Pembroke / Smiths Falls / The Wedge

Water Tower Angst : Can We Save Ours From Extinction?

CPR Water Tower, Pembroke Heritage Murals, Artist John Ellenberger, 2000 PHOTO BY Dennis Corrigan

By MAGGIE M, Wedgee-in-Chief, Editor, theWedge.LIVE 💙 TO SHARE click icons at story’s end

“At twilight they all almost look like they landed from Mars, aliens comin’ down,” renown astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson quips, “Sharing the broadcast of War of the Worlds, there were people thinking it was real. People were shooting at water towers.”

“People were shooting at water towers”

The famous 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles that terrified listeners elicits a comedic perspective on water tower design, “tripod Martians.” Yet to most town folk, their water tower is replete with emotional and aesthetic value. They are the lone and tallest structure visible for miles, a beacon that signals, “home.”

Enjoy deGrasse and his co-host speak about water towers, then read on about developments in our region.




Water towers are the first structure anyone sees in a neighborhood, announcing the town name and often, a mantra. They have survived several generations, reminders of times past.

Many are endangered today, their steel members withering from the elements–and increasingly scheduled for demolition. There is push-back. They will not go quietly into the scrap heap without resistance.

A primordial question looms in our era of waste reduction and re-purposing. “Can we save our water towers and use them for something else?”

Some decommissioned water towers remain as artifacts embellishing a town or have been repurposed as extraordinary homes. There are further options still.


Decommissioned CPR Water Tower, Pembroke, Ontario

“The photographer climbed into a hydro truck bucket to get this photo,” Pamela Dempsey, Chair, Pembroke Heritage Murals reports.

The long empty CPR water tower in Pembroke was repurposed as a work of art by John Ellenberger in 2000. It is one of the city’s key tourist spots, one mural among thirty-three.

“I would recommend that the community not rush into dismantling the tower structure until all avenues have been explored to re-purpose it. It’s a part of your heritage,” Dempsey states.

“It’s a part of your heritage”

This unique 360 degree mural encompasses the vibrant history of CP Rail’s steam locomotives in conjunction with Consolidated Lumber Company Ltd.

Smiths Falls Water Tower PHOTO BY theWedge.LIVE


One water tower stands tall above the Rideau River in the booming town of Smiths Falls. It has sprung a few leaks of late and is nearing its end of life as a water dispenser. Town council have been meeting on the matter in 2018 and working with an engineering firm to review the most viable option to supply water to its growing population into the future.

Councillor Lorraine Allen has urged the town to preserve the structure stating frequently it is “iconic.” Should this beacon be removed from the park where it sits the shore line would be forever altered. It is visually striking and a focal point in photos.

Its location at the nexus of East Ontario’s world famous Rideau River is an opportunity for added tourism. It could be the region’s Eiffel Tower, allowing people to climb stairs to its tank repurposed as a museum and observation deck with views in all directions through portholes or windows.

Alternatively, it would be a superb penthouse for an eccentric millionaire.


Many journalists and bloggers have mused on extending the lives of our water towers. Montreal Gazette offered some wild, humorous options .

A Gizmodo article showed many types of rejigged towers in the story, “People who live in water towers.”

This water tower in Belgium was extraordinarily repurposed as a home for four including two small children. It features a theatre and rooftop space to sunbathe while viewing planes landing at the nearby airport in Brussels.


Write a Happy Reply !

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s