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Westerly Water Tower

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1910, Aberthaw Construction Company, Thomas McKenzie, engineer and supervisor, Samuel W. Gray, consulting engineer. 12 Ledward St.

Among the first reinforced concrete standpipes built in the United States by a leading Boston engineering firm, famous for its pioneer work in concrete building technology, this cylindrical container employs the technology developed for grain elevators in the Midwest beginning in the 1880s. Here it was reportedly used for aesthetic reasons, as a civic-minded alternative to what was regarded as the blighting effect of the typical metal tank. Although modernists of a few years ago would have disapproved of the simplified allusion to a classical frieze and cornice that rings the plain concrete cylinder near its top and of its domical terra-cotta cap with weather-vaned cupola, in fact these details are beautifully simplified and scaled to reinforced concrete. The domical cap itself is technologically advanced for its day, since it employs the technique brought to the United States in the late nineteenth century by Rafael Guastavino. Layers of clay tiles in beds of cement permitted strong, light, and economical domes and vaulting, which were used for roofing many of the finest monumental buildings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A plaque at the base celebrates those responsible for its design.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Westerly Water Tower", [Westerly, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 415-416.

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