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Wednesday 25 May 2011

Save the Sudbury water towers campaign

Mind we are talking Greater Sudbury, Ontario.

When plans were afoot to demolish two iconic water towers known as 'Pearl Street' and 'Pine Street' respectively in Canada's Nickel City, a group of local artists put up an impressive resistance; not by sit-ins and petitions but by mounting exhibitions illustrating the towers' value as cultural objects far beyond their municipal purpose.

Built in 1956, the two towers stayed in use until 1998 when they were decommissioned. Standing tall on sites overlooking the city, the towers turn an otherwise unremarkable cityscape into an interesting panorama.

The present outcome appears to be that the city has voted to remove Pine Street but in 2010 a developer bought Pearl Street and plans to convert it, meantime exploiting its landmark value by erecting 'art boards' (plain speaking: billboards) to raise the revenue to fund this. Many ideas are floating around for turning it into a heritage centre, an art gallery or viewing platform or all three. A feasibility study has been undertaken of various proposals citing the successful redevelopment of other surplus water towers.

This was all started in 2009 by Joel Kimmel, an illustrator originally from Ottawa who became fascinated with water towers on a trip to New York in 2005. He loved them so much that he moved to Brooklyn and roamed the streets beneath the towers for two years. In 2009 he moved to Sudbury where he immediately chose the water towers as his favorite landmarks.

Joel and his chums got 50 other artists and photographers in Sudbury and lovers of water towers from around the world to submit their artwork to be displayed on their website and in an exhibition held in 2010 that raised awareness and showed the City of Greater Sudbury that the people love their towers. Take a look at the blog for some great pictures, then and now.

Whilst the blog hasn't had many updates recently (gosh, we can empathise with that), the very active Facebook group has over 600 members.

Water tower facts:

Pearl Street:
Built by Horton Steel Works Limited, Fort Eriein.
Volume 1,000,000 imperial gallons (3.8million liters- about 17000 bathtubs!)
Height to Underside of Bowl – 76 feet (about 23 meters)
Overall Height - 112 feet (about 34 meters- ? This may be wrong)
Diameter of Bowl – 96 feet (about 29 meters)
Height of Bowl – 36 feet (about 11 meters)
Centre Cylinder – 8 feet diameter
Tower Legs – 4 ft 4 in diameter at 75 ft spacing
330 Tonnes of Steel

Pine Street:

Volume 500,000 imperial gallons (1.9million liters- about 8,400 bathtubs!)
Overall Height- 131ft (about 40 meters)

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