BALDWIN’S OBVIOUS…………UNKNOWN

BY HAROLD WARREN 1990

It came to pass one evening at a Historical Society meeting that maybe I knew more than I actually did about this water tower because my father (J. Arthur Warren) prepared and laid the site for the cement footings and center pier for this structure while working for the then John (Jack) Gunter Lumber Company also known as the Sebago Forestry Corporation of East Baldwin, Maine.

As I traveled on Route 113 by this site it became quite obvious to me that the tank was standing there just wanting to be admired. It also became obvious when I started checking the information about the structure that except for seeing it there it is practically unknown. Searching for information was almost fruitless to start with. I contacted people that had worked at this plant in the era of construction whom mentioned other ex-employees and all gave nearly the same response. ”Yes, I was employed at the time but over a long period had no idea when it was built or any of the particulars.”  Nearly all employees of that era have passed on. In hindsight it seems about everybody in the area (Baldwin-Steep Falls- Limington-Cornish-Porter and many from Steep Falls and Sebago) worked here at some time during their working careers. This company was a really going operation at the time. I recall at one point there were three shifts a day.

I felt it would be an easy call to get info after Gail and I found a metal plate screwed onto one of the legs. It listed the builder as Pittsburg-DesMoines Steel Co. of DesMoines, Iowa. The pieces of steel are stamped with the name, Bethlehem Steel. A bit of computer research tells me that this company was formed in 1895 and functioned thru 1981 when it had a name change. I did not try to get any more info after that. One bit of interesting information is that this company also designed and erected the famous arch beside the Mississippi River in St. Louis, MO., starting construction in 1961.

After talking with personnel in the library at the Portland newspapers and found out that they had no information there after 1950. I was told to try the Portland Library in the old newspaper archives and did so to no avail. I finally talked with some of the Baldwin Businessmen Association and found out that they were holding an original blueprint of the tower. This print was passed onto them by Verne “Bill” Blake who now owns the tower and land. Bill contacted the president of the group and asked them to let me have the print to make copies for our use. I soon discovered that this print is only part of what would have been required to build the tower. What we have is a detailed print of the heating system placed inside the standpipe to keep from freezing. But, it does give some of the dimensions of the complete structure.

 So knowing this, there are more prints out there somewhere. What we do have is sufficient to tell a pretty detailed version of this structure. I, as a kid, remember spending a lot of time at the mill and watched Dad plan how the footings and piers were to be constructed. The holes for the cement forms were dug by a man operating a crane with a clamshell bucket. Of course this required a considerable amount of hand shoveling to get things flat on bottom and reasonably square. There must have been a method to their scheming because this same crane was used to dig a water hole on the backside of the property to pump water from to fill the tank and then to keep it full in the future. It was a coincidence because many years later, after being in the Korean War, I was hired on to work at Blue Rock Quarry in Westbrook. The same man that operated the crane in East Baldwin was my immediate boss there. The drawing at left represents a reasonable facsimile of the platform that Dad conceived to test the earth for stability to make sure it would support the weight of the tower filled with water. The post in the center was a 12” x 12” sawed timber set on end onto the ground with probably chain or cable guy lines run out and anchored into the round and tied together with turnbuckle for strength The platform that was probably 4” square was built on top. After this was done the platform was loaded with rocks that were weighed as they were placed on top. My guess would be that at least a 1000lbs would be required for the test. A mark would have been painted on the post for a reference point. After the rig set all winter and into the next spring,  and after the ground was completely thawed by using a pop level or transit it would be known if the load had settled any. By doing this it could be computed how large an area was required to support the total load.

I don’t know how large an area was required, divided into five segments (one for each leg and one for the center-stand pipe) but it must have worked as the thing is still standing 60 odd years later. These foundations had to have gone into the ground 8’ to 10’ as the prints show the heating systems going down seven feet in the center form. A tremendous weight had to be used to counter-act the weight of the tower and load in, say a hurricane for example. It seems reasonable that after Dad got a form built that the cement would have been using a gasoline power mixer and the mix shoveled by hand as I do not recall any transit mix operations anywhere in this area. 

Another, what seems to be a very simple operation to do was insert the anchor bolts that would have been required to attach the legs onto the piers and hold them in place while the cement was being poured into the forms. These bolts were placed accurate enough so that the plates on the legs did not have to be cut and almost no shims were used to adjust for height.

Now some of the specifications that did show on the blueprint make this quite interesting.

 

The print shows that it was drawn February 21, 1946

Height from top of piers…………………….122’ 6 1/8”tall – not including the tapered roof.

Tank itself…………………….. 24’ in diameter.

The standpipe is ……………3’ in diameter

 

Tank itself is about 30” deep, giving it approximate volume for a strong 100,000 gallons shows weight 834,000 lbs. of water plus the weight of the steel structure pushing down on those piers. I have to estimate the height of the tank itself because I am not going up and measure it and can find no volunteers. 

It does appear that regardless of what has been stated as fact that there is no indication of asbestos in the tank or pipe. It is not shown on this print. It does show a thermometer built into the standpipe and pipes leading into it that allowed live steam to be released into it to keep from freezing.

 

As a kid I, along with my brother and a couple of other kids did climb up and walk around the catwalk. I was also told to get off and stay off.

This info tells me that there has to be more prints somewhere because I am positive that the test platform set thru the winter so it must have been built in the summer or fall of 1945.I suppose that there are embers in town that can recall riding down RT. 113 and when the tank was overflowing seeing the water blow across the highway.

After speaking with Janet Dall of West Baldwin whose first husband (Phil Rankin) was foreman at the mill for a number of years did come up with a few pictures. The first that was dated 1942 and the tower was not in the picture. A scene dated fall of 1946 the tank is in the picture. And this is it. So this just might be the first one or one of the first pictures taken after completion. Now I fully expect that as soon as this article gets circulated somebody will come out and say, ”that they have such and such information,” and I sure hope they do and will come forth with same.