Historic Iron Range Water Towers

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Cuyuna Iron Range Municipally Owned Water Towers

Ironton Water Tower
Trommald Water Tower
Location of Site: Near Main Street and Minnesota Ave
City/locality-
State/province
Cuyuna, Minnesota
County-
State/province:
Crow Wing County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year Established: 1980
Founded by: Municipalities of Crosby, Cuyuna, Deerwood, Trommald and Ironton
Historic Function: Mine/iron range
Current Function: Industrial site

Cuyuna Crow Wing County

National Register of Historic Places Information
Level of significance: National

Not much remains to tell the physical story of the mining boom years in the Cuyuna section of the Iron Range in North Western Minnesota. In the late 1970s, the Cuyuna Range Iron Ore District began the process of completely shutting down after a long period of decline. In the following evaluation of potential historical resources, the five water towers in Cuyuna, Deerwood, Trommald, Ironton and Crosby were nominated and listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the “Cuyuna Iron Range Municipally Owned Elevated Metal Water Tanks” in 1979. The nomination covers five out of the six remaining elevated metal water tanks, which were operated and owned by municipalities within the Cuyuna Iron Range, an area completely within Crow Wing County. These tanks are similar in structural form and built in small mining towns between 1912 and 1918. Each tower has a cylinder shaped tank, topped with a red cone steel roof surrounded by a balcony and elevated by a four-post lattice-gerder.

These towers are significant due to their role as signifiers of public works, engineering and planning. Their construction and eventual decline and disuse mirrors the rise and decline of iron mining as an institution and communities in the area between the 1910s and the 1950s. High levels of local tax expenditures assessed from mining revenues led to the construction of state of the art facilities, even for the smaller towns in the Iron Range. Many of these structures, such as schools, have been abandoned and demolished. In the near ghost towns of Cuyuna, Trommald and Ironton, the water towers constructed nearly 100 years ago are still connected to fire hydrants on empty streets. In these towns, the water towers are the only extant example of the once successful mining community. Their respective size (ranging from 50,000 gallons in Cuyuna, Deerwood and Trommald to 100,000 gallons in Crosby) reflects the amount of businesses, homes and general fire protection needed in the towns during the mining boom years. The Minneapolis Steel and Machinery company constructed the tanks in Cuyuna, Ironton and Trommald between 1912 and 1918 while the Des Moines Bridge and Iron Company built Deerwood’s tower. The firm that built Crosby’s water tower is unknown. The tower in Ironton was originally placed in the north section of the town but had to be moved to its current location in a nearby park when, ironically, a vein of iron ore made the ground unstable. In 2008, a proposal to demolish Ironton’s tower was brought up to the city council and was denied because the town considered the Historic Ironton Water Tower as a significant remnant of the Cuyuna Range story.

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