Standing tall since 1936
The old Manila water tower does not provide water for the community as it once did, but it has weathered many storms and holds memories of the past. The water tower is located near the old fire station on Dewey Street. According to a plaque located on the base of the tank, it is a Horton Tank built in 1936 by Chicago Bridge and Iron Works of Chicago, Ill., Greenville, Penn., and Birmingham, Ala.
Through the years city officials have discussed what to do with the tank that was replaced by a new one in 1979. According to Manila water superintendent Henry Ford, the old water tower is structurally sound and has no safety issues. It was in use from 1936 until 1979.
Mary Horn of Manila, one of the daughters of the late Bryan Moore, a Manila city worker who painted the original tower in the 1930s, remembers the water tower when it was new. She said her dad would climb to the top, look down and wave at his family.
"I was just a little girl and I was afraid he would fall," Horn said. "He worked for the city and he would climb to the top without any problem. He painted the water tower and painted Manila on it. He also would go down in it when it was drained and clean it. He, along with other city workers such as Herman Nance, Richard Clevenger and Bill Vermillion, helped lay the water lines."
She said she can remember her dad having the blue prints for the original water lines in Manila and when there was a break/leak, they would work for hours until it was fixed.
She remembers the water tower holding the first fire alarm letting volunteer firemen know there was a fire.
"In those early days, the firemen had a pick-up truck and they would carry barrels of water to the fire and form a bucket brigade to fight the fires," Horn said.
Horn said her dad made a living for his family by working for the city and doing other jobs including mowing the cemetery. She said he mowed the cemetery with a push mower for about $6. He and others in the community would volunteer to dig the graves at the Manila Cemetery.
"He also had his own slaughter house in town," she said. "He would dress beef or hogs for people in the community."
Her dad worked at many jobs but the one she remembers most is watching him climb the water tower.
Siblings in the Moore family include Louise Parsley, deceased; Charlene Bullock, deceased; Fay Walker and Edith Nichols, both of Manila, and a brother, Bryan Moore, Jr., of Jacksonville, Tenn.
"The tower is a landmark in this town and I hope they never have to take it down," Horn said. "When I look at the water tower, I think of my dad and others who have worked for the city making it a good place to live. I was so glad when they restored the old depot, another landmark in Manila."
Manila Mayor Wayne Wagner recently informed the council of a company that expressed interest in removing the tower for scrap. Mayor Wagner and the council were not in favor of taking it down as long as it is structurally sound and poses no safety issues.
One local historian said she would like to pursue having the old water tower placed on the Arkansas Historic Places list.
Ford said 10 or 12 years ago when the new water tower was being repaired, the old tower was cleaned and put back in use for a short time. Even though it is structurally sound, Ford said it would be expensive to even paint because of the lead. To remove the lead, the tank would have to be covered, sandblasted and the paint removed would be expensive.
"To paint it as it is would be a waste of money because the paint would not last," Ford said. "It is not hurting anything like it is. It is safe and if we ever needed it again in an emergency, we could use it for a short time."