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    Historic water tanks soon to vanish from Central Kentucky landscape

    Historic water tanks soon to vanish from Central Kentucky landscape

    Photo By Eric Pilgrim | Once the towers come down, interpretive panels will be positioned in front of Barr...... read more read more



    Story by Eric Pilgrim 

    Fort Knox

    FORT KNOX, Ky. — Time, like water, continues to flow, never to return to the spot from where it came.

    Water from Fort Knox’s two historic tanks once flowed to residents’ homes for years, but time put a stop to it. A few years ago, they found a new purpose as cell phone towers.

    The installment of a new cell tower with up-to-date equipment a month ago has eliminated any future need for the towers. Adding insult to injury, the towers are in dire need of repairs and painting.

    Fort Knox officials admit proposed repair and restoration costs have left them with only one course of action for the rusting dilapidated water tanks: deconstruction. That realization doesn’t make taking them down any easier, however.

    “The tanks are contributing elements to the historic district, which overall embodies the 1920s’ and 1930s’ permanent Army construction style and the Quartermaster planning that went into it for that era,” said Nikki Mills, Cultural Resources manager, Environmental Management Division. “They’re these important properties that contribute to the district’s landscape as a whole.”

    Historically the smaller tank, known officially as Facility 1190, or Tower 1, was constructed first, completed in 1927 eight or nine years after the Quartermaster Corps built the first modern drinking water system. Using Works Progress Administration funding as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, Fort Knox constructed Tower 2, or Facility 1191, in 1936.

    “Those towers and the drinking water system remained pretty much unchanged, with some upgrades through the ‘40s and ‘50s, until about 2019 when we had an environmental assessment and it identified some deficiencies in the system overall with 15 improvement recommendations,” said Mills.

    All of the 15 recommendations were approved, according to Mills, two of which included disabling all of the water towers around Fort Knox and constructing two new ones that would supply all the water needed at the installation. The two new towers were finished in 2020 and began servicing Fort Knox in mid-2021.

    However, all the old tanks remain in place for now, but the other towers are not considered to be historic properties. Officials are beginning the process of discussing their eventual deconstruction.

    What makes the timeline for the deconstruction of the historic water tanks most necessary now involves a safety issue as they continue to degrade over time, said Jason Root, director of the Fort Knox Directorate of Public Works.

    “Those towers are safe right now,” said Root. “What we’re worried about is in the long term sense. I would not want them to rust from the inside out and have the potential for something to go wrong.”

    Root said it has been a long process getting to where they are today with timelines being finalized in taking the tanks down.

    “We had people looking at us and saying, ‘Hey, they’re historical. We’d like to keep them up,’” said Root. “We looked at that years ago, but the bill to repaint both water towers was $1.2 million; that is far beyond our ability.”

    Root said they even went so far as to ask the various tenant units and organizations on post if they were willing to chip in and help cover the cost of renovation.

    “We got no takers, which is not exactly that surprising,” said Root. “We were then given the direction to take the towers down, and since then that’s been the road and the process we’ve been going through.”

    Mills admitted the history of towers has made the process much more challenging. The towers have been featured in some movies, most famously in the James Bond classic Goldfinger. Veterans who attended Armored School basic training and advanced courses know them well. Many travelers use them as visual markers in navigating roads.

    “Because they are historic properties and are part of a district that’s eligible for the National Register, we had additional requirements under the National Historic Preservation Act and Army regulations that would be considered an adverse effect,” said Mills. “We had to resolve the adverse effect in some manner with some mitigation measures.”

    Now that it is up with cell connections reestablished in the area, Root said the water towers should begin to be contracted out for deconstruction sometime at the end of 2023 or early 2024.

    And Mills is working on some interpretive panels to memorialize the towers. They are expected to be positioned in front of Barr Memorial Library.

    “We’ve collected as many photographs as we can that show the towers through time,” said Mills. “We want the panels to be in a place that people congregate and will see and access them.”

    Root said there are currently no plans for building anything in place of the towers once they come down. He added that once they come down, however, they will be missed on the Fort Knox landscape.

    “Those two towers are a landmark, a moment in history, and they have defined the area,” said Root. “But there are times when we have to move forward. Taking steps like the interpretive panels, however, makes sure that our history isn’t lost.”



    Date Taken: 11.29.2023
    Date Posted: 12.13.2023 09:14
    Story ID: 459800
    Location: FORT KNOX, KY, US

    Web Views: 47
    Downloads: 0