Community members raised $1,350 to save Brainerd’s historic water tower with the sale of Christmas ornaments.

Bright blue bulbs celebrated the water tower’s centennial, as Dec. 10 marked the 100th anniversary of its completion, and will go toward the effort to put a roof on the aging structure and restore it for years to come. The group ordered 150 ornaments and sold out of all of them in a matter of weeks.

Christmas tree ornaments celebrating the 100th anniversary of Brainerd's historic water tower are available for $15 at Visit Brainerd or through Brainerd Community Action. Proceeds will be dedicated to restoring the tower. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
Christmas tree ornaments celebrating the 100th anniversary of Brainerd's historic water tower are available for $15 at Visit Brainerd or through Brainerd Community Action. Proceeds will be dedicated to restoring the tower. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has hindered the water tower committee’s fundraising efforts, the group has come up with more than $30,000 for the cause in its roughly two years of operation. A silent auction and drive-thru style dinner at the Brainerd American Legion with food from Pit Happens catering this fall brought in more than $8,000, and the committee hopes to host another similar event sometime in the spring.

The group bounced around other fundraising ideas at its Wednesday meeting, Dec. 16, too, including a fall street dance event, water tower mugs, a parachute drop from the tower and ideally some sort of party in 2021 to better celebrate the water tower’s 100th birthday.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Nonprofit and grants

After agreeing to fill out one last form and pay a $600 filing fee, the water tower committee will soon be able to operate as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called the Brainerd Historic Water Tower Preservation Committee. The team hopes this status will help garner more donations and grants, as members have heard from some donors who are willing to contribute funds but can only do so if the group is a nonprofit.

Committee members voted Wednesday to fill out more grant applications while awaiting designs for a new roof to sit atop the tower after securing a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society.

The group was awarded $23,700 from the historical society, along with $12,500 in matching funds from the city of Brainerd, to hire a firm to draw up designs for a roof that would prevent further water damage in the tower’s bowl. The designs should be done later this year and will give a better idea of how much the project will cost.

The roof is the first step to restoring the tower, from which large chunks of stucco have fallen in recent years. In 2018, the city council originally gave the committee two years to raise the funds to restore the tower, or else it was to be demolished. With that timeframe ending in October, the council agreed to revisit the issue in June, recognizing hardships from the pandemic and seeing the progress made so far.

Getting involved

Donations for the water tower, which needs extensive repairs or faces destruction, can be made online via the city’s website at ci.brainerd.mn.us or through GoFundMe at https://bit.ly/2MLJWRV. A 3.61% service fee will be applied to all donations through the city’s website. GoFundMe collects 2.9% of the funds raised and charges 30 cents per donation.

Cash and check donations can be dropped off at or sent to Brainerd Community Action, 321 S. Seventh St., Suite 105, Brainerd, 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.

If the committee does not ultimately raise enough money to save the tower, donations of $250 or more will be eligible for refunds. The rest of the funds raised will go to Brainerd Restoration.

Those interested in joining the water tower committee can fill out an application at https://bit.ly/2SwQ4Rt or pick up an application at city hall.

The committee meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of each month at city hall, with the next meeting Jan. 20. Meetings are open to the public.

For more information, visit brainerdwatertower.com or follow the Save the Historic Brainerd Water Tower page on Facebook.



THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.