Historic Water Towers Still Have A Role in Central Iowa

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SCRANTON, Iowa -- Two steel water towers built in 1897 are still serving a purpose in central Iowa towns.

In Scranton, the water tower constructed 118 years ago is the oldest working water tower in Iowa. It is the town's only water tower. It has been inspected every year of late, but now consultants say every other year would be enough to assure this tower is still sound.

At Iowa State University in Ames, the Marston water tower stands empty, but it has been restored due to its historical significance. It was the first elevated water tower erected west of the Mississippi River. Classes were cancelled at Iowa State in 1895 due to lack of water, so the school decided to put up the water tower. It was designed by Anson Marston, head of Civil Engineering at ISU then.

The Marston water tower has not been used since 1978.  In 1981, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. On special occasions the tower is illuminated at night.

In Scranton, people traveling on the Lincoln Highway sometimes swing through town.

“We get visitors that will stop in City Hall occasionally throughout the year, they want to take pictures by the water tower, and get information on the water tower," said Melinda Hinners, Scranton City Clerk.

In 2008 when RAGBRAI came through, city officials did all they could do to keep RAGBRAI riders from climbing the ladder on the tower.

The tower also has a historic event which happened in 1907. The town's water mains, and water tower froze in bitter cold weather.

“They tried to thaw the water tower by starting a fire underneath, in that process the fire got out of control," said Scranton Mayor B.J Wright. "There were men that tried to dump water from the top, and put it out, and end up actually falling into the water tower, and were rescued by ropes."

City officials are pondering promoting the Oldest Water Tower more, as a way to attract visitors to this Greene County town.

If you'd like to know more about Iowa's Oldest Working Water Tower, click here.

For more on the Iowa State University Marston Water Tower, click here.