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Our Opinion: Saving a Brainerd icon

We commend the work of the Water Tower Preservation Committee, which over these past few years has been a strong advocate for the water tower and creative in its fundraising for the preservation project, including securing grants from the Minnesota Historical Society and selling water tower memorabilia.

Brainerd Dispatch editorial
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Four years ago, the future of Brainerd’s landmark, historic water tower was unclear.

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Pieces of stucco had been falling off it since at least 2014 and it was determined the structure was in need of serious — and expensive — repairs. The Brainerd City Council at the time, while hoping the symbol of Brainerd could be saved, had to start planning for its demolition.

That all seems such a distant memory. Now, the construction of a new roof — the first step of many planned to preserve the water tower — is expected to start in a matter of weeks.

For that we commend the work of the Water Tower Preservation Committee, which over these past few years has been a strong advocate for the water tower and creative in its fundraising for the preservation project, including securing grants from the Minnesota Historical Society and selling water tower memorabilia.

We also offer kudos to the Brainerd City Council for setting aside demolition dollars for the preservation of the water tower and on at least one occasion extending deadlines to allow the committee to keep up its work.

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In 2018, this editorial board advocated for saving the water tower because for 100 years it had come to be the symbol of Brainerd, one that most residents and visitors alike envision when they think about the cornerstone city of the lakes area.

In that 2018 editorial, we also noted that preservation efforts for the water tower were not unprecedented. In 1968, about eight years after the water tower was retired from service, the Brainerd City Council voted to have it torn down after the city's Water and Light Board declared it a public hazard. However, just as now, through a grassroots effort city residents and officials rallied and saved the tower.

It’s outstanding to see history repeat itself in such a positive way.

The new work will include placing a synthetic rubber roof on the top of the tower to prohibit further water intrusion into the structure’s bowl along with a roof hatch, new downspouts and revamped lighting.

Once the roof is on, the committee will seek a stucco study to determine the exact cause behind the chunks of stucco that have fallen from the tower.

While it’s unfortunate the costs to construct the water tower roof were higher than originally projected and resulted in some renovation items to be put off until a later date, we doubt that changes the idea that this is still something a majority of residents and visitors alike support.

It would be difficult to envision Brainerd without the historic water tower rising into the sky. Fortunately, now we don’t have to. The city has taken all the right steps to preserve a piece of its history for future generations.

The Brainerd Dispatch Editorial Board members are Dispatch and Echo Journal Publisher Pete Mohs, former Dispatch Publisher Terry McCollough, Dispatch Editor Matt Erickson, Dispatch Managing Editor Renee Richardson and Echo Journal Editor Nancy Vogt.
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