Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Deerwood: Water tower on the range August 30, 2021

An historic 1914 water tower in Deerwood, Minnesota. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2021.

A TIME EXISTED WHEN I PAID minimal attention to water towers. They all looked the same. Simple silver metal structures rising on leggy supports above prairie towns, dwarfed only by grain elevators.

Through the decades, those standard water towers have mostly vanished, replaced by more modern holding tanks. I understand the need to upgrade, to improve, to advance. Communities grow. Needs change. My city of Faribault is currently planning a new water tower, which will be visible from Interstate 35. If Faribault ever housed a simple metal tower, it was long before I moved here.

Community identifier. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2021.

But in the small town of Deerwood in Crow Wing County, a vintage water tower still stands, by a city park with picnic shelter and splash pad, near an apartment complex, next to the fire station and across the street from the historic Deerwood Auditorium (city hall and police department).

Randy and I discovered the 1914 water tower when we stopped for a picnic lunch en route to a family lake cabin on a Saturday afternoon in July. Previous drives north, we drove right through Deerwood without pause. In a hurry to get to our destination.

That’s problematic. That word, hurry. By hurrying, we too often miss simple delights. Like the historic Deerwood water tower.

Looking up at the tower offers artistic and architectural angles. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2021.

I grabbed my camera to photograph the tower, attempting to document it from multiple perspectives. Architecturally. Artistically. Historically.

Identifying construction information at the base of the Deerwood water tower. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2021.

Upon later researching the Deerwood water tower, built by the Des Moines Bridge & Iron Co., I learned it is one of five such Cuyuna Iron Range water towers on the National Register of Historic Places. Added in 1980, the other towers are located in Crosby, Cuyuna, Ironton and Trommaid. They are known collectively as the “Cuyuna Range Municipally-Owned Elevated Metal Water Tanks.”

Just another underneath view. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2021.

The towers, erected between 1912-1918, were of historical importance in development of the Cuyuna Iron Range. Tax revenue generated from the iron ore mines funded their construction.

Posted on a street corner by the water tower, a positive message. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo July 2021.

I appreciate that these five towns on the iron range valued their aged water towers enough to pursue and acquire historical designation. The water towers represent a time in Minnesota history. They represent, too, the architecture and art of yesteryear.

TELL ME: I’d like to hear of vintage water towers you’ve noticed and appreciate. Tell me, too, why you value them.

Please click here to read my previous post about the historic Deerwood Auditorium. And click here to read my post about the town’s deer sculpture in Elmer Park.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “In Deerwood: Water tower on the range”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Water, essential for life. You’ve captured every perspective! Cool subject to ponder.

  2. Fun tour of water towers. I always seem to notice them when we drive someplace and there are definitely a lot of shapes and sizes.

  3. Charles P Ziegler Says:

    My favorite aunt was a resident of Belview, Minnesota. I remember the water tower that the town had. I could see it from the grove of trees on my Grandfather’s farm in nearby Sheridan Township. I don’t know how old it is, or if it even still exists. You can see a photo of it here: https://www.google.com/search?q=belview+minnesota&rlz=1C1OKWM_enUS863US863&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiKl5WggdnyAhUoEVkFHTHNBs8Q_AUoA3oECAEQBQ&biw=1411&bih=653#imgrc=P42rINOmrybpLM

  4. Larry Gavin Says:

    Old water towers are like your toilet. That have a float that switches on a pump that fills the tower as the water is used, in the winter the float has to be adjusted to pump more frequently. So the water doesn’t freeze in the tower. It freezes and you are done. I climbed the Belview tower many times. For that and other reasons. Franklin had a wooden tower that froze. They tried to thaw it with a blowtorch and it burned down. I think that’s irony.

  5. Valerie Says:

    Who knew??? Even water towers can be historic!

  6. Susan Ready Says:

    Our Hackensack water tower this summer is getting a makeover with Lucette gracing the outside

  7. Norma Says:

    In the small town where I was raised, the younger residents liked to climb it. Not this resident, however!

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