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Hillsboro water tower may join national historic register

Staff writer

The Hillsboro water tower, built in 1927, was one of six sites nominated by the Kansas Historical Society Aug. 13 to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Three sites will be chosen to join the register.

“If we can get it on the historic registry, it would be eligible for restoration grants,” Hillsboro administrator Larry Paine said.

The tower, which holds 75,000 gallons of water is still used by the city, providing the west side of Hillsboro with water.

“It’s a significant backup to our water system,” Paine said.

Approximately 20 years ago, Hillsboro built a much larger water tower, which holds 250,000 gallons, to meet the needs of residents.

“Back in the 1950s, 750 gallons were used per week per family,” Paine said. “Now we’re using 750 gallons per person per day.”

Paine said increasing water demands have made towers like Hillsboro’s a “dying breed.” Hillsboro has continued to maintain its water tower instead of paying for a more expensive replacement tower with more storage capacity, Paine said.

The tower is eligible to be entered on the register because of its “local significance in the area of community planning and development,” according to a Kansas Historical Society.

The water tower was planned in 1926 to assist the Hillsboro fire department, which was established in 1912.

The year the city established its fire department the water system consisted of wells and cisterns with a capacity of 11,000 gallons. The city needed higher water pressure to extinguish fires. The tower also helped provide a clean water supply.

If the tower is successfully added to the national register, Hillsboro can apply for a 75-25 grant worth $85,000. Kansas Historical Society official Teresa Jenkins said Hillsboro should find out if the water tower was added to the National Registry by November or February, after one of Historical Societies quarterly board meetings.

“There’s probably $100,000 worth of work,” Paine said.

Last modified Aug. 25, 2011

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