Jun. 26—The pandemic was a stumbling block for fundraising for preservation of a 1937-era water tower in Englewood, Tennessee, listed on the National Register of Historic Places 2020 — used for the town's drinking water until 2018, but a $30,000 injection of preservation funding is helping get the work back on track.
Preservation of the 84-year-old steel structure was boosted by funding from a Tennessee Historical Commission Historic Preservation Grant, according to commission officials who this past week announced 35 grants totaling $929,515 for historic preservation and archaeological projects throughout the state.
"I think it's absolutely wonderful," Englewood Water Tower Preservation Committee president Beth Sizemore said.
She said the grant also freed up other money that can be used for preservation work.
"We have a matching grant coming from the county and one of our other local groups, the McMinn County Community Fund, has awarded us a $14,000 grant," Sizemore said.
The local contributions take care of the 40% match required by the grant.
"That puts us about a fourth of the way to our goal," she said.
Increased construction and labor costs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has bumped up the preservation price tag to around $300,000, she said.
"So we're looking for funding," she said.
The new estimate is less than the original $400,000 estimate, Sizemore said, but that's because the interior of the water tank was found to have a bladder inside that is protecting it, so it won't have to be prepared for painting.
But there's still a lot of steel to preserve, Sizemore said.
The competitive grants are awarded annually for projects that support the preservation of historic and archaeological resources, according to historical commission officials.
"This program is one of the main ways in which our office helps protect historic places and contribute to the preservation of the state's heritage," commission executive director and state historic preservation officer Patrick McIntyre said in a statement on the grants congratulating recipients.
Statewide, this year's selection included an archaeological survey, design guidelines for historic districts, surveys of historic resources, rehabilitation of historic buildings and a poster highlighting the state's archaeology, according to commission officials. Properties that use the restoration grants must be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The next round of grants is expected to be opened in December 2021, with applications due in January 2022, officials said.
Englewood's water tower was built in 1937 from funds provided by the Works Project Administration program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, according to officials. It is 144 feet tall and has a capacity of 75,000 gallons.
The water tower was among seven structures the commission considered and approved in 2020 as nominees to the National Register, according to Rebecca Schmitt, a historic preservation specialist who coordinates the National Register program for Tennessee.
Schmitt said the commission believed the tower was important for its design as well as how it was linked to Englewood's development as a community more than eight decades ago.
"For example, it attracted industry to the area because it provided a steady and reliable supply of water," Schmitt said when the tower got the nod for submission to National Register officials.
The water tower is so loved in the town it's also preserved in miniature with a replica standing in a small park next to the Englewood Textile Museum. The tower looming over the tiny town of around 1,800 people also is home to some tall tales.
"There are boys who have swum in it and there's at least one female [who] has admitted swimming in it," Sizemore recalled during an interview last year.
"We have one girl — she's 16 now — when she was 5 years old she was convinced King Kong and the 'squiggles' lived in there," she said. She didn't name names.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.