Efforts to reopen Fort Ethan Allen Water Tower - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Efforts to reopen Fort Ethan Allen Water Tower

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ESSEX, Vt. -

It was built in 1893 and it towers over the intersection of route 15 and Susie Wilson road in Essex. "From the top it's really a great old building -- over 100 years old -- one of two of its kind in the country," said Tim Jerman with the Essex Community Historical Society.

But the Fort Ethan Allen Water Tower has been closed to visitors since 2008 due to safety concerns over the narrow wooden staircase. Now an effort is underway in Essex to raise an estimated $250,000 through grants, private donations and $50,000 in matching funds from the town that is needed to rehab the tower and open it once again to the public. "The Historical society has been interested for a while in bringing the tower back. For years school kids were able to come here and walk up in the tower when it was safe. The last few years it has deteriorated to the point where it is not safe, so we would really like to bring it back to the point where people could go back up in it and enjoy the view," Jerman said.  
Currently, it is just the pigeons that get to enjoy the view. Now if you really want to know about the history of the tower, or for that matter all things Fort Ethan Allen, stop by the museum and ask for Bill Parkinson, who runs the organization. For years he conducted tours for school groups and individuals, and the highlight, he says, was climbing the tower -- 105 steps up to the observation deck, 80 feet above the ground. Channel 3 was only allowed in the tower after we agreed it was at our own risk.  

"A lot of people ask what the tower was for. It has the observation deck here but its true purpose was a water tower -- one of the first things built here at the Fort because they needed water as they were coming in," Parkinson said.

The tank is in the middle of the tower. At one time it held 50,000 gallons of water -- enough to supply 8,500 men and 1,800 horses. "It took the well digger almost a full year and he had to dig two wells to come up with that amount of water. One is 375 feet deep and one is 310 feet deep," Parkinson said.

But it is the view from the top, Parkinson says, that visitors talk about most. "You see Burlington; you see the new Lowes, Winooski River, mountains in New York. The kids really had a great time here," he said.

And it is hoped enough money will be raised to make sure more school groups and visitors get the chance to once again climb to the top of the Fort Ethan Allen Water Tower.  

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