Water tower in the running to receive historical society grant

A ground-level shot of the Brainerd historic water tower. Gaps in the eroded stucco exterior of the structure can been seen at the top-center portion of the bowl. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch file photo
A ground-level shot of the Brainerd historic water tower. Gaps in the eroded stucco exterior of the structure can been seen at the top-center portion of the bowl. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch file photo

The Brainerd Water Tower Committee is on track to receive a grant to help save the city’s iconic structure.

In July, the group applied for a $23,700 grant through the Minnesota Historical Society to help fund professional designs outlining the scope of work needed to fix the tower. Without those designs, committee members believe it will be difficult to get any other larger grants down the road. The Brainerd City Council already pledged $12,600 in matching funds -- about a third of the cost -- for designs, should the grant come through.

The committee received news Thursday, Nov. 7, that the Historic Resources Advisory Committee of the Minnesota Historical Society approved the grant application, which will now advance to the list of recommended applications for the historical society to formally approve. Comments received from the advisory committee noted the grant value requested was good and the water tower is an iconic structure symbolic of small communities.

The committee will now work with Phillip Waugh and Mike Lovato of LHB Inc. on designs for a new roof to help inhibit water intrusion in the tower. Because the structure is on the National Register of Historic Places, the designs for updates will have to meet criteria set forth by the United States Secretary of the Interior’s professional qualification standards in design and restoration.

The final plans will likely be ready in December 2020.


Brainerd’s sister water tower in Pipestone, along with the metal water tower in Elk River, also received approval for grants.

Water tower background

Stucco falling from the downtown water tower last year prompted city officials to explore repair options for the 100-year-old structure. With similar issues in the past, the council agreed to demolish the tower if the funds needed to repair it -- possibly up to $2-3 million -- could not be found by October 2020.

The water tower committee formed in October 2018 to raise that money and is up to about $20,000. The group’s goal is to raise $1.6 million in the time allotted in order to give the city a base to start and the opportunity to explore other options -- like a referendum -- to raise the rest of the funds.

Donations to the tower 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 with a note to earmark the donation to save the water tower.

Donations can also be dropped off at city hall, as long as they are earmarked for the water tower. Debit and credit card donations are accepted through the city's web store at . There is a 3.61% service fee to donate online.

Donations are also welcome through the group’s GoFundMe page at .

Donation boxes are also located at both Brainerd and Baxter Cub Foods locations.

If enough money is not raised in the time allotted to save the tower, those who donate $250 or more will be eligible for refunds. Other donations will go to Brainerd Restoration.


Anyone with fundraising ideas can contact the water tower committee through Brainerd City Hall at 218-828-2307.

The water tower committee meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month, with the next meeting set for Nov. 20. Meetings are now at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse.

Meetings are open to the public and allow time for public comment.

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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