The Gleichen Water Tower was built in 1911 by Des Moines Bridge and Iron Company of Pittsburg, P.A. The tower is 150 feet high. The tower was built to that height to supply the Siksika Nation with water and also to protect against an elevator fire. The Gleichen water tower is the oldest and highest in southern Alberta and the only one in the County of Wheatland. The tower, located along the Trans Canada Highway, can be seen for miles in all directions. It is a beacon for travelers who use it to gauge their next stop; Calgary to the west or Brooks to the east.
Water was originally stored in a cistern on the west side of the tower. A release valve in the shed under the tower controlled the ‘shut off’ switch. Occasionally over winter the release valve would freeze and the tank would overflow sending water cascading down on everything below. It was a wonderful sight with enormous icicles hanging all over the ice coated tower.
The tower has always been a great place for the kids to climb on. They would spend hours sliding down the guard rods and rails. The cistern was also a gathering place for the community’s kids to ride their bikes and play games.
When the new addition to the school was built, the 3 existing wells which had supplied the water couldn’t supply enough. Of the original wells one was at the west end of town at the corner of Railway Street and 2nd Ave., the second between Gleichen Street and Greisback Street where the current County shop exists, and the third was drilled by M. Rassmussen west of the tower. The existing pumphouse still stands on the west side of town. The water was pumped up into the tower by a generator operated by a man named Jack Emery. Jack passed away in 1922.
The tower continued in use until the new system was completed. Water was brought into town from a reservoir built in the cutbacks west of town. In 1964 Howard Woods, the town foreman, was the last person to work on the tower.
Times were changing. The elevators disappeared from our prairie landscape, our small towns were shrinking. Our rare and dignified tower needed protection, so in 1998 we approached our County of Wheatland government to see what could be done to protect and preserve the tower. Initially there was no response and we became increasingly concerned as time passed and we received no commitment. In 2004 we decided to try again to gather support. Richard Bogstie persisted in lobbying local and Provincial government. After 4 years of dedicated work and determination Richard’s persistence paid off. In 2008 the Provincial Government of Alberta declared the Gleichen Water Tower a ‘Provincial Landmark and Historical Site’.
Researchers Mary and Herman Allen, who used to live in Gleichen, discovered that the company that built the tower, now called Pitt Des Moines Inc. of Texas, is still in operation today. Unfortunately none of the original architectural documents on the tower could be located.
In 2008 a terrible wind storm tore a hole in the outer tank of the 90 year old tower and it required emergency strapping. Restoration began in the Fall of 2010 when Clark’s Builder’s started working on the foundation and the legs.
In 2011 the Gleichen Water tower celebrated its 100th birthday.
Contributed by: Ivy Bogstie