Mrs. Swanson and Two Water Towers, 1948

Mrs. Swanson and Two Water Towers, 1948. (Gift of William Heick, William Heick Collection, Kelley House Photographs)

A view of two water towers in Mendocino, looking north from Main Street. A wood plank fence occupies the space between two buildings. Mrs. Carl Swanson sits on a bench at the foot of the outside staircase of her home.

The address of the building on the left is 45140 Main Street. It was constructed about 1874 as Abram Everson’s General Store, after the October 1870 fire that destroyed this block of Mendocino. It later became an early day office of the Mendocino Bank of Commerce. Carl Swanson and family moved into it in the 1940s. From 1970 to 2004 it was Alphonso’s Mercantile.

The tower in the center of the photograph was erected by Everson behind his store. It was still standing (without its tank) in 1993, but as of 2021 it is no longer present. 

The building on the right, 45130 Main Street, was originally built by Eugene Brown as a general merchandise store. The water tower still visible in this photo stood at the rear of the Brown store and had two tanks (at heights of 20′ and 40′). It served the fire department in that area of town in battling fires. The tower was removed around 1956 by then-owner Sydney Spring and was replaced by a pressurized system. 

Still visible in this photo is the large storage building that surrounded the tower, with an outside staircase up to a lookout shed with large windows at the top near the upper tank. In its earlier years, the tower housed a branch of the Signal Service, and there was an anemometer (wind speed measuring device) and a wind vane to measure weather conditions. In 1891, the instruments were removed and shipped to San Francisco when the meteorological activities of the Signal Corps were transferred to the new National Weather Bureau.

Visible in the background is a third water tank, located at the Paoli Hotel on Ukiah Street. The hotel’s water tower at this time was on the south side of the hotel. (A previous water tower was on Ukiah Street.)

Water Towers and Windmills of Mendocino by Wally Smith – Covers the purpose and history of the water towers of Mendocino–both those gone and remaining. $15.