Project Overview

Location: Brainerd, Minnesota

Client: City of Brainerd

Constructed: 1920

Project Date: 2016

Project Scope: Historic Structure Report

In addition to its historical and intended purpose of water storage, the iconic Brainerd water tower holds a significant place in Paul Bunyon folklore as the inkwell of Paul’s accountant, Johnny Inkslinger. It is one of only two water towers in Minnesota designed by St. Paul engineer L.P. Wolff. In 1928, the water tower developed major leaks at the site of construction and cold joints. Then, the roof began leaking in the late 1940s. But, the water tower was used continuously until 1958, when the Water and Light Commission constructed a larger facility. As it was decommissioned, the concrete domed roof and crenellations were removed and the tower was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 for its innovative use of concrete for municipal water storage. The 141-foot tall concrete tower is a challenging but iconic resource for maintenance and stewardship.

In order to plan for future capital projects as well as regular maintenance, PVN worked with the City of Brainerd to develop a Historic Structure Report (HSR). The HSR is a valuable preservation planning tool. The Report follows the National Park Service “Preservation Brief 43: The Preparation and Use of Historic Structure Reports,” including a developmental history, condition assessment, treatment approach, and recommendations. The Report team included an architectural historian, historical architect, and sub-consultant LHB, Inc. In order to develop the history and condition of the tower, PVN reviewed extensive past engineering reports, historic documentation, and current conditions on site. The recommendations and cost estimates for repair were developed in collaboration with LHB’s engineering staff. The use of HSR’s is also important for preservation grant sources and securing funding for future projects. The Report was financed in part by the State of Minnesota from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society.

PVN was created to increase the use of existing and historic structures and sites. Historic Structure Reports are a valuable, and often required, tool for long-term planning and stewardship of historic structures and buildings. PVN is uniquely positioned to bring added value to planning projects, as our interdisciplinary staff combines historical consultants and researchers, historical architects, and expertise in city planning, real estate development services, and the economic and regulatory framework of historic preservation. PVN’s research and design team meets the Professional Qualification Standards in History, Architectural History, and Historic Architecture.