Water Towers

View from North

Water Tower, Arcady Farm, Orcas Island

Towers were constructed to store water in a tank high above the ground, in order to have pressure through gravity.  They were the sign of a prosperous farm, one that could afford modern amenities.  Water towers, also called “Tank Houses,” were usually built adjacent to the well, with an associated structure that housed the gasoline pump used to raise the water to the level of the tank.

Water towers are inevitably two or three stories, where the top story usually held a round tank constructed of wooden staves with wood or metal hoops.  Both the lower and upper stories could be clad in siding such as wood shingles, shiplap, or clapboard, although in a few instances the lower stories consist of only the exposed supporting structure.  When enclosed, the ground floor was sometimes used for farming operations, such as a milk room housing a separator; others were used for storage.  When three stories tall, the middle or second floor was simply used as access to the tank above. The roof, covered in either wood shingles or metal, is often, although not always, pyramidal in shape.  In most cases, the structure tapers from a larger footprint (12 to 17 foot square) on the ground to a smaller plan at the platform for the tank.  In a couple of instances, a single story structure is appended to the gable end of a two story structure, which has vertical walls with no batter.  In a singular case on Shaw, the tapered structure supports a top story that is octagonal, not rectangular, in plan.

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