Prairie Post (West Edition)

Gleichen water tower a proud symbol


You may not see a water tower as a historic site, but in the community of Gleichen, southeast of Calgary and northwest of Medicine Hat, you will come across a unique water tower that has a long history going back for it.

Water towers were once very common, much like grain elevators, before they were slowly torn down as communitie­s developed better water systems through the 20th century.

Gleichen itself came into being when the Canadian Pacific Railway’s transconti­nental line came through in the early-1880s. The new community was a staging point for rail travel and a service centre for the Indigenous of the area and the settlers coming in. One issue with Gleichen though, was that it was not located near a reliable source of water, and it was not slated for inclusion in any irrigation projects.

In 1910, the community had 500 residents and one of the first initiative­s of the new town council was to get a more sophistica­ted water and sewer system for the community and its citizens. In order to make the water tower, the Des Moines Bridge & Iron Company out of Pittsburgh to construct a water tower for the town. The company had built many water towers in Alberta already and was a popular company for communitie­s to hire.

The work began quickly and the water tower was completed in 1911. The water tower then began to provide water not only for the inhabitant­s of Gleichen and the inhabitant­s of the nearby Blackfoot reserve.

The water tower would remain in use for the next six decades, well into the 1970s when a more advanced water and sewer system came into the community. While the use of the tower for a water reservoir would end at that point, the water tower itself would not disappear.

As one of the last surviving water towers in Alberta, the water tower in Gleichen was listed as a Provincial Historic Resource on April 15, 2008.

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