Water tower/windmill being restored

Restoration of a 120-year-old water tower and windmill imported from Yerington has turned into a long-term history project for Carson City builders Red and Tom Metcalf.

The tower's framework is being disassembled and rebuilt in the 1100 block of South Carson Street, where it will stand beside a theme restaurant.

When Red Metcalf saw the unique structure, which combines a wooden water tank with a tower that once held a windmill, he envisioned a fairly simple relocation - divide the tower in two parts, truck it to Carson and set it back up.

It hasn't been quite that simple, but research, work and ingenuity on the part of the Metcalfs, plus some advice from others, will create a distinctive landmark for the yet-unnamed restaurant.

"We've dismantled the lower 16 feet, which we'll rebuild around the water tank and its base with lumber salvaged from the old Carson Valley Oil Co. building," Tom Metcalf said Wednesday. "We'll 'skin' that with wood from the original tower so you'll see the actual grain from it.

"Then we'll build a 8- or 10-foot working platform on that and hoist the windmill support on top of that."

Crowning it all will be the original U.S. Wind Engine and Pump Co. windmill installed in Yerington in the 1870s. When Red Metcalf first saw the tower, the mill mechanism was missing.

"When we went to get it, they had cleared the brush from around the bottom and you could see these parts sticking out of the dirt," Red Metcalf said. "They thought it might be some old farm equipment, but it was the metal parts of the windmill."

He and son Tom began researching the machinery by Internet and learned the windmill was made about 1870 in Batavia, Ill., which calls itself the City of Windmills - a dozen windmill manufacturers once operated in the community.

Batavia's retired police chief, Bob Popeck, is an active molonologist, a word based on the Portuguese term for the study of wind. Tom Metcalf said the word describes "people who fool around with windmills. Popeck has provided the Metcalfs with lots of information about their mechanism, including cardboard templates based on a wooden U.S. Wind Engine and Pump vane that hangs on the wall in Batavia's city hall.

"We've chosen hard rock maple for the vane for its durability. My father has just finished assembling that and we'll paint it red, white and blue, which were the original colors," Tom Metcalf said. "Industrial Fabrication and Machinery in Gardnerville reproduced the missing metal parts for us."

From ground level, a windmill appears to be a pretty simple device but they became fairly sophisticated when they were a primary source of rural power.

Tom Metcalf said this one has a governor that folds its blades forward when the winds are too strong, to slow it down and protect it from damage. The action looks like the folding of a flower's petals, he said.

Four steel-reinforced footings have been planted outside the restaurant to receive the tower's legs. While eight bolts will secure each leg to the steel plate of the footing, Red Metcalf said the tower was mounted with just two bolts per leg when he first saw it.

High winds in Carson City toppled the lower half against some stored materials in November. Red Metcalf said he had the tower secured there, with two legs in the air, until the disassembly began.

Once the tower is erected and the wind machine replaced, the wind mill project still won't be done.

Tom Metcalf said a "water feature" will be built at the bottom. He said a fountain will be built of about 18 55-gallon steel drums beneath the tower, with water flowing over them. The fountain goes along with the early-industrial flavor of the restaurant.

A Monarch steam roller from the 1890s has been placed on the restaurant's main floor, while a horse-drawn American LaFrance fire pumper was brought from New York state and installed on a loft, where it will be restored. Corrugated metal and wooden beams from the oil company building will be used as trim and numerous antiques will adorn the restaurant's walls, he said.

And one of the old steel flues from the dismantled Virginia and Truckee Railroad engine shop in Carson City is being loaned to the restaurant, Tom Metcalf said. The Nevada State Museum owns the stack, but is allowing the restaurant to display it on the roof.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment