Water towers don’t get any respect. Photographers have aimed their cameras at elegant buildings in Saline and taken portraits of its citizens, but hardly ever was the water tower in a photo.
Today’s picture is no exception. Someone went out on this cold day and probably took a photo of damage done by an ice storm. Saline’s first water tower just happened to be in the background.
Some of the trees in this photo are apparently covered with ice, and there is busted wood strewn about on the dirt road, with car tires swerving around the debris.
The photographer was standing on North Ann Arbor Road at Waterworks Road, facing south.
There is obviously a barn on the right, with the water tower directly behind it.
Today, the Saline Picture Frame Shop is across the street from the spot where this water tower once stood.
Tami Elliott of North Star Montessori School can point to the cement foundations still in the ground where the water tower supports once stood. The barn’s foundation is still visible between the old tower and North Ann Arbor Street.
Elliott points out that the school owns the former water tower land, which is just north of the school’s parking lot.
Sometime after Saline became a village in 1866, the growing population made it imperative to supply clean water to all the residents, building underground water pipes. The water tower was the centerpiece of the project, pumping water from a well up to the tank, and then allowing gravity to deliver the water to the homes.
According to a recorded statement by Saline historian Bob Lane, water and sewer lines were installed in the village between 1912 and 1916. That would probably be the time period when this water tower was erected.
Because an underground water system is so expensive, the village was probably forced to start construction to prevent cholera and other deadly diseases. Growing communities like Saline at that time were realizing the danger caused by too many outdoor toilets interspersed with too many individual water wells.
When was the water tower taken down?
Gary Rouble, Saline’s city superintendent and engineer, recalls that the tower was gone by 1987 when he started working for the city.
This tower has been replaced by two other water towers, one in town and one in the industrial park.
Thanks to Saline Area Historical Society, Bob Lane, Wayne Clements, Gary Rouble, and Tami Elliott.
Martha Churchill is an author and local historian. She can be contacted at [email protected]