It has been a prominent part of the Windham Center landscape for over 65 years, and few residents can remember a time when it was not there. Situated adjacent to Windham Town Hall, the forest green-colored 110-foot elevated water storage tank has served “domestic, sanitary and municipal” needs since 1957 when the lofty structure was built to supply potable water for an expanding population in the Windham Center area.
|Built in 1957, the Windham Center water tower is old |
and undersized. Replacing the tank will allow the
Portland Water District to maximize usable storage,
improve water quality and and optimize system
hydraulics. COURTESY PHOTO
About 200,000 gallons of stored water sit high above four riser pipes, but Crovo says the current need is 1 million gallons in order to meet usage and water pressure. In addition, the tank needs to be 17 feet higher. He said, “The standpipe (water tower) is getting harder to maintain and has pretty much served its useful life.”
When the tower is taken down, probably sometime in 2024, Town Manager Barry Tibbetts anticipates the space will be used for overflow parking at the town hall.
A replacement tank is not destined to be on town hall hill. Instead, the new location will be a five-acre portion of the new 300-acre Lowell Preserve conservation and recreation park on Libby Hill in East Windham. And it is not slated to be a tower, although it will be elevated (417 feet, as opposed to the 110-foot town hall tower). The new tank can be described as a giant concrete cistern terraced into the side of Libby Hill; it will hold the needed 1 million gallons of stored water, and will serve many more households while supplying more equalized pressure to firefighting equipment.
Town manager Tibbetts describes the new arrangement as a “win-win” for the town office, the Portland Water District and its customers. He is particularly pleased with the partnership formed between the town and the PWD for the project. He says the district has secured an easement for the building of an access road off Falmouth Road to the new tank site. A so-called “laydown yard” will be cleared for use during the tank’s construction, and both the easement road and yard will later be utilized by the public for access and parking at the new park. Both Crovo and Tibbetts say completion of the project will be 2024 at the earliest.
It is interesting to note that 10 of 64 articles in the town warrant that year were concerned with hydrant rentals and water main extensions; obviously, a town moving aggressively to serve its growing population.
It is possible the article did not pass, most likely due to cost. However, the article appears again, with identical wording, in the 1956 town warrant (by petition). Construction on the standpipe, water main extensions and hydrants began the following year.
At the time of its construction, the water tower sat beside what was then Windham High School (1910-1964). A tower located next to a high school was indeed a recipe for mischief, especially when one considers that a steel ladder extended from near the ground up to a platform at the base of the tank. During the late 1950s and early 1960s an untold number of teens scaled that tower for the purpose of chit-chat, the view, to drop stuff and, well, just to do it. One group took great glee in throwing squishy apples down onto cars and pedestrians. But the most memorable mischief was probably carried out by the high school’s last graduating class in 1964. That class of approximately 80 seniors had developed a three-word meme, Bob & Sally, the meaning of which was known only to them. It appeared on book covers, blackboards, notes, desks, and walls. Even during graduation exercises, a group held a placard high above the gowns, caps and tassels with those three magic words. Parents looked on, bewildered, teachers and administrators grew red-faced, and the graduates? Well, they just roared with laughter. At class reunions through the years and to this day, that simple message carries a delightful and cherished memory for all the members of the Class of 1964. By year’s end, there was only one more place to mark their territory: the water tower tank. The names of the spray paint perpetrators were held secret for decades. Full disclosure, the writer was a member of that class, and pleads nolo contendere.
The writer shared this story with PWD Director Crovo during the interview for this article. His parting words to the interviewer: “Sorry, but we have to demolish your Bob & Sally tower.” <