Thu 31 May 2012
Wooden water towers are a common feature visible atop many mid-rise buildings here in New York City. I had the good fortune to observe a new tank being constructed atop a neighboring building right outside my window last week. The industrious team seen in the photograph below managed to put this thing together faster than I had thought was possible.
Here are some interesting facts about these wooden wonders:
- In Manhattan, most buildings with more than six stories need some type of water tower and pumping system to ensure sufficient water pressure.
- Water is delivered up to the tanks by electric pumps, and is then distributed throughout the building by the force of gravity.
- There are only two companies that build wooden water towers in the city: Rosenwach Tank Company and Isseks Brothers. Each has been in business for over a century.
- Towers built by Rosenwach can be identified by the four “R”-shaped pieces of wood around the uppermost portion of the tower’s central post. (As can seen in my photograph.)
- The average wood tank holds 10,000 gallons of water.
- Wood tanks have several advantages over steel tanks: They are cheaper (average cost of $30,000, compared to as much as $120,000 for steel), can be built more quickly, require less maintenance, and provide better insulation.
- A crew of six men can remove an old tank and replace it with a new one in 24 hours.
- Wood tanks have no lining or sealant keeping the water in. Newly built tanks will actually leak when first filled with water (indeed I saw this occurring with the new tower shown in the photograph), but before long, the water in the tank causes the wood planks to expand, closing up any gaps between them.