Greendale’s Iconic Hose Tower to be Preserved for Posterity.

Week#54: The Greendale Historical Society is leading the effort to readapt the Hose Tower and Building Grounds building for use by future generations. Also, there is a ‘Hidden Statue’ in Greendale

History records and explains past events, while folklore preserves what people widely remember.

History and Folklore!

Greendale’s Grounds Building and Hose Tower by Ted Mainella

The tallest building in Greendale is one you can walk into but you can’t walk up. Why? Because it’s the old Fire Department’s Hose Tower. How tall is it? What’s a Hose Tower anyway? Do we still need one? If so, where is the new hose tower?

What it was, what it is now, and what it will be is the subject of this story.

As is well known in these parts, in 1938 the Village of Greendale was completed and folks moved in. They needed protection from fire and the bad guys, so the original Fire Department and Police Station building was completed that same year. The next year, 1939, the Grounds Building and Hose Tower was built. Why a hose tower?

First, a bit about fire hose. Early fire hose was made of leather fastened together with copper rivets and washers. It was heavy and usually leaked. Not an admirable quality in a fire hose. Time for some Yankee Ingenuity. In 1878, the American Fire Hose Manufacturing Company of Chelsea, MA, advertised that it was making the "first seamless cotton fire hose produced for steam fire engines."  It took a few years, but around 1890, unlined fire hose made of woven cotton linen yarns began to replace leather hose. It was certainly much lighter, but it stayed wet after use.

The hose must be hung to dry. The standing water that remains in a hose after use will ruin the cotton and render it unreliable or unusable. So, the typical fire station has a tall structure to accommodate the length of a hose for such crucial maintenance. Hence, a Hose Tower. Modern fire hoses use a variety of natural and synthetic fabrics. These materials allow the hoses to be stored wet without rotting and to resist the damaging effects of exposure to sunlight and chemicals.

O.K., back to Greendale.

Who used these hoses? Our first Greendale Fire Department had 28 full-time volunteers, and 7 associate members, all led by Chief Warren Hale. They were trained by City of Milwaukee Fire Department. They had one 1921 Model T Ford which was rebuilt and fitted with an auxiliary motor-driven pump capable of delivering a maximum of 70 gallons of water per minute through those now very wet fire hoses.

Our Hose Tower, an iconic, art deco style structure stretches 47 feet above the parking lot near the Middle School. The adjacent Grounds Building was first occupied by the Public Works Department. DPW got a new building in 1961. Then the Grounds Building was primarily used for storage of seasonal maintenance equipment. It was briefly used as a gathering place for Village teens in the late 1970s.  In December, 1967 the new Fire Department opened on Loomis Road. Yes, they have a hose tower. You can see it from the inside of the station.

What will become of the Hose Tower and Grounds Building? The readaptation is well underway led by the Greendale Historical Society with funds from the Village of Greendale, Greendale organizations, local and federal grants, and citizens. The windows have been restored and new restrooms soon will be open to the public. The goal of the Greendale Historical Society is to substantially complete the renovation by 2013. The Grounds Building which is the property of the Village of Greendale will then have a new life as a cultural and community center in the heart of Greendale.

People, Past & Present!

Why wait? See the inside of the Hose Tower and Ground Building this week, then meet the architect on the project.

Through the courtesy and bravery of our current Fire Department cotton hoses once again are in the tower. Y The evenings’ program will be held right outside the Grounds Building. So bring a lawn chair. It should be fun and informative.

Meet special guest restoration architect Jim Read and see the plans for the Grounds Building and Hose Tower which will include indoor and outdoor space–and a “green” roof which will be a kind of New Victory Garden in Greendale.  Mr. Read has described the Hose Tower as displaying a simple “art deco style tempered by the economic times for municipal buildings...you can see the playful articulated symmetry.”

And as a special bonus, Chris Adams from Joey Gerard’s Bartolotta Supper Club will be in attendance to introduce plans for the new restaurant in the historic Village Inn. Four free dinners will be awarded.

But did you know?

Hidden Statue by Mary Mainella

The annual “School Picture Day” was a grade school tradition.  Everyone marched outside to the east wall of the then Greendale School gym for your class pictures.  We posed under the now hidden Alonzo Hauser sculpture of the farm family with a little colt.

That site was also a favorite meeting place for friends when we were in the primary grades as venturing down the mall to the flagpole was just too far!  Especially if you were from the “A” section.  “Meet you under the statue,” we shouted as we ran from our different classrooms.

The farm statue held such fond and romanticized memories for me and for two of my childhood friends, Sandi Schultz Hochburger and Carol Ries Bomberg, that we attempted to find where it had been entombed.  Some years back we wandered into the Middle School and asked the principal if we could do a search for the sculpture.  We located the original window behind the stage at the east end of the now cafeteria. This used to open to the end of the building before the new gymnasium was added on in the early 70s. By carefully opening the window we saw the gap that still existed between the old and new buildings!  Carol helped boost me
onto the window ledge while Sandi held on to my feet!

I leaned back as far as I dared – I could just glimpse the carved limestone edge of the 12 foot high lost farm family.  We were so excited and pleased to see that the sculpture of our childhood days still existed-yet sadly trapped between the walls.  Why was it abandoned? ?  What condition is it in?  What will ever become of it?

Greendale Trivia Question and Answer:

– The architecture of the Greendale Village Hall is representative of the Colonial Revival architecture that gained in popularity after the Centennial in 1876. It was influenced by the popularity of research-based history attractions like Colonial Williamsburg.

The architecture of the Hose Tower is representative of the Art Deco design style that began in Paris in the 1920’s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s and into the World War II era. Steve Peters who grew up in Greendale and has a background in graphics arts and architecture has studied and worked with this design style for years.  Steve describes the Hose Tower as “not pure Art Deco, but the tower has Art Deco elements such as a ‘Step Back’ design where the tower gets smaller as it gets taller - similar to the Empire State Building.”

Week#54 Question – Where’s the best place to get fresh fish in Greendale?

** Week #54 contributors Sally Chadwick, President of the Greendale Historical Society Ted Mainella, Mary Mainella and Steve Peters.

Kitty Hill July 23, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Nice article Dave, Ted and Mary!
Bren July 23, 2012 at 03:25 PM
This is wonderful news. My heartfelt appreciation to all the visionary individuals who are helping to preserve Greendale's unique history!
Sandi Hochburger July 24, 2012 at 01:19 PM
A fasinating, informative article so well done! Now I know!!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something