“Steve, we’re (in Essex) at Fort Ethan Allen,” Mike Hoey said. “We did a general overview of the history of the fort (two weeks ago), but a particular fixture of the former fort is what brings us here this time.”
“Yeah, Mike,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “I think people who drive by on Route 15 always look and they see this big tower that’s behind us and say, ‘what is that? Is that for protecting the Winooski River from pirates?’.”
“The water tower was one of the first things built here,” Fort Ethan Allen Museum curator William Parkinson said. “The first soldiers didn’t arrive until September 1894, but the tower was built in 1893. You see that brave guy? He’s standing up there at the very top of the roof. Where he’s standing is 96 feet (high). The center of the water tower is a steel-riveted water tank. It’s 62 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter, and it holds 50,000 gallons of water.
“The outside, the face stone, is a real nice Sutherland (Falls) marble (from) Proctor, Vermont. Down here at the door, (the stone) is literally four-foot-thick. The diameter of the building at the bottom is 24 feet. By the time you get to the top, the diameter is reduced to 21 feet and the stone has reduced to two feet thick up there.”
“Tom, I understand you have a bit of a restoration project in its early stages right now,” Hoey said.
“Yes, we’re looking at re-doing the roof and all of the windows — the windows on the side and the windows up at the top,” Essex Public Works facilities manager Tom Yandow said. “Right now, proposals are going out to contractors to be able to fix the windows and the slate roof.
“It starts with the roof because once we can enclose it, then it helps with the weather and whatnot for the inside. There’s a round metal staircase that connects to the block and to the cast-iron tower inside itself. 2009 is when we shut it down, and now, we want to go back in with a structural engineer and have those (issues) all re-evaluated and shored up.”
“There’s been a fair amount of fundraising and some gifts that have come in around this tower,” Perkins said. “Do you know how much has come in and how much you have left to go?”
“With COVID and whatnot, construction costs have dramatically increased, everything,” Yandow noted. “We’re basically starting all over again with costs and construction. Right now, we’ve got about $150,000 set aside to re-do the roof and the windows.”
“The Essex Historical Society has a fundraising project going on to help support this,” Perkins added. “I want to say to our viewers — if you’re interested in helping to support this, you can go to the Essex Historical Society. I’m sure you can contact the town as well. Any sense of timeline?”
“It’s as donations come in,” Yandow replied. “So, the faster we can get some better, bigger grants and whatnot, then the faster we can get working on the tower.”