Water tower expected to become officially ‘historic’

The historic Hiskinson/Pratt water tower in 2007, during installation at its current Day Road farms location. -
The historic Hiskinson/Pratt water tower in 2007, during installation at its current Day Road farms location.
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The Hoskinson/Pratt water tower is already a landmark, drawing visitors to the public farm land off Day Road.

On Thursday the Historic Preservation Commission, which rescued the historic structure from demolition in 2005, will vote to enshrine the water tower to the Bainbridge Island Historic Register, as a symbol of Bainbridge’s farming heritage.

“It’s an exclamation point of human character on the landscape,” Day Road farmer Gerard Bentryn said. “You have a lot of people who love the natural landscape but are not in touch with the human landscape because a lot of it is ugly. But the human landscape can be beautiful too.”

The three-story tower became a part of the Bainbridge landscape in 1912, when it was erected on a 160-acre parcel of land homesteaded by Riley M. Hoskinson on the present-day intersection of Wyatt Way and Madison Avenue.

Hoskinson, a Kansas native and Civil War veteran, was one of the first to put down roots in the fledgling island settlement then known as Madrone.

In 1907 the Hoskinson home was bought by John Robinson and Ella Mae Pratt, Kansas City, Mo., transplants who later added the water tower to the original house. The property was also home to the island’s first windmill.

Over the next nine decades, the water tower stood as a sentinel as Winslow transformed from an pioneer community into a busy suburban center.

In 2005, growth threatened the tower itself. The Hoskinson home was demolished to make way for the Winslow Towers development. It took last-minute negotiations by the Historic Preservation Commission to convince the city to save the tower.

The City Council voted to have the 7-ton structure moved to the commons between City Hall and Bainbridge Performing Arts, where it would overlook the farmers market. The council approved $15,000 for the move.

Later the City Hall location was deemed too cramped, and it was decided that the tower would be replanted on the city-owned Day Road farms complex. Farmers there welcomed the structure in 2007.

“It’s important to have it as a landmark of the agricultural community,” Historic Preservation Commission Chair Barbara Winther said. “They wanted it over there so badly.”

The tower appears to have found its final home on Day Road.

This summer, the commission nominated the property for the Historic Register, followed by approval this fall by the City Council and mayor. It returns to the Historic Preservation Commission this week for final approval. A listing on the register can give the owner of the historic property access to grants and resources to aid preservation.

Since being moved to Day Road, the tower has benefitted from an ongoing renovation project. Its top segment already has been better affixed to its base. In coming months, Winther said, its shingles will be replaced and it will get a new coat of paint. The tower’s original door, which fell apart from wear, will be replaced by a vintage door purchased at the Rotary Auction.

Because of safety concerns, visitors won’t be allowed inside the structure, but there are plans to eventually install a farm display inside that would be viewed through the water tower’s windows.

“We hope eventually when it gets done in the springtime, we’ll have a big celebration and the whole community will come out,” Winther said.

The Historic Preservation Commission meets from 6:30-8 p.m. Nov. 6 at the City Hall Council Chamber Conference Room.

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