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The Cotter Water Tower, located near the junction of U.S. Highway 62B and State Street, was constructed in 1935 and installed with assistance from the Public Works Administration (PWA), a New Deal public relief agency. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 24, 2007.
As the United States struggled with the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration enacted the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) to ease the effects of businesses closing. The act included an organization called the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (the Public Works Administration), which was created on June 16, 1933, to help finance federal construction projects and create jobs.
The City of Cotter (Baxter County) decided to seek funding for a badly needed public water system, and on October 27, 1933, the Cotter Record reported success, writing that “the approval of the application for a loan from the Federal Administration of Public Works will make it possible for Cotter to have a public water system and will give employment to many of the unemployed in this vicinity for several months.” The PWA awarded a $49,600 loan and $18,562 grant for the project, which initially was expected to cost $57,564.
The city passed an ordinance on February 23, 1934, to kick off the project, receiving the first payment of $7,500 on April 23 to pay for preliminary work and for drilling a well. The Sewell Well Company of St. Louis, Missouri, was hired for the work, drilling a shaft 1,080 feet deep to where the water ran at 180 gallons per minute. The Record reported on May 4 that “work on the municipal waterworks system for Cotter is well under way and activities have picked up during the past week,” with PWA officials and engineers from Little Rock (Pulaski County) inspecting the operation. The contract was delayed in September to purify the water to state health authorities’ satisfaction. The well was completed about September 21, 1934.
The city council on October 15 accepted a low bid of $43,431 from Volz Construction Company of Memphis, Tennessee, which beat out five other bidders for the contract to build the waterworks, “including the furnishing of all materials, tools, equipment and labor required for the construction of a complete waterworks system except the well.” A formal contract with the Volz firm was approved on November 27 after the PWA granted an additional $2,000 for the project, the newspaper reported. A work order was finally granted on December 7, “which means that work will get underway within the next 10 days,” the Record reported. It added, “The Contract calls for the job to be competed in 90 days after the work is started. The work will employ about 120 men each week in two shifts.” By February 1, 1935, the newspaper stated that despite adverse weather, “work on the water system is progressing rapidly [and] over a third of the main line has been laid.”
The Cotter Record reported on May 17 that “the installation of the water system here was completed Saturday….It was inspected one day this week and except for a few minor adjustments was in perfect order.” PWA records indicate that final approval for the project was given on May 31, allowing the city to accept the waterworks and begin providing water to Cotter’s citizens. The Cotter Water Tower, which was built by the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel Company, continues to serve the city in the twenty-first century.
For additional information:
“Change in Plans of Waterworks Cause Delay.” Cotter Record, September 28, 1934, p. 1.
“Cotter Water Works Gets Final Approval from Washington.” Cotter Record, February 23, 1934, p. 1.
“First Allotment for Water Works Granted.” Cotter Record, April 27, 1934, p. 1.
Hall, Joanna. “Cotter Water Tower.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/BA0142.nr.pdf (accessed January 14, 2019).
Hope, Holly. An Ambition to be Preferred: New Deal Recovery Efforts and Architecture in Arkansas, 1933–1943. Little Rock: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 2006. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/News-and-Events/publications (accessed January 14, 2019).
Information on Public Works Administration projects from the files of the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Loan for Cotter Municipal Water Works Project Approved Wednesday.” Cotter Record, October 27, 1933, p. 1.
“Low Bid on Waterworks Accepted by Council.” Cotter Record, October 19, 1934, p. 1.
“PWA Approves Additional Funds for Waterworks.” Cotter Record, November 30, 1934, p. 1.
“Water System Completed Sat.” Cotter Record, May 17, 1935, p. 1.
“Work on Water System Began Monday.” Cotter Record, January 4, 1935, p. 1.
“Work on Water System Progressing Rapidly.” Cotter Record, February 1, 1935, p. 1.
“Work Order for Waterworks to Be Issued Today.” Cotter Record, December 7, 1934, p. 1.
“Work Started on Waterworks System.” Cotter Record, May 4, 1934, p. 1.
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
Last Updated 1/14/2019
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