ORLEANS WATER TOWER ASSOCIATION
P.O. Box 223
Clifton Spfings, NY 14432
A Brief History of the Orleans Water Tower
About 1872, a water tower was
constructed in the Ontario County Hamlet of Orleans.
The tower serviced the
steam engines for the new Sodus Point & Southern Railroad, which covered thirty-four miles from Sodus
Point to Stanley. Sometime around 1880, Edward Harriman (father of NYS Governor Averill Harriman) bought
the railroad line as an investment. After improving it he sold it to the Pennsylvania Railroad, at which time it
became the Northern Central Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad (the Penn Central).
It was Penn Central's stipulation
that the water from this tower would be available to the community,
charge for livestock, household, and fire protection use. In exchange, Orleans landowners allowed the nearby
hilltop spring's water to flow downhill through a pipeline crossing their properties to the railroad's tower.
About 1975, the Town of Phelps
purchased the water tower from the bankrupt Penn Central RR. There js a
discrepancy as to whether or not the Town owns the rights to the water
as well as the tower. The residents of
Orleans and original landowners cite the deeds and abstracts in their claim that the water rights belong to the
When the Town purchased the tower,
signs were attached to it stating that the water was unfit for human
consumption due to contamination. However, the Town allowed the water to flow so that residents could
continue to use it for household, farm, and fire protection purposes. Now, after allowing the water to flow for
twenty-two years, the Town Board has decided the water is too contaminated for any use and is considering
turning the water off.
The Town claims that this ending
of water access would not effect us because a water district will be
established. We in the Hamlet of Orleans and the surrounding area have been waiting for over twenty-five
years for the phantom water district. It has been mentioned occasionally during this time, but nothing has
ever developed from these false promises. Even if a water district is established, it will not be operational for
several years and will not reach everyone who needs it.
Our original quest to save the
historical Orleans Water Tower--the last
remaining landmark of the original
village of Orleans--has extended to include saving the water that has flowed from its pipes for over one
hundred years. The struggle continues.
Editors Note: It should be remembered that the current existing tower is not the original. The first tower
was constructed using wooden beams where the currently existing tower has steel beams. I (Burr)
believe that the current tower was constructed in my life-time which began in 1934. I am in hope that
some one will step forward with a photo of the first tower. If you know of one please contact me.