SLIGO HILL WATER TOWER
DATE(S) VISITED: MAY 13, 2022/MAR 19, 2019 LOCATION: MARLBOROUGH, MA MAP
Travelers heading up I495 past Marlborough, MA will be greeted with the sight of the historic Sligo Hill Water Tower that stands proudly looking over the city. As you can imagine, a historic landmark like this is certainly going to have some local legends attached to it.
Let's start with a little history first. The water tank is a rare surviving cylindrical, riveted cast-iron tank, with conical roof, and a 200,000-gallon capacity. It is raised up on eight diagonally-braced, riveted iron legs and a walkway rings the top edge of the cylinder.
The tower was designed by city engineer B.R. Felton and built by the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company at a cost of around $95,000. Felton had it located on Sligo Hill, the highest point in Marlborough, where the combined height of the tower would distribute the water at a high pressure than the original reservoir that was situated at this site was able. The water was (and still is, to the new modern tank), pumped up from Lake Williams, which is just a stones throw away at the bottom of the the hill.
Having this tower built was the first major municipal project undertaken by Marlborough after it reached city status. The water supply system needed a substantial upgrade due to Marlborough's shoe industry that drove the demand for progress, and in turn it inspired more residential development, that being the French Hill and West Village neighborhood's.
Not only was this just to serve a growing city populous, but it was also to add a state of the art fire protection system for the densest parts of the city and greatest concentration of the factories. The use of steam fire engines was rejected in favor of the high pressure standpipe. Under Felton's supervision, the Water Department built three miles of pipe work and hydrants, which completed the system in 1895.
Alas, like the reservoir before it, the tower became obsolete when the city outgrew it's capacity to fulfill it's needs and it has not been used to distribute water since the early 1960's. A modern, larger tank now stands beside it.
Now for the sp00ky stuff!... Legend and stories among the locals over the years tell of people that have climbed the tower to commit suicide, throwing themselves from it's gantry. There is one story in particular though that is quite prevalent about a young boy who fell into the water tower whilst climbing. Legend says that he was not able to be retrieved and that he is still there. His ghost is said to be seen walking around the gantry on the edge of the tower, or sometimes at the base.
As of yet, after some research, we have not found any evidence of any tragic incidents that have happened at the tower. In 2011 the tower underwent some restoration work, with the structure getting power washed and a new coat of paint. The top of the tower was also removed and replaced. Despite this work no reports of any human remains were reported to have been found inside. This is not to say that the legend is not true, just that over the years stories have been changed, a bit like Chinese Whispers.