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Object ID 2009.2086.11
Title Water Tower Experiences
Object Name Oral History
Date 01/18/1993
Creator Augustine E. Winnemore
Rosemary Street Circle
Chevy Chase, Maryland

Our family, the Jullien M. and Alice P. Winnemore family, with sons Lawrence, Augustine (Gus), and Jullien, lived at two locations in the area, each within a block of the water tower. Our first house in Chevy Chase was on Elm Street, now 4107 Stamford Street, just west of the water tower. It was while living there that my brother Lawrence took the picture of the tower from the middle of Elm Street in 1913, looking east to the tower, with my brother Jullien in the foreground looking at the tower. The family moved to Chevy Chase, D.C., for several years, then in 1923 built a house at 100 Rosemary Street, now 4000 Rosemary, a short block east of the water tower, opposite where Valley Place then intersected Rosemary Street. It was the first house built on the south side of Rosemary Street.

The handsome water tower originally had a spiral iron stairway with handrails extending around its exterior from near ground level until near the top, where it joined a walkway which circled the tower. There was a spectacular view in all directions from this lofty vantage point, after an almost terrifying experience to reach it. By the time that we lived in the area, the lowest section of the stairway had been removed and was laying on the ground at the base of the tower. However, the large bracket which attached it to the tower was still in place, and although well above the ground, could still be reached with some connivance. From the bracket, one could get to the steps of the stairway, and from there on it was just a question of ones nerves as to how far up the tower he/she could go The stairs spiraled the tower about two and a half times to reach the top, and the last little bit the stairs were steeper to meet the circular walkway around the tower, so these steps were often made on hands and knees to reach it. Then after a little spell to recover one could grab the hand rail, stand up, and see the country side. A person would often take several attempts, going a little higher up the tower each time, before getting to the circular walkway at the top. It was an experience!

After the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission took over the area water supply, they replaced the wells which had formerly supplied the area with water from their own sources, although they continued to use the Rosemary Circle tower for storage and water pressure. When we were living at 100 Rosemary Street there would be occasions when for some reason the pumps did not shut off, and the water would overflow from the top of the tower, cascade down, and if the wind was blowing, fill the air with a heavy spray. If the weather was cold and freezing, ice and icicles would form on the sides and stairways of the tower, cover the ground and areas of the street around the tower. When such overflows occurred my brother Lawrence would phone the pumping station, tell them of the overflow, and the pumps would be cut off.

My father, who lived in Brooklyn, N.Y., as a boy and young man, had relatives in Washington, and said that when he would visit them they climbed the water tower in its early days. Constructed in 1893 this 130 foot steel structure was taken down in 1934<, I have many fond memories of this grand old water tower.

Augustine (Gus) E. Winnemore January 18, 1993
Addendum to Water Tower

The water tower was in the circle at the intersection of Rosemary, II. (now Stanford) Streets and Hillcrest Place, west of Connecticut Avenue and north of Bradley Lane. The Rosemary Street elementary school now fronts the circle, but did not then.