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Is Plummer House water tower a crime scene?

Yellow tape and orange fence surround Plummer House water tower to protect visitors from falling debris

The Plummer House water tower is pictured on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, in southwest Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

I was walking around the Plummer House grounds and noticed a plastic fence, along with yellow caution tape, was placed around the water tower. Why is the city marring the up-close view of an historic landmark? Was it the scene of a crime or something? -- A curious Plummer House visitor

If you had taken your focus off the ugly orange snow fence and looked up, you might have been able to deduce the answer yourself. Sky can be seen where a portion of the tower’s roof should be.

“We came across some issues here last week that are pretty disturbing as far as the condition of the water tower,” Rochester Parks and Forestry head Mike Nigbur told the city’s park board on Tuesday.

With a portion of the roof missing, Nigbur said it appears water was getting behind plaster on the tower and causing portions to fall to the ground, which were noted by a park user like yourself.

“It’s much more dramatic that we’ve seen in the last couple of years,” Nigbur said.


Granted, several local historians would agree that letting the historic landmark get into such a state is a crime, but the reason for the yellow tape and orange fence is to protect other passers-by from potential falling debris.

Meanwhile, the falling plaster and missing portions of the roof are expected to add fuel to a National Parks Service grant application that was already in the works for a planned submission this month.

A similar request failed last year after grant reviewers determined the water tower’s condition hadn’t become critical at that point.

“Lo and behold, based on the current information, that impression was wrong,” Nogbur said.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Plummer House water tower.jpg
An orange snow fence, along with yellow caution tape, surrounds the Plummer House water tower to protect grounds visitors from falling debris. (Submitted photo)

The tower is part of the original 65-acre Plummer House site in Southwest Rochester, which was developed by Dr. Henry S. Plummer, a Mayo Clinic physician, from 1917 to 1924. The tower was erected during that period.


Plummer died in 1936, but his family lived in the house for the next 30 years. The site was eventually reduced to 11 acres. The estate was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975, and it is managed by the Rochester Parks & Recreation Department.

In 2019, the city received a $10,000 grant from the Minnesota Historical Society's Historical and Cultural Small Grants program to pay for the preparation of construction documents for preservation of the water tower.

The city has budgeted $700,000 through the next five years for site preservation, with the majority for funds expected to come through state or federal sources.

Nigbur said he’s hopeful regarding the chances for the upcoming grant request from the National Parks’ Save America's Treasures program.

“This is one of the treasures we have here locally,” he said.

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