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Feature Article


Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Advocate Centennial Book
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate, 2007

Rapid Growth prompted need for water tower

One of Red Deer’s most prominent landmarks, but one that is very rarely known by its official name, is the Horton Waterspheriod.

As one of Red Deer’s major water reservoir and the tallest structure in the Mountview area, it is often referred to as the Green Onion, the Mushroom, or simply the water tower.

The origins of the structure go back to the 1950s, when Red Deer was experiencing phenomenal growth.

The population of the city jumped so dramatically that Red Deer gained the distinction of being the fastest-growing city in Canada.

The phenomenal growth put immense strains on the city’s infrastructure.

Roads became muddy quagmires. The waterworks system had trouble managing all of the new demands placed upon it.

Ominously, the Canadian Underwriters Association warned that if Red Deer was hit by a major fire, there might not be enough water supply to properly fight the blaze.

With the growing risk to the life and property of the citizens, there might also be a huge increase in local insurance rates.

In 1952, the city began to draw up an ambitious 10-year plan to upgrade and expand the waterworks system.

In early 1953, the engineering firm of Haddin, Davis, and Brown identified a site, known as the Glover Estate, in Mountview, as the best place for a new water reservoir.

Its location on a high hill would help with water pressure in the downtown area, even more so if an elevated water tower was used.

There was enough land at the site to build a large reservoir with room for a major expansion in the future.

The city pressed ahead with the first phases of the plan, installing new mains, replacing old ones and increasing the capacity of the water treatment plant.

In 1956, detailed planning began on the Mountview reservoir.

With all of the escalating capital costs the city was facing, serious consideration was given to some less expensive options.

An old 2,275,000-litre (500,000gallon) metal reservoir was being offered for sale by the City of Calgary for a seemingly low price.

Red Deer almost agreed to buy it, but discovered that the costs dismantling and moving the old reservoir would make it almost as expensive as a new structure.

Calls then went out for proposals on building a new reservoir.

One of the companies with a very good reputation for building elevated metal reservoirs was the Horton Steel Co.

It had particular success with a new design, which it had dubbed waterspheroids.

The company pointed to some that it had recently constructed in Houston, Texas, as an example of what could be accomplished.

In April 1957, the contract was awarded to Horton to build a 2,275,000-litre steel water tower.

lt was to be 40 metres tall with an upper ball 19 metres in diameter; 240 tonnes of steel were to be used in construction, (roughly one pound of steel for every gallon of water.)

The total estimated cost was $275,000.

In the spring of 1958, a tender was let for $200,000 to Hornstrom Brothers Construction to build an adjacent 10,465,000-litre concrete ground reservoir to provide more water storage.

The plan was for the combined complex to meet the water needs of Red Deer until it reached a population of 35,000.

In a move to meet the growing recreational needs of the community, provision was made to have two regulation sized tennis courts built on the roof of the concrete ground reservoir.

Meanwhile, painting of the tower commenced.

The structure was painted Niagara Green, as that had been the colour used by the paint crew on the last 10 water towers they had worked on.

The water tower successfully passed its operational tests in July 1958.

The old city water reservoir, which had been built on 52nd Street in 1930, was sold to the Provincial Training School (now Michener Centre).

The institution later used the old concrete reservoir for storing potatoes.

The official opening ceremonies of the new tower and the ground reservoir were held on Jan. 30, 1959, even though the city was suffering from a cold snap at the time.

As part of the publicity surrounding the completion of the project, the city spent a considerable amount of time determining whether the new water tower was the largest of its type in the world as the builders claimed.

They found out that the largest reservoir in the United States was 500,000 gallons, but those were U.S. gallons while Red Deer’s new tower held 500,000 imperial gallons.

Red Deer did indeed have a world-record-holder with its new landmark water tower.

This article was written by Michael Dawe for the Red Deer Advocate’s Centennial Book. The Heritage Community Foundation would like to thank Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate for permission to reprint these materials online. Please visit the Red Deer Advocate online.The images in the article are part of the collection of the Red Deer Archives. Please visit them online.

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