historic Name: Beloit Water Tower
Reference Number: 16570
Year Built: 1885
Architectural Style: Astylistic Utilitarian Building
Architect: J.B. Kinley of Chicago
Wall Material: Limestone
National Register Listing Date: 1983-01-07
State Register Listing Date: 1989-01-01
National Register Multiple Property Name: Multiple Resources of Beloit

Additional Information:
The old Beloit Water Tower is the most imposing structure on the site of a complex of structures including a pump house and a large steel pipe with water tank. The tower is built on one of the highest points of the city. Octagonal in shape, the staged tower was constructed of local limestone and was described as "one of the most massive pieces of mason work put up in the country." The tower consists of four octagonal shaped drums. Each drum is recessed eight inches from the drum below. Alternate stages of alternate faces of the tower are punctured by pointed arch openings. The 36-foot tower is 36 feet in diameter at the base and 30 feet at the top. The walls at the base are eight feet thick. On top of the tower there once was a tank 30 feet in diameter and 20 feet deep, made of three inch cypress lumber. The capacity of the tank was 100,000 gallons. The cypress tank collapsed in 1914 and was replaced by a metal tank of the same size. A cupola surmounted by a flag pole sat atop the tank. Stairs in the interior of the tower led to the bottom of the tank and on the outside of the tank was a stairway to the roof. A balcony was formed around the top of the tower, at the base of the tank, affording a "look-out" point for any who were able to make the long climb. The tank was constructed by the Eclipse Wind Mill Company of Beloit. The metal tank was removed, as well as the interior stairway after the construction of the steel stand pipe and tank, to the west of the original tower. In spite of these losses and the partially ruinous state of the structure, the stone mass of the tower itself emphatically remains a significant visual landmark in Beloit, visible for some distance on its prominent bluff top site. The strength and character of its stone masonry have always been its dominant characteristic, and the integrity of the stonework has not been materially damaged by the loss of the non-masonry portions of the structure. The wooden tank in particular was by its nature transient; the removed stairway was never visible from the exterior.

Wooden roof has been removed.

Other buildings on the site include the old pumping station (separate record), a small brick pump shed (separate record), an ice-cream store, and the currently used metal water tower.

The Beloit Water Tower is the major structure associated with the development of the nineteenth century city water works system, and the last significant structure still standing which reflects the civic development of Beloit in the ninteenth century. This important public work, which has been a landmark in the city since its construction in 1885, was built to protect Beloit from the omnipresent threat of fire. As a side benefit -- but just as important to the health and prosperity of the city -- the water works project provided as central water distribution system to residences and businesses (as well as public buildings). The upgrading of public facilities resulted in an important improvement to the quality of life in Beloit, including greater public safety and better public health.

In the late 1880s, as the city of Beloit, increased in population and industry, citizens pressed for water works and adequate fire protection for their buildings. Until then, fire department depended on private wells and cisterns to provide water for their stream operated fire engines. Many times these proved inadequate as the water stream could not be maintained to extinguish the fire. Many buildings were consumed and lost. There was also considerable concern about the health standards required for drinking water and sanitation procedures for private wells. Diseases (including diphtheria and typhoid fever) were communicated through unsanitary water systems. A centralized water distribution system also allowed for control of health standards for drinking water.

Debate in Beloit hinged on whether the works should be publicly or privately owned. Several years of debate and referendums to establish the public demand as well as the type of ownership for the water works systems preceded the building of the structure. Beloit citizens approved privately owned utilities and the city paid a tax for the use of the fire hydrants.

The Janesville Gazette reported the opening of the Beloits Works as a "glad day for Beloit, the completion of her water works and the public exhibition of the efficiency of the same causing universal pride and gratification as no public matter has ever done in later day history of the city. Not alone that our citizens have long felt the absolute need of water works as a protection against the fire, but because also of the other innumerable advantages derived from the water works."

Built of local limestone and by local masons, the Beloit Water Tower was designed by J.B. Kinley of Chicago, an engineer with the Fairbanks, Morse Co., of Chicago, the general contractors for the Beloit Works. The Eclipse Wind Engine Company was responsible for the wooden tank atop the tower; Eclipse manufactured railroad water tanks and were also responsible for the tank at the water works system in Elkhart, Indiana. In 1895, the Fairbanks Morse and Eclipse Wind Engine Companys consolidated under one management as Fairbanks, Morse & Co., one of the most important manufacturing companies in Beloit in the 1900s.

For the Beloit Works, seven and a quarter mile of mains were laid out in the city in 1885, and as an incentive to the citizens to abandon their private wells, the first 100 patrons to subscribe to the service were given free service pipe to the curb stone. The system used over 850 tons of iron, including the pipes and machinery. Seventy-two doube hydrants were placed throughout the city on both the east and west sides of the Rock River for fire protection to the industrial as well as the residential sections of Beloit.

The 63 foot Beloit Water Tower, gave the gravitational pressure to the water flow, and direct pressure from steam operated Smith and Vale pumps, constructed in Dayton, Ohio, allowed a fire stream of two inches at the hydrant. The pumping station, located just southwest of the stone standpipe, provided water pressure to both sides of the Rock River in the city of Beloit. This meant a pipe had to be laid across the river from the east side, where the pumping station is located, to the west side. A second pumping station was built in 1894 on the west side of the river when the capacity of the one station could no longer provide adequate service. In 1929, a new metal water tower replaced the masonry structure.

Today, the Tower is the last recognizable and significant structure associated with the civic life of Beloit in the ninteenth century, and represents a historically significant response to the expanding industry and population of the city in that era.
The foregoing content used with gracious permission of Wisconsin Historical Society.

One pump house building . . .

The main pump house building.

The water tower is located at Water Tower Park.

 Beloit Welcome Sign
The water tower is located in Beloit, Rock County, Wisconsin.

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