Historic Salisbury standpipe to undergo renovation


The word “standpipe” can be traced back to 1840, a simple two-syllable name for a “high vertical pipe used to secure uniform pressure in a water-supply system.”

In Salisbury, though, it isn’t just a vertical pipe, but a distinct, 100,000-gallon water tower on Lemmon Hill, a structure no longer in use, but close to the hearts of those who appreciate its unique beauty and place in city history.

“It offers an opportunity to define the city,” said City Council President Jake Day, as his thoughts turned to the old smoke stack in Baltimore.  City leaders creatively used lettering from the smokestack on signs at every entrance of the city.

“That washed-out lettering” he called it. “You can see it all over.”

Salisbury’s now-defunct standpipe, erected in 1888 after the devastating town fire of 1886, was built as part of a new water system installed by a New York firm, J.A. Cloude & Co., according to an historic Salisbury city document dated 1888.

It will be preserved and brightened, because anything less would be disrespectful to a tower that historical document poetically describes as “rising from the crest of Lemmon Hill.”

“It once had stairs wrapping around the outside. It was privately built by the Salisbury Water Co.,” Day said.

The mayor confirmed plans for rehabilitation “for historical and safety purposes.”


“The concrete work around the base got done last year. The rehab and painting work is in the capital improvement plan for FY16 and is estimated to cost $125,500,” he said.

Because the standpipe is now rusty and, to some, an eyesore, Day contacted the art department at Salisbury University and organized a spring 2015 competition for students to enter ideas for painting it, or wrapping it in a logo.

“We want to make it more attractive. This was something I talked about doing in my campaign and now we’re going to do it. We’d like them to come up  with some kind of design that defines downtown Salisbury, or we might select a logo of some form. A lot of people want to see it rehabilitated,” Day said.

“Our downtown branding efforts and Salisbury University’s creative arts students will combine through a competition to find the best way to use the standpipe as a signature marker for the arrival in downtown Salisbury,” Day said.

Amanda Pollack, the city’s deputy director of public works, described the standpipe  as “a very tall, skinny water tower that, at that time, was the only one in Salisbury.”

“It was like an elevated tower that held 100,000 gallons,” she said.

By comparison, today’s tower by Salisbury University contains 2 million gallons and has much more space at the top. Two more, by Wor-Wic Community College and on Edgemore Drive, hold 500,000 gallons each. All of them help pressurize the system by pumping water to the top, Pollack said.

“Salisbury has 3 million gallons in the air, plus ground reservoirs. The standpipe didn’t have that much capacity, but it had enough at the time. It needs to be refurbished. Last year, we did concrete work around the base, to add concrete where it was breaking. It needs rehabilitation, to be cleaned inside and outside and to put on a protective coating in and out,” Pollack said.


She likes Day’s idea of commissioning SU art students.

“That’s great. It will make it attractive, even  if it just has a fresh coat of paint. It will certainly make it look better,” she said.

The historic city document describes the top of the tower the way a critic admires a work of art, stating it’s “finished …  with an iron cresting executed in a latticework design that also features a series of finials topped by stylized iron crowns.”

“It’s ornate. There’s a decorative railing, with a kind of old-fashioned  metal work,” Pollack said.

“I don’t know where the next nearest standpipe is, in what city, but we have one here and we want to preserve it,” she said. “From the historical perspective it’s important. It’s important because of its beauty. “

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