Wisconsin Historical Society

National or State Registers Record

South High and Fourth Streets

National or State Register of Historic Places
South High and Fourth Streets | National or State Registers Record | Wisconsin Historical Society
Historic Name:Fort Atkinson Water Tower
Reference Number:05001298
Location (Address):South High and Fourth Streets
City/Village:Fort Atkinson
Fort Atkinson Water Tower
South High and Fourth streets, Fort Atkinson, Jefferson County
Builder: E. Kuhnert Company
Date of construction: 1901

Considerable community debate preceded the construction of Fort Atkinson's water tower and waterworks system. For almost 10 years, a small, but influential group of citizens blocked efforts of the pro-waterworks group, led by the Hoard family's Jefferson County Daily Union, to bring the issue to a referendum. Finally, in 1901, an overwhelming majority passed a waterworks referendum.

In the summer and fall of 1901, the waterworks system was built, including this 75 foot high cream brick tower and 35 foot high metal tank. Before the tank was attached to the brick structure, the tower became a tourist attraction, as citizens climbed to the top to get a 15-mile view. The tank was fabricated on site and after the pump house and mains were constructed, the waterworks opened in November of 1901.

The waterworks systems of the turn of the twentieth century were a result of centuries of development in the conveyance of clean water. By the late nineteenth century, waterworks systems of deep wells, pumping stations, underground pipes, and water towers were standard for small communities in the state. The masonry tower and tank reservoir, like the Fort Atkinson Water Tower, was the most popular choice for water towers.

Fort Atkinson's delay in constructing their water works system did prove to have one advantage. By 1901, it was known that the masonry tower and metal reservoir was the most economical water reservoir system for small communities. The city also knew that it was better for them to build their own system, rather than having a private company build it, because most private systems were now in the hands of city governments. This made for an immediate success of the Fort Atkinson waterworks system.

The Fort Atkinson Water Tower is a fine and well-preserved example of a turn of the twentieth century water tower. It represents the era of important public improvements in Wisconsin's communities and the dominance this type of technology at the time.

Period of Significance:1901-1955
Area of Significance:Architecture
Area of Significance:Community Planning And Development
Applicable Criteria:Architecture/Engineering
Applicable Criteria:Event
Historic Use:Industry/Processing/Extraction: Water Works
Architectural Style:No Style Listed
Resource Type:Structure
Architect:E. Kuhnert Company
Historic Status:Listed in the National Register
Historic Status:Listed in the State Register
National Register Listing Date:11/15/2005
State Register Listing Date:07/15/2005
Number of Contributing Buildings:0
Number of Contributing Sites:0
Number of Contributing Structures:1
Number of Contributing Objects:0
Number of Non-Contributing Sites:0
Number of Non-Contributing Structures:1
Number of Non-Contributing Objects:0
National Register and State Register of Historic Places, Division of Historic Preservation, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin

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