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Decision to demolish Hillcrest water tower in Hampstead a ‘no-brainer’ due to fiscal conditions

The Hillcrest water tower stood tall over Hampstead for 85 years and served as the town’s only central water tower for 40 of those years.

Built during the Great Depression and capable of holding 100,000 gallons of water, the tower tank on Hillcrest Street was demolished Thursday.

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“It was a landmark. As far as myself, personally, it will change the skyline of Hampstead,” said Kevin Hann, the town’s superintendent of Public Works. “[But] from fiscal considerations, it was absolutely a no-brainer to go in different directions.”

A request for a bid to remove the water tower was submitted by the town on Nov. 17, requesting that the selected contractor be responsible for “providing all the labor, materials, tools, equipment, and services necessary to complete the project as defined in the scope of work.”

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Hann said an engineer that operates the water model for the town ran a study to see what the implications would be if the tower was removed from service. The study found that removing the tower from would have zero impact on fire flow or pressure because two larger towers in town already carried enough water.

“The tower, as it stood this morning, had 20 mils of paint on it and we could not overpaint that anymore,” Hann said, referring to a unit of measure (one mil is equal to one-1,000th of an inch). “It had to be sandblasted down to bare metal and it was built on such a small post stamp lot that nowadays when you go to sandblast the water tower, you have to encapsulate the water tower inside of a tent.

“The cost to do that was going to be in the million dollar range.”

A contract to build the tower was awarded in 1935 and the town’s water system went online in 1936. The tower was constructed by Chicago Bridge & Iron Works out of Chicago. It stood 92 feet tall and held 100,000 gallons of water.

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By comparison, the water tower at the former North Carroll High School holds 500,000 gallons of water and the toward near the Walmart Shopping Center north of Hampstead holds 400,000 gallons.

Hann said Hampstead uses about 350,000 gallons per day, on average. He added that more water than that needs to be retained in water towers for fire protection and to keep pressure on the system.

The landmark tower had been cleaned out, repainted and returned to service many times over the years. Its demolition isn’t something that happens everyday in the community, Hann said, and it will surely be missed.

Still, he called it “an easy decision” to tear it down.

“We could have the tower removed and for a million dollars you could almost build a brand new one twice or three times the capacity,” he said. “So it was a no-brainer.”

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