In 1968, Glen Yake, who was Spokane’s city engineer from the 1950s to the 1980s, said: “Water is Spokane’s greatest asset.”
In an article from that year, Yake is quoted as saying major urban areas that had seen rationing had enough water to pump but inadequate storage reservoirs during low-water periods. Spokane’s water was “excellent in quality, medium in hardness and a 48-degree year-around temperature,” he said.
Until about 1960, many of the water reservoirs that served Spokane were uncovered, open to the air, surrounded by fences. Knowing the potential for contamination, evaporation and future federal regulations, Spokane’s Water Department was building a series of enclosed water tanks around the city.
Not only were the placement and function of the water towers important, he said, but public works projects should be designed or painted with aesthetics in mind.
The large water tank near Shadle Park High School was painted in green and yellow, the Highlanders’ colors. Water hydrants in the 1960s were red and silver, and traffic islands were beautified by plantings instead of plain asphalt.
Yake was not a fan of requiring a percentage of each project to be dedicated to aesthetics or public art. He said one project might require 1 percent but others might require 10 percent for landscaping or painting to blend into the landscape.
Before the 1960s, he said, public works projects didn’t take aesthetics into consideration.
When the planning began for the new water tank between Ninth Avenue and East Rockwood Boulevard, just south of Sacred Heart Hospital, the city approved a design with a pleated roof line and an orange-and-black color scheme, the school colors of Lewis and Clark High School. The completed tank was 260 feet in diameter and held 7.2 million gallons of water.
When the tank was dedicated, Mayor David Rodgers accepted a plaque from the Steel Plate Fabricators Association for the “Steel Water Tank of the Year for 1969.”
Ironically, in 1966, when it had been time to repaint the water tank at 37th Avenue and Stone Street, near Ferris High School, some neighbors voiced their dislike for the Ferris school colors, a paint scheme championed by the students. The tank was repainted a neutral green.
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