Water tower eyed by Historic Preservation

Tuesday, December 26, 2006
The George Daily Chatterton family, including wife Agnes Belle Shockey Chatterton, and children Earlene, Roberta and Elizabeth posed for an Easter picture "probably in 1940" while living close to the then new city water tower, which is now in the process of being formally nominated to be recognized on the National Registry of Historic Places. Earlene Allen said even though her family lived close to the water works structure, they were not hooked up to the tank. "When the water system was first installed, it only supplied one-third of the town," said Allen.

GREEN FOREST -- The newly-painted city water tower will possibly be nominated for National Register recognition by the Arkansas Historic Preservation program (AHPP).

Mark Christ, a spokesman for the AHPP, said the water works structure was visited by historians on Sept. 26 because it was built by the federally funded Public Works Administration (PWA) between 1936 and 1937.

The PWA budgeted several billion dollars to be spent on the construction of public works as a means of providing employment, stabilizing purchasing power, improving public welfare, and contributing to a revival of American industry during the depression.

"We are doing a statewide survey of resources constructed by the PWA during that period," said Christ.

He said that in order for the tower to be formally nominated by a governor appointed review board, it must first go through a "pretty rigorous" process.

"Five staff historians review the potential of the property and if it has been extensively remodeled it can not be registered," said Christ. "It must be 50 years or older and its present appearance has to convey its appearance as it would have looked in that period."

Staff historians that have found approximately 230 other PWA-built properties in the state surveyed, photographed and filled out a form saying that the Green Forest water tower is eligible for listing.

Christ said the tower will be discussed at the April 2007 review board session, where it will ultimately be decided if the water works structure will be formally nominated to the national register of historic places.

Recently, the Green Forest City Council gave the AHPP permission to nominate the structure.

Earlene Allen, a long-time Green Forest resident, said she was proud of the water tower and impressed with the council for preserving it.

"When Berryville removed their water tower, I asked a former Green Forest council member to restore ours because it would be a great landmark," said Allen. "But at that point they thought it might be too expensive to keep."

Allen, who grew up living close to the tower, said she had many fond memories of the structure.

"There would be an overflow outlet that would cause a great big waterfall coming out on all sides, and as children, we would play together. Parents, back then, did not have to be concerned because it was a pretty safe environment," said Allen.

She also received her first marriage proposal underneath the tower. "I turned him down, of course, "said Allen. "I was only 17 and I had plans to go to college."

She said when the water system was first installed, it only supplied one-third of the town and even though she lived next to the tower, her water came from an outside well. "We had outdoor toilets and we used washed pans," said Allen, who was one of the three Green Forest residents who was infected during the 1946 polio epidemic.

"We now have found out that those water conditions had a lot to do with the epidemic," she added.

The tower was originally hooked up to a well located east of what is now Nelson Funeral Home. "When it was running off that well, sometimes in the mid-morning of summertime, businesses on the square didn't have enough water, and at that time not many businesses had inside plumbing," said Ted Larimer, mayor at the time.

In the 1950s, the water tower was filled with Anderson Spring to accommodate growth.

"Green Forest had to have a heapen' whole lot of more water when Tysons bought Franz Foods in the mid 1950s," said Larimer, who, as mayor, granted the right of way from many residents to install a 12-inch line to Anderson Spring.

Over the years, the tower has been climbed by several pranksters including a well-known Cherokee known as Chief Cornelius who hung from the high tower railing with his knees. "I think he was probably just showing off," said Larimer, "but it made an impression on a lot of people. He wasn't a young fellow when he did that either."

However these days, Allen says the water tower lets her know when she has arrived home. "When we come back from visiting my daughters in Oklahoma, and we come around that mountain curve, I always see the water tower and think, 'there's home.'"

In the early 1970s, the historical water tower was relieved of its duties and a new tank located off of South Springfield Avenue has now taken its job. However, the original tower serves the city as a landmark, with a beautiful new paint job featuring oak, maple and conifer trees with "Green Forest, Arkansas" written in black, bold letters.

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  • I was born in an old house located behind the United Methodist Church which was directly across the street from The Water Tower, on January 10, 1942. My parents were George Dailey & Agnes Belle (Shockey) Chatterton. I attended Green Forest Schools from 1st Grade thru the 12th, and was in the Class of 1959. I did not receive a Diploma. I DID climb the Water Tower, tho, one night in 1958 when I was 16. Only made it to the circular platform around the tank tho. Did not go to the top. Quite a view, of my Hometown. NOT the smartest thing I ever did. But I am not sorry I did it.

    -- Posted by Hometown Boy on Sun, Sep 19, 2010, at 2:53 PM
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