From the ashes

Huson Water Tower, destroyed in arson fire, will be rebuilt Two charged with arson in June fire; restored landmark may include historic windmill
by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff


The Huson Water Tower, shown above in its restored condition after it was repainted in its historic colors in 2004, will be rebuilt this summer under plans being pursued by the city and the Plymouth Historical Society after it was destroyed in an arson fire last June. The Huson Water Tower, shown above in its restored condition after it was repainted in its historic colors in 2004, will be rebuilt this summer under plans being pursued by the city and the Plymouth Historical Society after it was destroyed in an arson fire last June. PLYMOUTH – Like the mythical phoenix, the historic Huson Water Tower could rise once again above the Mullet River and downtown Plymouth before the year is out.

In the meantime, two people will be making their initial appearances on felony arson charges in connection with the fire that destroyed the landmark structure last June.

Kylie L. Unterweger, 20, N4572 State 57, Plymouth, faces a county arson to a building and conspiracy to commit arson of a building in charges filed by the Sheboygan County District Attorney’s office Monday.

Andrew P. Manderle, 35, 1101 Evergreen Ct., Plymouth, was charged with two counts of arson to a building with a repeater enhancement on both counts. All of the charges are class C felonies.

The pair are scheduled for an initial appearance in intake court in Sheboygan Friday, Feb. 19.

The city, in conjunction with the Plymouth Historical Society, is moving forward with plans to rebuild the landmark structure on Collins Street, which was burned down to the foundation in the alleged arson fire.

“Our goal is to build this in 2016,” City Administrator Brian Yerges said of plans to restore the building. “Ideally, we’d like to get started in spring or summer. Once we get started, I don’t think it’s going to be an extremely long building project.”

The city has not yet received an insurance settlement on the fire, but Yerges said it has received an advance on a potential settlement to cover the cost of engineering and design for the building.

Mark Pfaller of Pfaller Architectural Associates in Plymouth is leading the design and engineering work for the city, with assistance from Giles Engineering of Waukesha and Ambrose Engineering of Cedarburg. The latter is the firm which did the original design work for the Broughton Sheboygan County Marsh Park observation tower.

While city officials had hoped to reconstruct the tower after the fire, Yerges cited the interest and efforts of the Plymouth Historical Society in getting the project moving.

“If it was not for their interest and asking questions, I’m not sure this could have been rebuilt,” Yerges admitted. “When they came forward and said we’re willing to do what we can to get this built, that really jump-started the interest in getting this started.”

The historical society is particularly interested in restoring a long-missing feature of the tower, the windmill at the top of the tower.

Indeed, Yerges noted, the windmill was the original structure built in the early 1870s by Henry Huson (see accompanying timeline), but the wind vane at the top of the structure was removed at some unknown point.

“It literally was a windmill and they wrapped a tower around it,” in 1881, Yerges said. “Nobody knows why (Huson) did it, but it was a beautification.”

Yerges allowed that the wind vane would not be possible to restore with the insurance settlement – which will only cover replacing the structure as it was before the fire – but the historical society is willing to take up a fund-raising effort to cover that additional cost.

Leading that effort have been Plymouth Historical Society Dan Buckman and local historical restorationist Glenn Guerra of Guerra Museum Services, who among other projects restored the former Interurban Car No. 26 which is now on display at the East Troy Electric Railroad Museum.

“I can’t say enough about their involvement and assistance,” Yerges said of Buckman and Guerra. “They have really been key to providing assistance, because it’s not like we had a set of blueprints for the building just sitting around.

“It will be a historical reconstruction,” Yerges said of the plans for the new building. “We want to try to make it look like what it did.”

The limitation will be that the reconstruction will have to use modern-day construction and current materials, Yerges added, under the terms of the insurance settlement.

The city can’t go out and get recycled lumber and other older material to build the new tower, Yerges said. “But, at the end of the day, it will look like it did as much as possible.”


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