Fundraising dinner to save water tower a possibility

Historic water tower merchandise is for sale at Visit Brainerd, the proceeds of which will support costs associated with saving the Brainerd landmark.

Brainerd Historic Water Tower Sunset3.jpg
Historic Brainerd water tower Wednesday, April 8, 2020, at sunset. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

While plans are underway for a fundraiser dinner and silent auction, other donations are still being accepted to help save Brainerd’s historic water tower.

Members of the committee formed to raise funds for the cause discussed during their last meeting Wednesday, July 15, the possibility of partnering with Pit Happens Catering hosting a dinner and silent auction at the Brainerd American Legion sometime near the end of September. A date and other details are still in the works, but ideas thrown out included a curbside pickup meal with auction items set up inside, or a virtual auction online.

In the meantime, water tower merchandise — like T-shirts, cribbage boards and keychains — are available at the new Visit Brainerd store on Laurel Street in downtown Brainerd.

Monetary donations can be sent to Brainerd Community Action, 321 S. Seventh St. Suite 105, MN, 56401. Checks can be made out to Brainerd Community Action, and all donations should include a note to earmark the funds to save the water tower. Debit and credit card donations can be made by clicking the “Donate Now” button at or on the GoFundMe site at .

Check donations of $250 or more will be eligible for refunds in the event the tower cannot be saved. The rest of the donations will go to Brainerd Restoration.



Stucco falling in 2018 from the 100-year-old historic water tower on the corner of Washington and South Sixth streets in downtown Brainerd prompted city officials to explore repair options for the iconic structure.

Repairs could be costly. The council agreed to establish a committee in October 2018 to raise funds for the repairs, the first of which is a new roof, tentatively planned for 2022. This work comes after a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society and matching funds from the city of Brainerd paid for plans to design the new roof, which is needed to keep water out of the bowl and prevent deterioration.

With more than $20,000 collected, the group still needs a lot more money to pay for the roof. Estimates to fix the tower have been estimated anywhere from $1.6 million up to $3 million.

The city council earmarked $300,000 for the tower’s destruction back in 2018 if the funds to save it could not be raised by October 2020. Water tower committee members are hopeful the council will allow them to continue working past that date, as they are actively making progress on the project, and the COVID-19 pandemic plans back a few months.

Get involved

The water tower committee is in search of more members. Those interested can apply . The committee meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month, with the need meeting scheduled for Aug. 19. While city hall is under construction, the group meets in the training room at the Brainerd Fire Department, 23 Laurel St. Meetings are open to the public.

Those with fundraising ideas or who wish to donate items to the silent auction can email , reach out to the group on Facebook at Save the Historic Brainerd Water Tower, or call city hall at 218-828-2307.

Tower history

Designed by L.P. Wolff, the Brainerd historic water tower was constructed between 1919-22 when a new water system was implemented in the city. It stands at 134 feet high, at one time featuring a maximum capacity of 300,000 gallons housed in a bowl created by a single pouring of concrete.

It's one of two water towers by the architect still standing-the other being the Pipestone water tower-and it was the first all-concrete elevated water depository used by a municipality in the United States. Retired in 1959-60 from use, the historic water tower evolved from practical to symbolic, elevated to a status as an icon of the city, an imposing presence on the Brainerd skyline and an image emblemized on the city's seal. It was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1974.


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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