By Andrew Heape
Standing at 133 feet high, The Walterboro Water Tower is a local piece of history that is hard to miss. It’s also hard to reconstruct out of LEGO.
The tower was designed and constructed by a Boston based engineering firm and was completed in 1915. It is a standpipe design in which water is pumped into its 100,000- gallon reservoir and uses simple gravity to create the pressure needed to feed water out into consumer homes and businesses. It is a simple, but efficient design popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
The Walterboro Water Tower was originally built with a dual purpose. Fully functioning jails cells were installed in the ground floor, though they were in service for a relatively brief period of time. It is popular lore; the then empty cells were open for use by travelers who needed an overnight stay.
The massive concrete structure is one of only three such designs in the state of South Carolina, the others being the Belton Standpipe in Anderson County and the Allendale Standpipe in Allendale county.
The Tower made its cinematic debut when it stood in for the previously mentioned Belton Standpipe during the filming of the Hollywood blockbuster “Radio”, which was a story set in Anderson, SC.
The 105-year-old standpipe is now included in the National Register as part of the Walterboro Historic District and deservedly so. It is a marvel of pre-war engineering and though the water tower is no longer in use, it remains as a part of Walterboro’s historical image.
Building such an impressive landmark out of LEGO was a challenge. It consists of almost 1,500 pieces and stands 27 inches tall. The difficult part however was not the size or enormous part count, but the design.
LEGO is not designed to make large curves, much less what is essentially a tube. Making a round tower required creative use of parts and replicating a real-world structure added to the difficulty because it required a specific scale which limited a few design options that would have otherwise been available. As a result, working out a design for the build took longer than the actual construction. Despite the difficulty, it was a fun project.