Home of the Oldest Working Water Tower in Iowa
Home to 557 residents and the oldest working water tower in Iowa, Scranton is located along Highway 30 in West Central Iowa, nestled in the North Raccoon River Valley of Greene County. This one time frontier town still operates as a thriving friendly community where old fashioned values prevail and where you will find an emphasis on the simple, peaceful things in life.
Scranton owes its existence to the Cedar Rapids & Missouri Railroad which completed its line through Greene County in 1866. Scranton was platted in 1869 and named after Mr. Scranton, the owner of a steel mill in Scranton, PA that furnished many of the rail road ties for the CNW railroad. Scranton became incorporated in May 18th, 1880 and was first known as Scranton Center.
Scranton is home of the oldest working water tower still in service in Iowa, and is tied for the 9th oldest water tower still in service in the United States.
It was in 1897 when Pittsburgh-Des Moines Steel designed and built their first steel elevated water tank. The Scranton water works system paid $4,026 to Jackson & Moss of Des Moines for the tank and its installation. The tank has a capacity of 48,000 gallons and stands 148 feet high.
Today, it’s a real landmark treasure in Scranton, but in 1897, it wasn’t a smooth sailing installation. According to the Scranton Journal, on September 23, 1897, “The citizens who are opposed to the water works tower on the site selected near the town hall have subscribed the sum of $200 to be used in defraying the expenses of moving the tower to another place . . . The Council telegraphed to Des Moines for one of the contractors to come to Scranton and furnish an estimate as to the cost of erecting the tower in another place. Mr. Moss, one of the contractors said it will cost about $1,125 to move it to City Park; about $800 to erect it on a site west of the creamery; and about $560 to place it on lots south of Carson and Gibson’s livery stable. . . the Council will meet tomorrow evening for the purpose of forming a proposition which will be made to the citizens. . .”
The paper later reported, “The Council at its meeting this (Friday) evening submitted the following proposition to the citizens: If they raise $385 in cash, and purchase and donate the land to the town and secure the consent of all property owners adjoining, the Council will cause the tower to be erected on the E.J. Black lots south of Carson and Gibson’s livery barn. If the citizens will not accept the proposition, the tower will be erected on the site selected by the unanimous consent of the entire Council, and the world will continue to move.”
The tower, by the way, was erected near the town hall, the Council’s original site location.
It was in February 1907, when “one of the most unusual circumstances in Scranton’s history occurred, when the water tower caught fire!” As reported in the Centennial edition of the Jefferson Bee and Herald:
“In February, 1907, the town of Scranton was without water for several days because of frozen water in the mains. A solution seemed to build a fire under the tank and melt water – until the fire got out of control and flamed around the water tower. Three men climbed to the top with buckets to throw water down toward the fire, but could not because of the extreme subzero weather. They fell into the ice in the water tower and were too weak to help themselves with the ropes which were extended to them. It was then that Howard Butler of Scranton, then 21 years old, lowered the men to the ground, and became the hero not only of Scranton and Greene County, but the State of Iowa.”