Saturday, March 26, 2011

Bremen Water Tower

Part 1 of a 2 part series on the Historic Bremen Standpipe

The Bremen Water Tower, historically known as “the standpipe” is an unusually well-preserved example of a structure supporting early municipal services, in this case public water. The standpipe has a tall slender brick base 68' tall crafted with Gothic Revival details that supports a tall slender steel tank, 36' tall. The tower was constructed in 1892 and was taken out of service by the community in 1955. Though removed from service, it has become a beloved community icon and was named an American Historic Water Landmark in 1975. It was fully restored between the years 1988 and 1989.

The town of Bremen by the late 1800s was developing with the growing need for a better public water system. The town contracted with an accomplished engineer from Chicago for the design of new water works station and standpipe. George C. Morgan engineered the system and James D. Madden, a Fort Wayne contractor, constructed the facilities. Neither Morgan nor Madden were unfamiliar with public works projects.

George Cadogan Morgan was an accomplished engineer specializing in water hydraulic developments for municipalities. Morgan was a member of a family involved in early American engineering and surveying, particularly related to the railroads; his father was Richard Price Morgan. George C. Morgan was a master mechanic for the Fort Wayne-Chicago Railroad and was responsible for the construction of water tanks along the route. Morgan came to Chicago during the 1860s and worked on the city’s first iron bridge, the 18th Street Bridge, in 1868. He is found in the 1876 Chicago city directory under George C. Morgan, civil engineer. His office was located in the Major Block and his residence was at 389 West Adams Street. Morgan was best known for his development of municipal water works in small towns throughout the Midwest which included steel standpipe construction for the public reservoir of water.

Morgan’s water works throughout the Midwest was extensive. A review of available sources, primarily various issues of Engineering News and the Manual of American water works, show 34 Morgan-designed standpipe water works systems between 1888 and about 1907, including Bremen’s constructed in 1892. These were located primarily in Illinois, but also in Michigan, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky. In a few locations the standpipe is called “a Morgan’s Tower” or “Morgan Special”; whether officially or informally in the minds of the public Morgan had trademarked his standpipe design. In Indiana Morgan designed standpipes in Shelbyville, Delphi, Fulton, Rockville, Bremen, and Bloomfield. The first references found regarding Morgan’s standpipe design is in 1888 with tower construction in Washington and Hoopeston, Illinois. Morgan designed Bremen’s standpipe to have a 68’ brick base with a 12’ x 36’ tall steel water tank. This general design seemed to be popular and easily adapted for other municipal systems. The most similarly sized standpipes were in Delphi, Indiana (11 ½’ x 36’ tall tank on a brick base, constructed in 1891-92) and Hoopeston, Illinois (10’ x 36’ tall tank and a 68’ brick base, constructed in 1888). Several other standpipes were also constructed on 68’ bases but had 48’ tall tanks; these were found in Lexington, Farmer City, Macomb, Grinnell, Monticello, Galva, Illinois and Indianola, Iowa. A standpipe in Caruthersville, MO, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, has a strong resemblance to Bremen’s including the Gothic arched openings in its brick base and decorative metal railing at the top of the tank; it was constructed in 1902.

Illness forced Morgan’s retirement in 1900 though some of his work is found a few years after this date. His wife passed away in 1900, but he remained at his 389 West Adams Street residence and died in 1913. His nephew, Arthur Marshall Morgan, who had joined his uncle in his practice in 1881, continued the business.

James D Madden was born in 1856 in County Derry, Ireland and came to the United States at seventeen years of age. He apprenticed in Philadelphia with a firm named Hoolihan & Barry for five years until 1878 when he opened his own shop in Philadelphia. Two years later he moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana and began his plumber’s trade in that city. An 1889 history described Madden as a prominent plumber and the proprietor of a handsome plumbing establishment at 101 Calhoun Street. The biographical information on Madden found in a Bremen Enquirer article concerning the newly constructed water works varies slightly. It stated that upon arriving in America Madden first engaged in the plumbing and water works business under the firm of Ludlow & Co. in Philadelphia and in 1876 was named Superintendant of the York, PA water works. The article states that he moved to Fort Wayne in 1880 and established his business in 1885. Madden constructed his first water works plant at the Eastern Insane Hospital of Indiana in 1889. He constructed the state plant in Fort Wayne, and plants in North and South Evanston, Illinois. Madden also constructed the water tower in Nappanee in 1893. The tower consisted of a tank 24’ x 20’ tall on a tower 70’ tall, all constructed out of yellow pine. The engineer for that design was Fairbanks, Morse, & Co., of Chicago. Madden and Morgan apparently competed for contracts on the construction of water works at least in one occurrence. A water works development in Hinsdale, Illinois had received bids from GC Morgan of Chicago in the amount of $33,908 and from James Madden of Ft. Wayne in the amount of $36,450.

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