Water Tower 

1913 Photo Courtesy Renee Ingram Jones

2022 Photo Courtesy City of Belle Plaine

Water tower serves Belle Plaine over 111 years

Water services significantly impact standard of living 

Belle Plaine’s water tower was erected as the community moved into the 20th Century and residents began seeking new and more modern ways of life.

With a population of nearly 850 people in the 1910 census, Belle Plaine was making its way from a pioneer community to a size which brought demands for new and better services. According to the City Council minutes of Sept. 10, 1912, the city fathers already were providing natural gas services and they were ready to erect a modern waterworks system and electric lighting. The records show it would be a few more years before work began on a citywide sewer system, but times and technology were offering Kansas communities the opportunity to modernize their living conditions. Clean, running water to every home in the community would be a major change in lifestyle for Belle Plaine citizens. Street lights and electricity to homes would make the tiny town as impressive as most metro areas. The assurance of better fire protection was the icing on the cake for a better quality of life.

During the council meeting of Sept. 10, 1912, Ordinance No. 177 was approved, authorizing the city to spend $35,000 to purchase the site of the water tower, construct and erect waterworks and electric lighting systems to furnish water, lights and power to the inhabitants of the city of Belle Plaine. Interest on the project was not to exceed 5 percent and payments could not be spread over more than 30 years.

Five days after that ordinance was approved, an election was held to determine if the public was behind the issue. The vote of 91 to 69 approved the project and within the week an engineering firm was hired – Rollins and Westover of Kansas City. A committee was also set and toured similar plants in Clearwater, Coldwater, and Mulvane. By the end of the year, Valley State Bank had been awarded the bond issue to finance the project, Final payoff was to be on Jan. 1, 1943.

In February 1913, TC Brooks & Sons Co. was given the contract to furnish and install the water mains, hydrants, valves, etc. Bids for the water and light machinery and construction were due on Feb. 20. Chicago Bridge and Iron Works won the contract for the steel tank, at a cost of $3,250.

The city hired a superintendent of water and lights, Edward Fisher, to be paid $110 a month for the first nine months and $100 per month after that.

Before the project was finished, the city decided to expand the waterworks system and began contemplating another $10,000 in improvements to enlarge, extend and improve the system. The Public Utilities Commission of the state of Kansas approved the additional work, but the local council minutes show that on Oct. 30, 1913, six residents were present at the council meeting to oppose the authorization of the additional $10,000 in bonds. Ordinance 186, approved Nov. 2, 1913, authorized the new bond issue. 

The minutes do not reflect when the tower began providing water pressure to the community, but the first water rates were approved by the council with Ordinance No. 185 on Sept. 18, 1913. A plaque at the bottom of the northeast leg of the tower dates it at 1913.

Water Rates approved 

Sept. 18, 1913, Ordinance No. 185

2020 Chicago Bridge Photo Courtesy City of Belle Plaine

Photo  of 1950s Ice Storm 

Courtesy Belle Plaine: A Century of Memories