Since the summer of 1921, it has stood high above Cokato’s downtown. Sun gleaming off its silver sides, it was visible well outside of town. But by this fall, the water tower behind city hall will likely be taken down.
Like many rural communities, Cokato for most of its existence had only one water tower. Travel across the state and you would see remarkably similar towers. Often, they reminded people of the tin man from the Wizard of Oz. Cokato’s tower was built in July 1921.
By the end of 1907, the city had completed a water works system that covered a large portion of the community. Part of this system was an elevated wood tank supported by a 100 ft. steel framework. The tank was 20 feet high and 22 feet in diameter, capable of holding 50,000 gallons of water. By 1920, the wood tank was deemed insufficient and the city council decided to have it replaced.
In June 1921, the city awarded a bid to Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company to replace the wood tank with one made from steel. The cost of the tank was to be $5800, with a construction deadline of August 15.
Work progressed rapidly on the tank. The crew of three workers removed the old tank and set out to construct the new one, accomplishing this task a full ten days ahead of schedule. Like the wood tank, this new one could hold 50,000 gallons.
For over the next five decades, this tank served the community well. But by the early 1970s, there began talk of the need for another tower. This new tower, located on the north side of town and which could hold 200,000 gallons, was completed in the fall of 1978. The newest tower, on the city’s west side, capable of holding 400,000 gallons, went online in 2001.
The work to remove the original tower will entail a great deal of logistical maneuvering. Sandwiched now between the drive through for the State Bank of Cokato, Tower Center Mall, a garage, Cokato Apartments III, city hall, and three utility poles, it will be a tight squeeze as the tank and supports are taken apart.
The space left behind after the tower’s removal will likely be used for city hall-related parking.