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Starin Park Water Tower proposed as a local landmark

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By Kimberly Wethal

Nov. 4, 2015

 

A structure considered iconic for its folklore and legends may become just that – but for a different reason.

Located in Starin Park, the water tower is commonly referred to as the Witches’ Tower due to the City of Whitewater’s haunted past, is being nominated as a local landmark by the City of Whitewater Landmarks Commission. Its historical significance supports its nomination as one of the oldest functioning water towers in the state, along with its unique design, said Landmarks Commission city representative Alan Luckett.

The stand-pipe construction of the water tank and its positioning on its limestone brick tower is what makes it unique as a structure, Luckett says. The interior design of the water tower includes a wooden spiraling staircase, imitating the structure of a lighthouse.

The tower has been standing since the late 1880s, and was constructed by a man named C. E. Gray after Duane Starin gave the property that is now Starin Park, once called Prospect Park, to the city. In the April 11, 1889 issue of the Whitewater Register, the tower is described as being a way to “furnish water for domestic use, and as a fire protection during the incipiency of a fire.”

Gray was under a 25-year contract to complete the rest of the water system in Whitewater as well.

“It’s like a statue,” Luckett said. “Even though it’s as simple as the water tower, it’s still like the statue of the park. It draws you to it. It’s the lighthouse of our little community.”

Luckett conducted much of the research that went into the proposal.

The water tower will be considered a local landmark if the proposal passes, said Landmarks Commission member Patricia Blackmer. The proposal itself lists the classifications of the water tower, along with its condition and its significance to the community.

“Eventually everybody ends up seeing that structure,” Blackmer said.

The water tower’s landmark proposal has as much to do with the past as it does with the future. Luckett says another reason behind the proposal is to make sure the water tower is preserved, and doesn’t “disappear.” The tower can be decommissioned and no longer used without affecting its landmark status, Luckett says, but it would prevent it from being torn down.

“It has architecture that is basically a representation of early Whitewater,” Luckett said.

The water tower “retained its integrity” throughout the years, Luckett said, and hasn’t undergone many cosmetic changes since it was built in 1889. Any improvements have preserved the look of the structure. There’s now a metal fence around the tower, replacing the old barbwire fence from decades ago that used to circle around it. Whether it’s to keep evil and malevolence in, or to keep curious people out, Blackmer doesn’t know, she jokes.

The first step of the proposal was filling out the Local Landmark Designation Form that involves all of the details of the proposal.

The next step is notifying the surrounding community about the landmark proposal, which is defined as the area 300 feet around the structure. All of UW-Whitewater’s residence halls are more than 300 feet away from the structure, and no other private properties or homes are within that range.

A public hearing is required to be held before receiving final approval from the Landmarks Commission and the Whitewater Common Council. Both Luckett and Blackmer are predicting the water tower will be approved with no problems because of its history and location.

Blackmer doesn’t think the landmark proposal will sustain any objections.

“This happens to be in a pocket of the city where there’s no need to tear it down,” Luckett said. “It’s not like they’re going to build a Best Buy in Starin Park. As long as it’s not harmful or dangerous to anyone, there’s no need in tearing it down.”

The public hearing will be open to all Whitewater residents, but does not have a finalized date.

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Founded 1901
Starin Park Water Tower proposed as a local landmark