The Jefferson Iowa News®


  Scranton Water Tower Oldest In Iowa

I recently took the time to visit Scranton, Iowa, location of the state's oldest water tower still in use. I was informed that the water tower was also classified as the ninth-oldest such structure in the United States. I was able to get a good shot of the tower (photo at left). It does not look particularly impressive, but it does indeed look old. The Scranton water tower was erected in 1897, and has a 40,000 gallon capacity. Apparently, in 1907 there was a nasty cold snap in town that caused the water mains to freeze. In response, residents of Scranton cleverly built a fire underneath it, in an attempt to melt the ice. The tower was damaged by the fire, but it survived as the fire was doused before major structural damage occurred.

City residents seemed a bit surprised by my interest in the tower. When I asked how much water it was currently holding, the mayor stated that it probably held about three or four gallons. "Most any time, there is just barely enough water in there to allow us to claim it still functions," he said. "There might be more, if you check after a heavy rain, because it leaks quite a bit."

Even a town the size of Scranton needs more water on hand than that, I thought. What if a guy wanted to water his lawn, after all? I checked with several residents and a business owner or two and they all appeared to have running water that functioned just fine.

I decided to revisit the mayor and follow up with my query. I asked him point blank where all their water was. "Oh, I guess you are not familiar with our other water tower. We went and built us a real good one in 1972 after Jefferson built that ugly green one and kept showing it off. Our newer tower can handle three times the water that Jefferson's can."

Sure enough, on the west edge of town the mayor was able to direct me to Scranton's real water tower. I was also able to get a pretty good photo of it (right). Scranton's claim of the oldest water tower in Iowa still in use suddenly seems very suspect, to say the least. 

 Rick Bland, 01-08-2010