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Water Tower N, Highland Parkway, Saint Paul, Minnesota

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Water Tower N

Address: 1570 Highland Parkway
Neighborhood/s: Highland Park, Saint Paul, Minnesota
City/locality-
State/province
Saint Paul, Minnesota
County-
State/province:
Ramsey County, Minnesota
State/province: Minnesota
Country: United States
Year built: 1928
Architect or source of design: Frank X. Tewes with Clarence Wigington
Historic Function: Water Tower

Highland Park Saint Paul Ramsey County

Water Tower N, Highland Parkway, Saint Paul, Minnesota
(44.9197162° N, 93.1660342° WLatitude: 44°55′10.978″N
Longitude: 93°9′57.723″W
)
The Highland Park Water Tower located on Highland Parkway in St Paul and was designed by municipal architect Clarence ‘Cap’ Wigington. Wigington is celebrated as Minnesota's first African American registered architect and quite possibly the nation's first African American municipal architect. During the years he lived in St. Paul, Wigington and his wife Viola spent most of this time at their home at 679 St. Anthony Avenue. Wigington was actively involved in the community and was a member of the Urban League, the Sterling Club, the Elks Lodge and the St. James Episcopal Church.[1]

Contents

History

Wigington's career was extensive and ranged from civic buildings, to ice palaces. Prior to accepting his position with the State, Wigington also designed creameries at Elk River and Northfield, and was commissioned to design the St. James A.M.E Church (now remodelled) – one of the St. Paul's oldest Black congregations.

Clarence Wesley Wigington was born in Lawrence, Kansas in 1883. The Wigington family moved to Omaha, Nebraska when Clarence was in his teens and it was in Omaha that he came to study architecture and train under the renowned architect Thomas R. Kimball. During this apprenticeship he was personally tutored by Kimball in architectural design as well as studying at the studio of T. Lawence Wallace of the Western School of Art.[1]

After several years working and living in various States, Wigington and his family arrived in St Paul, Minnesota, where the architect took a civil service exam for a position with the City Architect's office. It is a well known fact that Wigington scored the highest in this test out of all those who completed the exam and he was subsequently appointed as the senior draughtsman for the Office of Parks, Playgrounds, and Public Buildings. His position as a municipal architect meant he primarily designed city buildings and public structure; including several schools – Monroe and Wilson junior highs and Washington High School – as well as fire stations, park buildings and the Highland Park Water Tower. Although Wigington's style in these civic buildings has been described as "simple, strong and clean", his impressive vision and design for the elaborately decorative ice palaces associated with St. Paul's Winter Carnival, were by no means architecturally restrained. [1] Ice was of course a cheap material and Wigington's mission was to create a sense of wonderment to engage the public – something he was so successful at that he went on to design six palaces, the record for a single architect.

Building Description

The Highland Park Water Tower is considered Wigington's best-known work and was constructed in 1928. It is an essential part of the St Paul water system and is recognised as the only architecturally significant water tower in the city. Looming at 134 feet, the tower is a landmark in the Highland Park neighbourhood and is located at the second highest point in the City of St. Paul. The Highland Park Water Tower is octagonal in form and is a brick and cut stone structure. The base is constructed with smooth Kasota stone while the shaft is of pressed tan brick shaft punctuated with several windows. The tower rises to the decorative coursed lookout area constructed in Bedford Stone with rounded arched windows. The Water Tower is finished with a small cupola and tiled roof. Two entrances provide access to the Tower – one on the north side and the other located on the west side. Craftsmanship is evident is the carved features such as the stone downspout and shields. Housed within the Highland Park Tower is a 200,000 gallon tank; around the steel tank a circular staircase leads to the observational platform.[1]

While Wigington designed the Highland Park Water Tower, the construction was carried out by the Feyen Construction Company and William Selby. The total cost for the project was $69, 483. The Highland Park Water Tower is one of only a dozen water towers in the State to be recognised on the National Register.

Memories and stories

Memory


According to Jane King Hession: "Wigington’s legacy is exceptional in that he designed structures for the ages as well as fantasies for the moment. His schools, fire stations, and park shelters remain essential elements of the civic fabric of St. Paul to this day. His ephemeral, long-gone ice palaces will always remain magical, frozen impressions in the collective winter memory of the people of Minnesota" [1]

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