News Pillsbury History

A Tale of Two Water Towers


The existing water tower at the former Springfield Pillsbury plant sits at a height of 210 feet atop the AB-Mill just as it has since 1929 when the building was constructed. A second water tower was added at the plant atop the C-Mill sometime between 1955 and 1965.  The height was about 40 feet shorter, but it matched the look of the original almost perfectly. Many people in Springfield remember the days when both water towers stood at the plant as beacons of our manufacturing strength. 

Click on an image above to see full size.

The water towers served two primary purposes. On-site storage of water at elevation created the necessary head pressure in the water lines below for both manufacturing processes and for fire sprinkler systems in the buildings. The on-site storage also allowed for continuous workflow if water service was disrupted due to water main breaks or short outages at the city water plant.

As the Springfield Pillsbury plant rapidly expanded in size during the late 1940’s and into the early 1960’s, a second water tower became necessary.  Expansions during the late 50’s and early 60’s included the massive Warehouse #9 (now removed), the Turbo and Bulk Storage Buildings (attached to the South side of the AB-Mill) and the 8180 Building (now removed from the west side of the C-Mill).

Pillsbury water tower top ball from C Mill.
Pillsbury water tower top ball from C Mill.

When the former Pillsbury/Cargill plant was sold for scrap in 2008, the water tower atop the C-Mill was cut into pieces and recycled for the value of its metal.  This happened sometime between 2008 and 2013.  Recently, however, the discovery of the top ball from the water tower was found on a 4th floor roof at the plant.  It had apparently been cut off during the scrap operation and dropped onto the roof.  There it laid for over 10 years.  Now, it is part of the MPF collection.

MPF is often asked: Can we save the remaining AB-Mill Water Tower?  The reasonable answer, unfortunately, is no.  MPF has consulted multiple demolition professionals, and it simply is too large to bring down in one piece.  Dismantling, lowering down, relocating, and reassembling the water tower would be a costly addition to an already dauntingly large project of demolition and renewal at the 18-acre site.

So…Where does this leave us?  MPF is still working on the best alternative to saving the AB-Mill Water Tower.  At a minimum, we have it well documented in photographs.  And perhaps we can save the top ball and display it with its matching younger sibling.  We are currently open to ideas.  Please, give us your best constructive considerations on reasonable alternatives. 

Thanks for being a part of this important community project.

~ Team Pillsbury