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A towering dream is fulfilled

Staff writer

Neva Robinson of Florence spent two years scouring microfilm of the Marion County Record, Peabody Gazette-Bulletin, and their predecessors, looking for information about the 120-year- old Florence water tower.

She took notes and printed copies of pertinent articles. She gleaned information from the diary of T.P. Alexander, an early-day hardware store owner and Florence’s first mayor.

“I got sidetracked a lot when I found tidbits about Florence people I had known,” she recalls.

Supported by Florence Historical Society, she sent the information about the tower to Kansas Historical Society. She was successful in having the tower listed first on the State Register of Historic Places and now on the National Register.

A picture and brief history of the tower appears in the spring issue of “Kansas Preservation” magazine.

In 1887, stonemason and contractor C.O. Johnson, under the direction of A.F. Horner, director of Florence Water Supply Company, built the tower as part of the community’s first waterworks. It holds 85,000 gallons.

Water lines were laid, and by summer 1888, Florence residents had water for consumption and fire protection.

This system served the town for 32 years, taking its water originally from the Cottonwood River and a well adjacent to the river.

In 1920, the city bought out Florence Water Supply and signed an agreement with Ralph G. Robison to lease the natural springs on his land northwest of town.

Under the 99-year lease, the city paid him $10,000 the first year and agreed to pay $500 each year thereafter. The springs now are owned by Charles DeForest of El Dorado, and the lease remains in force.

The spring water was piped to the tower, and new water and sewer lines were laid. This system remains in use.

The porous limestone base of the tower was reinforced in 1929 with steel and a layer of concrete, then painted white, as it remains to this day.

Robinson feels a sense of accomplishment in seeing her task to completion.

“I’ve tried a lot of things,” she said. “Some succeeded and some didn’t. This one is special.

“Being on the register opens up resources for maintenance and continued usefulness of the tower for many years to come.”

Last modified June 10, 2009

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