Standpipe makes history

Posted Nov. 26, 2008, at 6:51 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 11:11 a.m.

BANGOR — The Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers on Nov. 20 presented the Bangor Water District with a plaque recognizing the Thomas Hill Standpipe as a significant state historic civil engineering landmark.

History and heritage committee chairman Will Haskell said, “It is exciting to celebrate the historical significance of this structure, which has been a vital component in providing clean, safe and reliable potable water and fire protection for more than 110 years.”

Built in 1897, the standpipe is a riveted steel tank 75 feet in diameter, 50 feet tall, and can store 1.75 million gallons of water. Thomas Hill Standpipe joins 16 other Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks in Maine.

While the structure is similar to many water tanks around the country, Thomas Hill Standpipe is uniquely enclosed by a wood structure that is 85 feet in diameter, 110 feet tall.

The wood enclosure has protected the steel standpipe from the natural elements and offers a breathtaking 360-degree observatory of the city of Bangor from the promenade deck and the roof.

The standpipe was designed by Ashley B. Tower of Tower and Wallace of Holyoke, Mass., and built by Maj. James M. Davis on land owned by the Thomas brothers. It is constructed on a stone foundation and consists of 22 large steel plates riveted together in each circumference of the tank, and 10 courses of plates.

The tank is topped by a 3-ton steel drum, 15 feet tall and 4 feet in diameter. A casting fitted to the bottom of the drum was cast at the Bangor Foundry and Machine Co.

The drum supports 24 iron trusses for the promenade deck and the roof structure. The trusses and steel plates were furnished by New Jersey Steel and Iron Co.

The wooden enclosure sits on a stone block foundation, 9 feet high and about 3.5 feet thick. The sill is made up of 2-by-12 pine planks bolted together to a thickness of 14 inches and bent to the circle. There are 24 12-by-12 pine columns, all 48 feet long, supporting the structure.

A stairway winds around the inside of the structure and leads to the promenade deck. A second stairway leads from the promenade deck to the roof of the structure.

The facility’s construction included 42,000 board feet of pine, with some 220,000 cedar shingles protecting it from the elements.

After 111 years, the standpipe continues to be a significant part of the Bangor Water District’s distribution system, providing storage and pressure regulation to the downtown. For many years the tower was open to the public and featured seats on the promenade deck. A past account described the view:

“The view … can give Bangoreans nothing but a feeling of pride at the beauty of our city, every part of which is in plain sight. It invariably strikes the visitor how the city is set down in a basin with mountains and hills on every side.”

The Maine Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers represents 750 civil engineering professionals. Founded in 1852, the society has more than 140,000 civil engineers worldwide and is America’s oldest national engineering society. For information, visit www.maineasce.org.

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