Charming historic Huson tower will rise again

IT WON’T BE ENTIRELY the same, but in some ways it will be better. The city, together with the Plymouth Historical Society, has begun the process of rebuilding the historic Huson water tower on Collins Street.

The 19th century structure, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was destroyed in an alleged arson fire last June.

After a lengthy investigation by the Plymouth Police Department and other agencies, charges were filed this week against two people alleged to have set the fire that destroyed the historic landmark. Whatever penalty might eventually be imposed on the pair, it will fall far short of repaying the cost of their act, but it will certainly be merited.

In the meantime, attention turns to rebuilding the tower.

The city will receive an insurance settlement on the loss which City Administrator Brian Yerges and city officials have pledged will be used to help rebuild the tower.

The Plymouth Historical Society, with its long-standing interest in preserving the city’s proud history and landmarks, has stepped up with a pledge to aid in that effort.

As part of that commitment, the society is planning to raise funds to not only rebuild the tower but to restore the windmill that sat atop the tower for many years.

The structure was originally built by Henry Huson – a local merchant and businessman who served as the city’s second mayor – in the late 1870s as a simple windmill and pump to provide water for horses and sheep he stabled alongside the river, across the street from his home.

In 1881, Huson enclosed the windmill and pump with a decorative three-story tower.

After some years, the windmill and pump were no longer used and the tower fell into disrepair. Huson’s descendants donated the tower and the land it stood on in the mid-1960s to the city to serve as a park.

An effort was launched to restore the tower in 1974 and, by 1976, it was officially dedicated by city officials along with the riverfront park that surrounds it. A second restoration effort in 2004 replaced decaying wood and repainted the tower to its original 1881 color scheme.

Since then, as Plymouth Historical Society President Dan Buckman wrote last summer after the fire that destroyed the landmark, “The tower has provided mystique and charm. City employees and local residents have carefully tended to the tower, from cutting grass, setting field stones, planting flowers, and even gracing the front door with a Christmas wreath.

“A popular tourist attraction, the tower has been frequented by local and out-of-town visitors who would stop and see this unusual and mysterious little building, if only to read the historical plaque from the street or peek into its windows.”

The insurance settlement will require the city to rebuild the tower with modern materials and construction methods, but great care is being taken to make sure the design and final building replicate the original as much as possible.

The addition of the wind vane atop the tower will be a welcome addition, as will plans to include a video camera atop the tower that will provide majestic views of the city and downtown on the city’s website.

It won’t be the same tower, but it will still provide a glimpse into the city’s past, a spot for quiet reflection and enjoyment, and a unique and charming attraction to Plymouth – and that’s all we could ask for.

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Edward Jones

Lakeshore Technical College